ABOVE: The entrance to the Horchateria Chocolateria Santa Catalina is on the Plaza de Santa Catalina in Valencia's historic center.
by Durant Imboden
Horchata de chufa (in Catalan, "orxata de xufa") is Catalonia's most celebrated drink. The non-carbonated beverage is made from tiger nuts, looks like milk, has a faintly chalky sweetness, and is especially refreshing on hot days. Ignore knock-offs made from rice, almonds, or other products: Instead, head for Valencia, Spain--where orxata was invented--and order a glass at the Horchateria Chocolateria Santa Catalina, which has been making its own horchata for more than a hundred years.
The Horchateria de Santa Catalina (to use the original name from the street sign out front) is an attractive café that's decorated in traditional ceramic tile. Walk through the tile-lined entryway to the main room on the ground floor, where you'll find a long bar with a pastry case and a dozen or more marble-topped tables with wooden chairs. A tiled staircase leads to another dining room upstairs, where the toilets are to your right.
During our visit, we had the "liquid horchata," which cost €2,60 and was well worth the price. (I couldn't resist ordering a cream-filled pastry on the side, and it was superb.)
The Horchateria Chocolateria Santa Caterina also serves snacks, sandwiches, salads, and other meal items, but whatever you order, be sure to include a glass of horchata or orxata: It's the café's main draw, and failing to try it during a trip to Valencia would be like failing to sample wine during a visit to Burgundy or Bordeaux.
You'll find the Horchateria Chocolateria Santa Caterina on the Plaza de Santa Catalina, directly across from the Santa Catalina (or, in Catalan, the Santa Caterina) church. It's just to the east of Valencia's celebrated Mercat or indoor public market.
Here are some more pictures to whet your appetite:
ABOVE: Entering the Horchateria Chocolateria Santa Catalina.
ABOVE: A decorative tile and a metal plaque (not shown) commemorate royal visits from 1907 to 1919.
ABOVE: You can purchase take-out horchata at the counter. Otherwise, find a table and order from the waitress.
ABOVE: Have a pastry with your horchata or orxata. (You won't regret the caloric splurge.)
ABOVE: Horchata or orxata is made from chufa nuts, a.k.a. tiger nuts. You can see a container of xufa nuts (to use the Catalan spelling) on top of the pastry case.
ABOVE: The upstairs dining room was closed during our late-morning visit, but we went upstairs anyway to use the toilets.
ABOVE: The staircase is decorated with ceramic tiles.
ABOVE: During your visit, take a few minutes to admire the tilework throughout the historic café.