Saturday, 6 August 2011

Horchata de Chufa- a refreshing summer drink.

I've lived in Spain for nearly 20 years, but last year was the first time I tried the drink Horchata de Chufa, mainly because I've never been a milk drinker, so was put off the idea as when I'd seen it served in bars as it looks just like milk. I was quite surprised by the taste- it has a slightly earthy quality to it and it was pretty refreshing aswell, served ice cold on a hot summers day. At the time I didn't know anything about what it was made from or how it was made and was surprised to find out that it was made from Tiger nuts or Chufas as they're known here which aren't actually nuts at all but a small tuber. Spain and more specifically an area of 8 square kilometers known as Alboraia in the province of Valencia is the only place in Europe where the Tiger nuts are grown, as they need a very particular climate for optimum cultivation. Originally from Egypt, (tiger nuts have been found buried with the Pharoes in vases), the Arabs introduced their cultivation to Spain during their occupation of the country from the 8th to the 13th century. In Spain over 50 million litres of Horchata de Chufa is consumed each year during the hot summer months.

The Tiger nut is an extremely healthy and rich food source, being high in minerals, particularly phosphorus and potassium and the vitamins E and C. Its lactose and gulten free and low in sodium so its suitable for special diets and has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.

There are several Tigernut products, but the most popular is the drink known as Horchata de chufa. To make this drink the harvested and carefully dried out chufas are soaked in water for 7 hours and then pulped to produce a milk that is then strained. Sugar is then added and sometimes cinnamon. In Valencia there are bars dedicated to serving this drink with a long donut type cake known as a farton that is dipped in the horchata. So if you're wondering about this drink on your trip to Spain, try it. You can buy it in most supermarkets and its similarly priced to milk or Soy milk.

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