From Hay to Horchata in the City of Paramount

Just as the US has flyover states Los Angeles has drive by cities. You know what I mean…those cities that, unless you live there, you only drive past on the freeway. For many years the city of Paramount was one such place for me. Honestly, until recently, I couldn’t even point it out on a map. But lately, I’ve made it my destination and, in turn, discovered a town with a fascinating history. I’ve got one word for you. Hay.

In 1948 the city of Paramount was incorporated by combining the towns of Hynes and Clearwater. These towns were known for two things, cows and hay, and, at times, were called “The Milk Shed of Los Angeles” and “The World’s Largest Hay Market.” Before the city developed the land was perfect for cattle grazing and the area had the most dairy cows per square mile in the west. Since cows eat hay it’s only natural that a hay market should develop. In fact, it was the world’s largest hay market and the Chicago and New York stock exchanges would set the hay standard based on its market rate.

Today, virtually all evidence of Paramount’s hay and dairy history is gone. All that remains is one tree. The Paramount Hay Tree.

This century old camphor tree is Paramount’s last link to it’s agricultural pass. At one time it was an informal gathering spot for the farmers of the area. They would meet under the tree to socialize and also to set the day’s market price for hay. Now a California Registered Historical Landmark it rests on the grounds of Paramount City Hall.

I stopped by on a recent afternoon and discovered one beautiful, enormous tree. Despite its current location in the middle of a bustling city I could really imagine farmers coming to gather under its leaves. I’m sad there’s not much other evidence of the city’s agricultural past but I’m happy the Hay Tree remains.

I must admit hay is not what usually brings me to Paramount. It’s actually horchata.

Awhile back I was scrolling through Instagram when I started to see a bunch of delicious drinks popping up in my feed. Turns out they were from a brand new spot, Horchateria Rio Luna in Paramount. I figured it would be a good time for me to finally figure out where that actually was and soon headed there with horchata in mind. I was instantly hooked and now stop by whenever I’m anywhere near the area.

Horchata is only the tip of the iceberg on Horchateria Rio Luna’s menu. They’ve got frappes, lattes, mochas, churros, conchas, ice cream and the most delicious agua frescas. My absolute favorite is the Cucumber Pinapple Chia – it’s so refreshing! In all my visits I’ve been working my way through the menu but there was one item I was still dying to try.

The Concha Ice Cream sandwich. I usually visit in the morning and it’s just too early for ice cream. But this time it was the afternoon so I finally got to try it. Wow. Wowwowwow. It’s SO good. A scoop of horchata ice cream on a freshly baked concha topped with a drizzle of cajeta and fresh walnuts makes one delicious dessert.

Hay may have been Paramount’s big draw in the past but horchata is my reason for visiting today. It’s funny. I decided to finally visit to try a sweet treat and I ended up discovering a whole agricultural past I never knew about. That’s Los Angeles in a nutshell. Layers upon layers upon layers.