Horchata (or Orxata in Catalan) is a popular soft drink from Valencia which is popular throughout Spain. There is some confusion amongst foreigners as to what horchata is actually made of.
What is Horchata Made of?
The confusion over what horchata is made of is largely due to the fact that horchata is also a popular drink in Mexico and other parts of Latin America.
Horchata in most of Spain Spain is made of water, sugar and tiger nut (chufas), while in Latin America it is a rice-based beverage. But don't worry, no tigers were injured in the making of this drink - tiger nut is actually a plant called cyperus esculentus. Horchata is therefore perfect for vegetarians, vegans and people with nut allergies.
Spanish horchata has a more unique taste than the Latin American version, which just tastes like rice pudding to me.
In Cordoba, an almond variety is popular, particularly in the summer months. Look out for 'horchata de almendras' around the city.
Where to Get Horchata
Horchata is available throughout Spain. Many bars make it themselves and will display a sign saying that they have it: "Hay Horchata" in Spanish. Street stalls selling cold drinks also often sell Horchata (they are normally the same stalls that sell 'granizado', which is like Slush Puppy).
Horchata also comes prepackaged, but it tastes nothing like the homemade version.
Horchata in Valencia & Catalonia
Horchata is called 'orxata' in Catalonia and Valencia and is extremely popular. There are a number of 'horchaterias' in Valencia, the most famous of which is opposite the Iglesia y Torre de Santa Catalina in the corner of Plaza de la Reina.
To be honest though, with ingredients as simple as they are, there is little difference between cafeterias that sell horchata. As long as it is cold and made on site (as opposed to bottled), it will be as good as any other.
They also sell nice pastries to be dunked in your Horchata, the most famous is amusingly called a 'fartón'. Snigger. However, I find the horchata and fartón combination far too sweet - and I have a sweet tooth. I would recommend getting a fartón with your coffee and getting something savoury with your horchata. The Valencians might not approve, but I think you'll thank me when you try them.
Horchata is typically drunk at merienda, the late afternoon snack intended to carry you over from lunch to your very, very late dinner.
Remember to also try Valencia's other culinary trademark: paella!