Valencia Horchata – Why and Where You Gotta Try Valencia’s Beloved Artisan Drink (Story + Video)
Blissfully wandering the mediterranean city of Valencia, it’s easy to find yourself thirsty as you come across street-carts of Valencia horchata and cafe-style horchaterías on practically every corner. After all, this is the birthplace of this popular artisan drink. People are raving about it, from locals to tourists alike.
Being the curious traveler you are, you know you need to learn about and experience what the locals especially seem to be hooked on. What’s all the hype about?
Maybe you haven’t tried it yet. Maybe you have, and… you love it? Or, as in our case when first moving to Valencia, your first taste was chalky and sugary-sweet, and you’re not sold.
Whatever your story is, we’re here to tell you that it’s a local aspect of Valencia that you’ll want to experience at its best.
Horchata from Valencia is truly delicious, and it can be super beneficial to your health. What’s that? You’re allergic to everything? Surprise! It’s a great drink even for you, so keep reading.
So what’s the key to having the best horchata experience in Valencia? It’s all about where you get it from. It took us some time to discover this, so we’re going to save you the trouble and let you in on why, and especially where, you gotta try Valencia horchata.
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What’s Horchata de Chufa?
The original drink, known as horchata de chufa (orxata in Valencian), is a drink that has seen a lot of history. It’s a Mediterranean tradition that originated in the Valencian Community. The oldest references to it go back to the 13th-century. Made with tiger nuts (called chufa nuts in Spanish) that are soaked, ground and sweetened, it’s served ice-cold, making it a great summer refreshment. And although it looks milky, it’s dairy-free.
Did you know?
In West African countries, such as Nigeria and Mali, a variation of horchata de chufa has been a popular drink for a long time, and is referred to as kunu aya.
There’s several variations of horchata, specifically based on where it spread to in the New World. You may have heard of Mexican horchata, a commonly known version, but they’re definitely not the same. In Mexico, horchata is made with rice instead of tiger nuts, cinnamon and sometimes vanilla.
The Culture of Valencia Horchata
Then you’ve got the culture around Valencia horchata, and the Valencians take it to heart. If you’re thinking that a horchatería is just another street-stand selling only horchata, think again (and get excited). Throughout the city and region of Valencia, horchaterías are full-on cafes that typically serve not just Valencia horchata, but a variety of mouth-watering goodness. They are also hubs of social interaction for Valencians.
Traditional horchaterías serve up the doughy confections called fartons (like sweet, soft breadsticks), which are ceremoniously dipped by locals into the horchata. Around the time of the Fallas Festival every March, you may see the special appearance of finger-licking good buñuelos (like fritters or doughnuts), that are dunked in hot chocolate. Mmmm…
But there’s even more. You can also indulge in delicious artisan ice-cream, old-fashioned hot chocolates, and other traditional local sweets like Turrón. And yes, you can get a coffee and other drinks there as well, even with a little nipper of brandy if you like.
Read More: Fallas in Valencia, and Our ‘Falla’ About It
Tiger Nuts – The Good, the Delicious, and the Healthy!
Image Credit: L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería
Like any drink, horchata is only as good as the ingredients and processes it’s made with. This is why when we first tried it from a stand in the Mercado Central of Valencia, we weren’t impressed. Who knows how much processed sugar they added to it and how it was made.
Yet the biggest reason horchata can be even beneficial to your health, is the mighty little tiger nut (remember, it’s called chufa in Spanish). This superfood is an inexpensive source of great protein, high energy content, and rich in minerals like magnesium and iron, calcium, potassium and phosphorous, zinc, fiber, and still more.
Since it’s lactose free, it’s also a great dairy alternative and is even good for diabetics since it can help regulate blood sugar. Have allergies? Chances are you can enjoy tiger nut products like horchata, since it’s also allergen-free of fructose and gluten. Oh, and the tiger nut is actually not a nut!
Did you know?
Tiger nuts are not actually nuts, but edible tubers. It’s also allergen-free, so no lactose, no fructose and no gluten! Click here to learn about “6 Emerging Health Benefits of Tiger Nuts”. It really is amazing!
Above Image – The careful and optimal processing of tiger nuts into tiger nut milk, in the kitchen of L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería. Watch the video below to learn more.
Of course, keep in mind that the average horchata out there has a ton of processed sugar added for sweetener, and who knows what other fillers. Now, we don’t know about you, but we’re already into organic, or as they call it in Spain, ecológico. In the case of making horchata, this is especially important. Yeah, because it’s healthier for you, but also because it just taste way better. And, those nutritional benefits can actually go to work for you if they’re not canceled out by junk or poor processing.
So, are you realizing where this is going? For great Valencia horchata, you gotta find it ecologically made. For us, this is what changed our minds, and tastebuds, when we experienced L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería. And of course we’ll introduce you!
Where You’ve Got to Try Horchata in the Valencian Community
Above Image – Meet Carlos Bas Gil, third-generation family member and Store Manager of L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería.
Time to meet L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería, which isn’t just about food and drink. It’s about a family legacy and having a local experience. In appreciation of what family history and dedication infuse into a business (and in this case, also food and beverage), we met with third-generation family member and store manager, Carlos Bas Gil.
The L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería is the first organically certified horchatería in the Valencian Community. With a history of over 70 years cultivating tiger nuts, they decided to bring their traditions of quality and sustainability directly to the customer by opening up the horchatería. And they continue to do an impressive job.
Located jus steps off the beach in Alboraya (a town next to the city of Valencia), their horchatería is a beautiful space of creative innovation and tradition. The modern design and open, welcoming layout give you an up-close experience with their quality processing and organic ingredients. At one end you have a glass-enclosed kitchen workshop, so you can watch them making horchata, from the soaking to the grinding of the tiger nuts, and more.
Then at the opposite end, you have their serving counter, where delicious food and their hand-made artisan ice-creams are dished up. This is also where they serve up their incredible horchata, fresh and cold.
Going Tiger Nuts at L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería
Above Image – ‘Sol y Sombra’ (Sun and Shade), made with horchata and coffee.
First things first – you would think that the star of the show at L’Obrador is the horchata, but it’s actually the superfood ingredient of tiger nuts. There’s several ways you get to enjoy it, in horchata and in a variety of other tasty foods.
They have a few ways that they serve their horchata, including sweetened (with only organic cane sugar), unsweetened, and granizado, which is poured over finely crushed ice, like a slushy (and yes – you can enjoy a farton with that).
Or take your pick from zesty-fresh lemon granizado. You can even have natural strawberry marmalade added to it, which they call ‘Vampiro’. And for you coffee lovers, you’ll want to try the heavenly creation of what they call Sol y Sombra (not to be confused with the alcohol drink), which is half horchata and half coffee – yum!
Remember the ice-cream counter we mentioned? It’s a rainbow of creative and traditional flavors made with tiger nut milk, so they’re dairy-free. If you can’t decide between that and a drink, have them add a scoop of ice-cream to your horchata or coffee. And, as if ice-cream was not enough for the sweet-tooth in us all, you can also choose from a variety of homemade organic cakes, tarts and other baked goods, many of which are made with tiger nut flour.
Can you blame us for getting ahead of ourselves and starting with dessert first? But there’s more to this horchatería than just drinks and ice-cream. The menu includes freshly made salads and handmade crepes (savory and sweet) that are actually made with their own tiger nut flour and buckwheat flour. Tiger nut flour Crepes? That’s right. And they are delicious!
Artisan Horchata Born from a Valencian Family Legacy
Throughout the horchatería are pictures of the first generation who started Chufas Bou, the parent company of L’Obrador de Bou. You can learn about the original founder, José María Bou Casares, who began growing and selling tiger nuts in 1946.
His sisters, Encarna and Julieta, then opened the horchatería and ice-cream shop La Chufera in 1964 (also in Alboraya), which became known as a standard for quality horchata. It also became known Spain-wide thanks to several Spanish celebrities who became customers and raved about its deliciousness.
Today, still a family-owned, family-operated business of the third generation, Chufas Bou is one of the largest and oldest growers and distributors of tiger nuts in the Valencian region. They have five of their own family fields, which are each certified organic, and they work with local farmers in the area.
When it comes to L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería, family-owned business built on family legacy equates to great quality. By sharing the story of their family history and bringing their product directly to us as the customers, they have created an experience of Valencia horchata that is not only delicious and healthier, it’s personable and will connect you to this part of Spain in memorable ways.
Visiting L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería
L’Obrador de Bou is located in Alboraya, right next to the city of Valencia and along the Patacona Beach. Make sure to visit when you’re going to enjoy Valencia’s must-visit beaches of Malva-rosa and Patacona. And we’ll let you in on an important traveler’s tip about Valencia’s beaches – Patacona is definitely the better beach to enjoy.
L’Obrador opens back up again this April 13th, after their usual winter months that they are closed. And from mid-June to October, they’re open every day. To check their hours, visit them on their Facebook Page @HorchateriaLObrador.
In addition to driving, here’s two great ways to visit L’Obrador de Bou from the city-center of Valencia:
- Take the bus (line 31 – la Patacona) to the very end of the line (stop Mare Nostrum – Alboran), and then it’s just a 3 minute walk from there. The buses are only 1.50€ per person, each way.
- Take the bus (line 19 – La Marina / La Malva-rosa) to the end of the line (stop Cavite – Mendizábal), and then it’s just a 15 minute walk.
- Ride bicycles on the great bike paths that Valencia has. You can enjoy the route through the gorgeous Turia Riverbed Park and along the beach boulevard. This is especially a nice bike ride, and from the center to the horchatería takes only about half an hour.
To Experience Valencia Horchata is to Experience Valencia
A recipe hundreds of years old. Healthy for everyone to enjoy. Generations of family legacy. An iconic local tradition.
No wonder experiencing Valencia has got to include not just any Valencia horchata. And at L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería, you truly experience all that and more.
Don’t settle for the street-carts or market stands, the cheap knock-off chain horchaterías or the bottled processed version in the supermarkets. Spare yourself a lousy first-taste or give the local drink a second chance.
You could skip the beverage altogether. But do you really want to be in Valencia and miss out on their most popular drink?
Fall in love with a classic drink in Spain and even take home the health benefits of the tiger nut for your every-day diet.
Make sure to include Valencia horchata in your Valencia bucket list and, really, do yourself a favor and enjoy it at L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería.
Watch the Video
For best viewing quality, remember to watch in HD.
We want to give a huge thanks to Carlos Bas Gil, and all those working at L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería, for inviting us to learn about and share your story. And for a delicious lunch and changing our minds about Valencia horchata. Thank you!
Disclosure: This post was produced in collaboration with L’Obrador de Bou Horchatería. However, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
Written by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling
We’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who are living a traveling lifestyle. Do you love to travel? Perfect! Come along…