Salento is a wonderful natural region located in Puglia, right in the heel of Italy, famous for its amazing turquoise sea, heavenly beaches and terrific rocky coastline. That is why this welcoming and wonderful territory of Southern Puglia is also known as the Caribbean of Italy. There we find a traditional and delicious local iced coffee named Caffè Leccese or Caffè alla Salentina, made with espresso and almond syrup, the summery drink of Salento. Here’s the recipe for this easy to make delight!
The ingredients involved in Caffè Leccese are basically coffee, almonds and ice. A legend says that iced coffee arrived in Italy from the Iberian Peninsula, docking at the port of Otranto back in the XV century. It soon spreads throughout the rest of Salento and Italy, while it was the addition of almonds to originate the peculiar version one can taste in the city of Lecce. This is the reason that stands behind the naming of this recipe, also known all over the world as Iced Caffè Leccese or Caffè Salentino.
According to a much more recent version of the myth, it was Antonio Quarta, owner of the local Quarta Caffè roasting company, who first came up with the iced coffee recipe idea of combining coffee with blocks of ice to beat the Apulian harsh summer heat. The blocks were crushed into small irregular cubes, placed directly into the steaming cup and then sweetened according to taste.
Many years have passed since then, but the technique has not changed much. Nowadays, apart from the traditional iced coffee , you can ask the barista to brew a soffiato (blown) or shakerato (shaken), two variations including the addition of a soft cream. While soffiato can be brewed with the steam used for brewing cappuccino, making it a bit longer, shakerato is shaken by hand, just like a cocktail in a shaker.
Stained and sweetened with sweet almond milk, Caffe Leccese is a refreshing brew for hot summer days. At the same time, it is considered by locals as a ritual.
All you need to make Caffe Leccese at home is a Moka pot or an espresso maker for classic Italian coffee and almond milk syrup, along with a glass, a spoon and ice. As you will see, the whole process is really quick and easy!
Here are the ingredients you will need to complete this recipe (for one serving):
When ordering a Caffe Leccese at a bar or café, you will receive a cup of hot espresso and a separate glass containing about two inches of syrup and two to three ice cubes.
The coffee must be freshly brewed hot espresso. All you have to do is pour your coffee into the glass to chill and sweeten, just before tasting the intense and delicious flavor of Apulian almonds melting with the roasted aroma of espresso.
Contrarily, when preparing your Caffè Leccese at home, here are the instructions you can follow:
There’s no denying: the combination of coffee and almond is extremely delicious... it is time to try it out yourself!
According to the experts, Caffè Salentino requires the freshest espresso made from a coffee machine and the blend used is in turn important. The quality of the ice is also essential since it should not have holes and has to be made with bottled or at the least filtered water.
Lastly, the sweet notes given by the almond flavor should be measured carefully: no more than a teaspoon of sugar or a drop of almond milk. Whether using the latter – according to the Salento tradition – it is better to choose a natural product (possibly from Puglia!), able to grant the creaminess given by handcrafted quality.