Espresso coffee, ice and almond milk. These three ingredients have become one of the symbols of Lecce. This city is known all over the world not just for its beautiful baroque architecture, but also for its tasty typical local products and the aroma of Lecce coffee, an espresso coffee enriched with almond milk.
The Lecce coffee is known in Italy and throughout the world, but it is in the long heel of the boot of Italy that it has found its official home. The best way to taste it, in fact, is undoubtedly that of drinking it on a hot humid day while admiring the splendid landscapes of Salento!
We will tell you all the steps for preparing this drink and its history full of mystery, so you can get to know a drink that has now become a true “classic”.
The history of Lecce coffee
The background of Lecce coffee is shrouded in mystery and legends. There is no written evidence at all or recipe books with a date, but only hypotheses and traditions.
One of the most popular versions of the story, and thus more recognized, is the one where this type of coffee came directly from Spain, more specifically from the city of Valencia: from here it caught on in Terra d’Otranto during the first decades of the XVII century with the name of “Café del tiempo.”
Proof of this historic connection, is the fact thatin the 1800’s in Otranto, coffee was prepared using pieces of ice or frozen snow and a slice of lime. The same recipe can still be found today in the bars of Valencia.
In Italy, with the passing of time, the Valencian name was lost, and with it the slice of lime, but the love for this oh-so refreshing drink remained. One of the Italian prerogatives is to experiment, especially in the kitchen, the sour but thirst-quenching taste of the lime gave way to the sweet and dense flavor of the almond milk, used in place of sugar.
How to prepare Lecce coffee: the ingredients
To create this recipe, contrary to what you may have been taught, changing the order in which the ingredients are added changes the result, and how! Adding first one ingredient rather than another will change the flavor and make your Lecce coffee less authentic.
It all starts with the coffee
Using the Moka if you want to prepare it at home, or espresso machine if we are at the bar, preparing a good coffee is always the first step for creating this recipe. We recommend using a particularly strong blend with an intense flavor, to have that “sweet” contrast with the almond milk which will be added later.
Ice, what a dilemma!
In the beginning, icecubes as we know them today didn’t exist yet. Ice was actually sold in large blocks and “chipped off ” as needed. And it is exactly this way that the first Lecce coffees were born!
Nowadays, since we all have the possibility to get icecubes easily, it is useful to know that their shape and size is very important for preparing this recipe. In fact, to reach our objective and get the best drink, it is best to use large ice-cubes. In this way the ice doesn’t melt so quickly, diluting the coffee before the first taste.
The sweetest end: the almond milk
Once you have poured the coffee into the glass with the ice, you can finally add the most mouth-watering ingredient: the almond milk.
With an unmistakable taste and a distinct sweetness, this last ingredient added will make your espresso more velvety, transforming it to all effects into a Lecce coffee.
In this way it won’t be necessary to add sugar! As far as the quantity is concerned, it’s up to you to decide, we would normally recommend two teaspoons of almond milk so as not to cover the robust flavor of the coffee too much and, at the same time, not leave it tasting too bitter.
Finally, you just need to stir it, but not too much, so as not to risk melting the ice too quickly.
The whipped up version
This technique, commonly used in the bars of Lecce, consists simply of using the steam jet of the espresso machine to “whip up” the coffee with the almond milk.
Our advice is to try both variations and let your tastebuds decide!
And have you ever tasted it? Do you love preparing it at home and do you have your own secret recipes?