The true story and the technique of the perfect ice coffee in Lecce (or in Salento) and its variants: the blown and the shaken
Anyone who has visited the Salento, especially in the hot season, knows that there is a categorical imperative at the bar: coffee is drunk with ice, and maybe even with a hint of almond milk. Who calls it Salento coffee, who calls it Lecce, who simply says coffee on ice, but where does this tradition come from? Everything happens just in Lecce, about seventy years ago, in the historic bar of the Quarta family, which is still the reference point in terms of roasting in this corner of Puglia.
Lecce or Salento: the origins
The story is told by Gaetano Quarta, coffee breeder in the family business and great grandson of that Antonio Quarta who had the idea: «In his bar, which was called The coffee house, he sold coffee roasted by him and blocks of ice to preserve food ", since at that time there were no refrigerators and the stuff was kept cool in the neviere. He thought well, also to deseasonalize the drink, to combine the two things: the ice was pierced and small irregular cubes, but full of ice, were then placed directly in the steaming cup, just sweetened, according to customer preferences.
Blown and shaken: the variants
Several years have passed and the technique has changed, but only slightly. Indeed, more than anything else, as Gaetano explains, it has been enriched: in addition to the traditional ice coffee, you can also ask the bar for the blown or shaken, two techniques that add a soft cream to the taste of chilled coffee thanks to the cold of the cube. «In the first case, of the blown, air is added with the steam nozzle, which allows to create an emulsion and results in a drink a little longer, in the case of the shaker it is mixed by hand as if it were a cocktail in the shaker".
Coffee, ice, almond milk: the ingredients of good Lecce
Although nothing prevents you from doing it at home with coffee prepared with moka, for Gaetano Quarta the real Salento coffee requires that you use freshly-extracted coffee with the bar machine. Of course, the mixture used is also important. In the case of the Quarta family, family blends have been used for the past four generations, which can be found in many bars in the area, but above all in the Avio Bar in Lecce, what is now the family bar of great-grandfather Antonio. In full continuity, the roasted blends of the Quarta are called Avio and Gran Caffè, or Barocco in honor of the city that hosts them, and they are all 90% Arabica and 10% robusta. The quality of the ice is also fundamental, which is full and possibly made with water that is not tap water, but bottled or at the most filtered. Finally, the sweet note, which should be dosed as a tailor-made dress, be it a teaspoon of sugar or a drop of almond milk, strictly in the still hot coffee, so that it dissolves well. In the case of almond milk we are increasingly in the Salento tradition and Gaetano's warning is to use a product as natural as possible (and perhaps from Puglia!), Because the creaminess that gives an artisan product is unparalleled.