Valencia is known as the birthplace of paella, but paella is not the only Valencian food you should try when visiting this Mediterranean city. Nearly as beloved, horchata is a refreshing vegan drink made from tiger nuts aka chufa, a tuber with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) that only grows in the Alboraya fields north of the city. Here I’ve compiled a list of places where you can have the best horchata in Valencia.
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What is horchata?
Horchata is a delicious beverage made from soaked, ground, and sweetened tiger nuts that is served ice-cold. This drink is often flavored with cinnamon sticks and lemon peel and accompanied by fartons (elongated sugar-glazed confectionery). The word “farton” translates as “glutton”, a reference to this pastry’s ability to soak up a lot of liquid.
Artisanal horchata has a very short shelf life – usually 3 days – and you can only find it in specialist horchaterías and cafés around Valencia.
Supermarkets in Valencia also commercialize various brands of horchata but the store-bought stuff is not the way I’d recommend you start your horchata journey. Bottled horchata is pasteurized and has artificial flavorings, among other things. Some brands even add cow milk to it. Definitely not the same thing!
Worth noting is that the original horchata recipe calls for sugar. A lot of it, I might say! However, with the rise of the health-conscious consumer, some horchaterías in Valencia have started offering sugar-free horchata. They will, however, bring you a sugar packet or two, just in case you change your mind and want your horchata to be a little sweet.
Have you had horchata in Mexico or another Latin American county? No, horchata de chufa tastes nothing like that. That’s because in Latin America horchata is made from white rice and it’s a completely different drink.
Where to find the best horchata in Valencia
While pretty much every other café in Valencia serves horchata during the hot summer months, the best places to try it are specialist horchaterías. These places tend to have a very long tradition of preparing horchata, each following its own recipe passed down through generations. And as an added bonus, they serve horchata year-round.
Horchatería Daniel is a pioneer in the world of horchata. Founded in 1949, this establishment is often credited for making horchata an everyday drink. Interestingly enough, they were also the first to pair horchata with fartons and later on introduced the innovative concept of serving the horchata cold and the fartons warm, for a delightful contrast.
Their flagship horchatería is located in their hometown of Alboraya and was the first specialist horchatería opened in Valencia. Over the years, this historical place has received the visit of many personalities, including the world-famous painter Salvador Dalí.
If a visit to Alboraya is not in your plans, they also have two horchaterias in the city center of Valencia – one inside Mercado de Colón and the other just off Plaza de la Reina.
Their signature horchata is quite sweet, but they also have a sugar-free option. Not to be missed are their chufa-based treats, especially the clareta, a pastry crafted using fartón dough and filled with horchata cream – it’s so good, you’ll thank me later!
Horchatería Santa Catalina
Located in the heart of Valencia’s Old Town, in front of the magnificent Church of Santa Catalina, this horchatería offers a captivating blend of history and horchata tradition.
While its location may appear touristy, the truth is that during its two centuries of existence, this establishment has more than earned its popularity, as a chocolate shop at first and as one of Valencia’s most emblematic horchaterías in Valencia later on.
The interior adorned with breathtaking traditional tiles from the nearby town of Manises adds to the allure of the place, making it as much a visual treat as the horchata itself.
Besides horchata, Horchatería Santa Catalina also specializes in homemade ice cream, churros, and buñuelos. The only caveat is that this place doesn’t have a terrace. If you’d like to try their horchata al fresco, check out their newer location nearby called La Terraza de Santa Catalina in Plaza de la Reina.
Horchateria Fabián was founded in 1975 and for many years it operated from an unassuming little place in the Canovas area. While that old horchatería no longer exists, they continue to serve some of the best horchata in Valencia from their new location just off Calle San Vicente Mártir (near Plaza de la Reina).
In spite of the more touristy location and modern decor, Horchateria Fabián remains an essential destination for artisanal horchata and homemade fartons.
Unlike in other place, their unique horchata recipe calls for generous amounts of cinnamon, which results in a distinct flavor. Also, their fartons are prepared using a dough that somewhat resembles puff pastry – so good!
Horchateria Fabián also has a reputation for making the best buñuelos de calabaza (pumpkin fritters) in Valencia – available from October through early June.
For the ultimate horchata experience in Valencia, you must check out Horchatería Vida. Situated amidst the chufa fields in Alboraya, this one-of-a-kind family-owned horchatería is miles away from any other place on this list – literally and figuratively.
Horchatería Vida is housed in an old farmhouse, once inhabited by the current owners’ grandparents. The interior lounge exudes a traditional charm, but it’s actually the picturesque terrace overlooking the horchata fields that sets this location apart.
If you are in Valencia with kids, you honestly cannot miss this horchatería as they have a playground area and many cute farm animals, including chickens, peacocks, and ducks.
If you coming by car, there’s ample parking space nearby. Another popular way of getting here is by bike.
Horchatería Els Sariers
In spite of being situated on the edge of the city, in the Benimaclet neighborhood, Horchatería Els Sariers is one of the best-known in Valencia.
Coming from generations of chufa farmers, this family-owned horchatería has been delighting patrons with its mouthwatering horchata for nearly three decades.
What sets Horchatería Els Sariers apart is their commitment to artisanal horchata made from the chufa they continue to cultivate in the nearby fields. On top of that, the homemade fartons that they serve fresh out of the oven are some of the best in Valencia.
Besides the typically sweetened horchata, they also have sugar-free horchata. Want to have horchata with a twist? Try their Morenet (horchata with coffee granita) or Alcoyano (horchata with lemon granita).
The horchata culture in Valencia
A few other things you might want to know…
Horchata is one of the best drinks you can have in Valencia on a hot summer day. Valencianos love it and you’ll see them enjoying a glass of horchata with fartons on terraces around the city pretty much any time of the day. In Valencia, horchata is the go-to mid-afternoon pick-me-up par excellence.
Horchata can be enjoyed in liquid form, as granita, or mixed (half liquid and half granita). Most Valencianos prefer horchata granizada because it stays cold for longer, allowing you to enjoy it at a slower pace. Personally, I prefer liquid horchata because it has a consistent flavor from start to finish.
Of course, every Valenciano has their own favorite horchatería, so it’s all a matter of personal taste. But as a general rule of thumb, it’s very difficult to find a Valenciano who doesn’t like horchata.
Things are a bit different when it comes to people visiting Valencia and tasting horchata for the very first time. Generally speaking, and based on my experience, if a person is used to plant-based milk, they will instantly love horchata. If they are not, they might or might not get what all the fuss is about.
Given that there’s no way of knowing which camp you’re in, I highly recommend you to try the horchata. My favorite places to drink horchata in Valencia mentioned above are a good place to start.