I've always had a bit of a 'thing' for coffee shops. Growing up, there was nowhere local to me that I could get a coffee except greasy spoons and McDonald's and at home we drank one kind of tea and instant coffee. So as a teenager, when we'd visit larger cities and I'd occasionally be treated to a Starbucks or a Costa coffee (stick with me here) I thought it was magical. I was fascinated by the creatives, hipsters and fashionable people ordering their complicated beverages.
When I got to University, these places became regular haunts for me and my friends. We even got to know some of the staff in a few of them and I’m probably not exaggerating to say they took a solid 30-40 percent of my student loans, especially as a first year student when I lived less than a minutes walk from the city centre.
I never used to be a big drinker of coffee, I sort of presumed that nobody actually liked it and everyone else was just pretending too in a bid to feel grown up (I still think this about wine and you can not convince me otherwise).
Then I discovered Independent coffee shops and everything changed. Places with real character, (usually) pretty ethical views, and where the staff actually care about making quality drinks and about their customers, it was instantly pretty clear to me why they're becoming so popular.
Which brings me nicely on to St Martin's. Over Christmas I headed into the city with good friend and regular taste tester/guinea pig Linford and thought it would be the perfect place to fuel up before an afternoon of shopping. I'd been to St Martin's once before in the summer but it was with my teenage sister who was a little overwhelmed by the whole experience so we didn't stay long enough for me to fully form an opinion. They were also all out of chai lattes, and a quality chai product of some sort is the only way I'll give anything a seal of approval.
Housed on St Martin's Walk, alongside many of Leicester’s other independent businesses, St Martin’s simply aims to provide “a place where people can enjoy a damn fine tea or coffee”. They roast their own coffee beans and supply them along with a variety of teas to other venues across the UK but it’s worth a trip to their shop for the atmosphere alone.
The decor is quirky and cosy. It’s inviting, bordering on the ‘tea at your grans’ feel that seems popular with coffee shops right now and showing a creative flair but without being kitsch or irritating. It's an instagrammers dream (so naturally I walked around the whole place taking several hundred photos and looking like a complete nutcase infront of everyone else there). There is also enough space across their two floors to not feel cramped or have to get too cosy with a cappuccino drinking stranger, which is always nice.
I had a chai latte, and I was pretty pleased with it, it had a nice mix of spices but it wasn't too strong (a certain mainstream shop I won't name often served less latte and more of a hipster cinnamon challenge) or too milky. Linford chose a flat white, and wasn't 'too impressed with the pour' (I mostly wasn't impressed with the lack of cool latte art for these photos/our instagram feeds because apparently I am that girl now) but overall it wasn't bad.
We also had fresh sandwiches, both opting for the chorizo, brie and garlic mayo (£4.50). These were really, really good. The balance of flavours was fantastic, with a really good depth and everything working together rather than any ingredient trying to steal the show. I'd have never really thought of putting chorizo and brie together but I definitely will in future. The bread comes from a local bakery and it always makes me happy seeing local businesses support each other and knowing where my food has come from. They were maybe a little on the pricey side for a sandwich but they were really filling and the quality of ingredients plus overall experience of the place sort of balanced everything out here for me.
Overall, I was really impressed with St Martin’s Coffee. It hasn’t quite replaced some of my other favourite coffee houses just yet but there's a spark of something quite special here and it's definitely somewhere I’ll be revisiting on future trips to Leicester.