Spanish horchata or horchata de chufa is a traditional milky drink with a refreshing flavour typically drank during summer. It's a great alternative to iced tea as it's virtually calorie free (unless sweetened) and super tasty. The good news is, you don't need to make a trip to Spain to enjoy Spanish horchata – you can quite easily make it at home too. Making a proper horchata may take anywhere between 8 and 24 hours, but the actual prep time will be only 10-15 minutes.
What is horchata?
Horchata is a plant-based milky drink popular in Spain and South America. It's usually made with either rice or tiger nuts, depending on the country. Vanilla, sugar or cinnamon are commonly added too. While horchata may look like a regular plant-based milk, it's much more than that. It has a very long history that surpasses modern types of milk alternatives and it's just as tasty – if not tastier.
Horchata can contain different additional flavours. It's usually very sweet and may even be blended with dairy milk to get a desired texture and creaminess. Spanish horchata is made purely with caffeine-free ingredients, so it won't contain any caffeine which makes it suitable for all age groups. However, if you decide to add real tea leaves, you will add caffeine too.
What is Spanish horchata made of?
Spanish horchata or horchata de chufa is made with tiger nuts (chufa), rather than rice. Tiger nuts are small round edible tubers from Cyperus esculentus L. plant. To make this unique drink, they are soaked in water and then blended with more water and sieved.
Horchata will be much sweeter and creamier than regular plant-based milk alternatives. It's refreshing and amazing for sipping on a hot summer's day. In Spain, a pre-made horchata is available in supermarkets and in restaurants, and it's even possible to buy an horchata instant mix.
In western countries, horchata is sometimes called “horchata tea”, but it doesn't contain any tea leaves, or any herbal tea. If you stumble upon “horchata tea,” that looks like a milky drink, it's unlikely that it will contain any tea leaves at all, as it's never made with real tea. However, there is a type of herbal drink from South America called horchata, with an intense purple colour. It's a completely different drink made with different tisanes and doesn't contain any tiger nuts or rice.
How does Spanish horchata taste like?
Horchata is milky, creamy and sweet, with a distinctive tiger nuts flavour. If you love drinking nut-based almond or oat-based milk, you will love horchata too. Many ingredients complement tiger nuts earthy and toasty flavour extremely well, such as almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and malty black tea.
Why should you add tea to horchata?
Adding tea to horchata is a great way of not only adding a unique flavour but enjoying the tea benefits and adding caffeine too. You can use different teas, but the best types are pure, or chocolate/vanilla/caramel flavoured black teas, ripe pu'erh or roasted oolong teas. The tea you choose should have a stronger flavour and should match the flavour profile of tiger nuts. This recipe is made with Dian Hong black tea with lots of golden buds, that has a natural chocolate flavour and maltiness.
Is horchata healthy?
So, is horchata good for you? The answer is – it depends. If you are making a homemade horchata, you can choose which ingredients to use and make it more healthy or more indulgent. Potential benefits of horchata de chufa come from tiger nuts, which are rich in starch, fibre and protein. If you are adding black tea to your horchata, it will provide additional benefits of tea, but it will also contain caffeine. You can make it super healthy by avoiding any sugars and drinking it unsweetened. Studies show that horchata may be beneficial for gut health, weight loss and provide antioxidant properties. (1) Tiger nuts are naturally quite sweet, so try it unsweetened first to maximize the good sides and reduce the intake of sugars.
Horchata nutrition facts
Pure, unsweetened horchata will be healthier than sweetened horchata.
- Horchata made at home will probably provide more nutrients and fibre than store-bought horchata.
- To add more potential benefits, you can add black or oolong tea, or even other tisanes such as chamomile and spices such as cinnamon.
- A cup of unsweetened horchata (with or without tea) will have very little calories, similar to plant-based unsweetened milk.
- Horchata is a good source of fibre and monounsaturated fatty acids – a good type of fat.
- Horchata contains vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, calcium and magnesium. (2)
Ingredients for making Spanish horchata with tea
Tiger nuts – tiger nuts can be difficult to find, even in Spain. You can usually get them from specialty health stores, and they are quite affordable. Depending on where you buy them from, you may need to wash them first.
Sugar – you can use any sugar you want, but keep in mind that different types will affect flavour differently. Regular white sugar will minimally alter the flavour, while the brown sugar will add warmer nutty notes. When not using any dairy milk, most of the calories in horchata will come from sugar. To reduce the calorific value, you can use a sugar alternative such as xylitol or silver birch sugar. You can use honey or maple syrup too.
Black tea – choose high quality flavourful tea that's not bitter and not too overpowering. Teas with smaller broken leaves will give a stronger cold-brewed infusion.
Water – Water quality will have a tremendous impact on the flavour. Tap water is fine as long as it doesn't have a strange flavour. It's best to use either filtered tap water or bottled spring water.
Spanish Horchata with Black Tea Recipe
- 2 Jug
- 100-150 grams of tiger nuts
- 1 tablespoon of loose leaf black tea
- sugar optional
- 1 litre of water divided
- Add tiger nuts into a small bowl and add cover in water ½ litre of water (just over 2cups)
- Soakt hem overnight or longer, but at least for 8 hours.
- In a clean jug, add black tea leaves with the rest of the water. Water should be lukewarm. Let it cold-brew in the fridge overnight too. You can do this and previous step at the same time.
- Once the tea is brewed and tiger nuts absorbed water, prepare a blender and a clean cheesecloth.
- Strain the water from tiger nuts and discard it.
- Strain the tea. Do not discard it.
- Add tiger nuts to a blender (in one batch if you have a bigger blender or divide into 2-3 parts with 2-3 parts of cold-brewed tea). Blend well.
- Use a cheesecloth to strain the horchata tea milk into a clean glass or jug. You may need to repeat this step once or twice if you want a cleaner drink.
- Add sweetener if needed and serve or store in the fridge.