NATIONAL BEVERAGES BACK TO BACK – 2: The Spanish Horchata was Born in the Egyptian Pyramids

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By Mary Foran

 

I’ll always remember sipping Horchata in the summer in Madrid, and I thought you’d like a bit of its history and to compare it to cool treats in the USA. Here you go:

Horchata_Chufa_Valenciana-wikipedia

Horchata de Chufa plain and simple AND refreshing

 

You can’t spend a summer in Madrid without trying Horchata de Chufa, a refreshing drink which originated in Valencia and became popular throughout Spain. There is even a Mexican version made with toasted rice which has a completely different flavor, they say.

Chufa de ValenciaThe Chufa (Tiger Nut) is a tiny, tuberous root of a Middle-Eastern plant of the sedge family which has its origin in ancient Egypt. Chufa was one of the first domesticated crops and was found in vases in the tombs of the ancient Egyptian Pharoahs. The chufa nut was widely used in Egypt and the Sudan. The Arabs introduced the plant to Spain during the time of the Moorish kings (700 B.C. to 1200 A.D.).  The eastern Spanish province of Valencia was found to be best for growing chufa.

The nut has high levels of iron and potassium, does not contain sodium and is valued for its minerals and vitamins, a healthy treat.

Legend has it that the name Horchata came about in this way: a girl in a little town offered some of the drink to the visiting King of Catalunya and Aragon. Enjoying the drink, the king asked, “Que es aixo? (What is this?).” The girl answered, “Es leche de chufa (It’s chufa milk-which was the original name),” to which the King replied,”Aixo no es liet, aixo es OR, Xata! (This is not milk, this is GOLD, Cutie).”  The word “Xata” in Catalan, which the king spoke, is an affectionate nickname for a girl. The drink became famous throughout the country as Orchata. (The H was added later.)

Horchata with raspberry jelly

Horchata with raspberry jelly

In the hot Madrid months of July and August, I would sit at a streetside patio watching the tourists and the natives stroll by during the evening paseo, sipping this delicious summer drink and loving every minute of it. If it got too hot, I would cool off under the cascading fountain at the Plaza de Colon, and head back to the Castellana for some more Horchata.

I have missed Horchata so much, I went so far as to find a recipe for it on the internet. They say you can order Chufas online from Spain; in the US, they are grown for cattle feed in the South. If you can get hold of the Chufas, here’a an authentic recipe I found:

HORCHATA DE CHUFA

INGREDIENTS
1 kg chufas
1 kg sugar
5 liters of water
1 cinnamon stick

Cayetano Martinez de Irujo Fits James Stewart, Duke of Arjona, and his horchata during a horse racing competition sponsored by the Horchata Chufa de Valencia

Cayetano Martinez de Irujo, Duke of Arjona, and his horchata during a horse racing event sponsored by the Chufa de Valencia CRDO

HOW TO
1. Clean the chufas very well, rinsing them in clean water.
2. Soak in cold water for 12 to 14 hours.
3. Rinse the chufas again in cold, clean water, changing the water until it is completely clear, then drain off all the water.
4. Mash the chufas or put them in a blender to make them into a soft paste. Add a little water if needed.
5. Add the 5 liters of water to the paste and put in the cinnamon stick. Let sit in a cool place (like a fridge) for 2 hours.
6. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
7. Pass the mixture through a metal mesh filter, then through a wet fine cloth filter and repeat until the strained liquid does not have any large particles left.
8. Place the fine, milky liquid in the fridge and serve cold.
9. Horchata can be served in slushy form by putting it into the freezer, stirring occasionally so that it does not freeze solid.

I’m sure you’ll love this recipe.

Clara (beer and soda water), a summer favorite

Clara (beer and soda water), a summertime favorite

In the US, ice-cream (the Italian gelato influence), milkshakes, a flavored ice treat called a slurpee and shaved ice are all summertime treats, along with drinks such as ice teas, lemonade and the proverbial soda pops with plenty of crushed ice. Snow Cones come in all sorts of flavors and are a staple at the many summertime County Fairs. A nice, ice-cold beer from the many craft breweries also can whet your whistle in the summertime heat, which reminds me, have you had a “clara” lately?

 

 

 

 

DAY OF THE HORCHATA
Valencia

HORCHATA Dia de la Horchata

Horchata contest

#momentohorchata photo entered by Sheila Marina Sanchez  in the Horchata contest

 

Horchata Day in Valencia 1

Archbishop of Valencia Monsignor Agustin García and the Conseller d’Agricultura of the Generalitat de Valencia and previous Orxater d’Honor Juan Cotino

 

Horchata Day queue 1

Horchata Day Valencia dignitaries 2

President of the Chufa de Valencia CRDO chatting with the Consellera d’Agricultura Doña Martina Hernandez and Don Bernat Pascual, Professor of the University of Valencia and 2008 Orxater d’Honor

Horchata Day Valencia queue 4

 

Museum of the Horchata and the Chufa, Orxater d'Honor 2011 for  spreading information about Horchata

Museum of the Horchata and the Chufa, Orxater d’Honor 2011 for spreading the word about Horchata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTO CREDITS

All images are from Chufa de Valencia Consejo Regulador de Denominación de Origen except
Top left photo: By Wikival  
(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Wikivalenc). CC-BY-SA 3.0
Clara: http://xoxoabsolut.blogspot.com.es/
Horchata contest: www.facebook.com/HorchatadeChufadeValencia
Horchata museum: www.valenciacity.es

NOTE: Photos of the Day of the Horchata were taken in various years