Why you should care
Because you know you want to say “horchatte” 10 times fast.
Every morning it’s the same for me: coffee with a splash of vanilla almond milk. Take a sip, wish I had something tastier than almond milk, realize I’m late and pour it into a to-go mug. Such routines are the hallmarks of lives less than fully lived.
Then something magical happened. (And suddenly, because magical things always happen suddenly in fairy tales and digital magazines.)
I discovered the glorious marriage of horchata and coffee. Horchata iced coffee! Horchata frappés! Horchata lattes! (Horchattes?) The sweet, lactose-free taste of coffee-flavored horchata turned my mornings around. Horchata itself, served over ice and sipped with a straw, is basically the best beverage to come out of any Spanish-speaking place since tequila. Pair it with caffeine and it suddenly becomes the new soy/almond/coconut milk. Which may well turn your stomach. But I’m telling you, it’s great.
In Colombia it’s not “superfancy” and not something you can easily buy from a vending machine.
Apparently, I’m not the only lover of this new horchata twist. Now you can snap up these tasty bad boys across the U.S., from Tierra Mia in San Francisco’s Mission District to Mas Tacos Por Favor in Nashville. “I’m still dreaming about that iced horchata coffee,” says Britney Sussman, who visited the Nashville locale this September. It was “next-level.” Or, if you want to save $4.50, you can make them at home.
But what exactly is horchata? It depends who you ask. It’s popular across Latin America, and each country has its own twist. Usually, though, it’s made from ground grains and water, and sweetened with sugar and cinnamon or other spices. In Mexico, it’s kind of like cool vanilla rice milk with a cinnamon twist. Andrea Garcia-Vargas, OZY’s resident Colombian, says her family always drinks horchata with a ton of cinnamon. She equates it with root beer here in America: not “superfancy” and not something you can easily buy from a vending machine. It’s more special than, say, a Pepsi or a Coke, but still common enough. “When it’s done well, it reminds me of my family and being back in the motherland,” she says, smiling as she recalls sipping horchata in the countryside in small restaurants under thatched roofs outside Bogotá.
The roots of horchata aren’t the concrete stuff of history books, but it’s believed the name comes from Valencia, Spain, where a similar drink goes by the name orxata. Eventually, the beverage made its way around the world to Colombia, Peru and other Latin American countries. But it’s also possible that country-specific horchatas sprung up in parallel. Rice drinks are popular in many forms globally. After all, rice is a staple food for nearly half the world’s population, according to the International Rice Research Institute.
Have an horchata — it’s on us (well, at least a recipe).
How to Make an Iced Horchata Latte at Home
Combine uncooked rice and water in a blender, blend for about a minute and let the mixture sit for at least three hours.
Next, strain the mix and add cinnamon, vanilla or even condensed milk, and chill.
It can be slightly grainy, since not all of the grains are sifted out. Not everyone likes the texture.
Throw in a shot of espresso and ice.
Now go get caffeinated!