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Every job has its drawbacks, even being a barista in Italy, as a good chunk of your clients arrive before they’re awake enough to say anything all that interesting.

Not that Salvatore would ever admit to that: he’s too nice of a guy. And he has a talent for coffee, notable, even among those that do it for a living.

‘So how much of your business is classic portions of espresso’, I ask. ‘Silvè, easy 85%’, he says, his bar towel in constant motion. ‘Although, in the summer, as you know, some of it gets ‘iced”, he adds.

‘So, what’s the other 15%’, I ask, already knowing the answer.

‘Well, we’re near Lecce and the drink there is the espressino (a sort of miniature cappuccino, served in a glass cup). You won’t catch anyone under 50 drinking one though. It’s mostly for the cool kids’, he says, laughing at himself for saying it.

‘It’s the men that really love the little patterns of cocoa powder too’, he says. ‘You’d think it would be more a girl-thing’. My mind drifts off and I imagine a burly construction worker, just tickled to find a cocoa heart on his morning coffee, the tiny child inside still very much alive.

‘So, you said, ‘iced’. ‘Yes’, he says. ‘Iced coffee is really the Salento’s. You won’t find it anywhere else, not in the same way. In the summer, it’s the fuel of the region’.

‘So how is it different’, I ask. ‘There are really two ways’, he says. ‘Foamed and unfoamed’.  He pours a dash of ‘almond milk’ (a thick syrup made locally of almonds and cane sugar) onto ice. He pulls a fresh shot of espresso and pours it over the almond milk. The two chill at once but maintain their stratas until the patron stirs the two together. The second way, the two liquids are amalgamated together under his foamer, leaving the drink as inviting as an icy espresso fog.

‘And what do our guests at the castle ask for, for their breakfast’? ‘They really seem to like the espressini in the colder months. And iced coffee in the warmer ones. You had a guy last year that ordered 8 or 9 a day’, he says laughing. ‘After the third one, he’s start to blur like a humming bird’s wings’.

He makes me a coffee just before I leave and we make arrangements to go squid fishing together next week.

Which coffee did I order? The best one, naturally.

But if you want to know which one that is, well, don’t take my word for it.

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