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27 June 2017

The Leicester Caffeine Chronicles: 200 Degrees and St Martin's Tea & Coffee

During my recent weekend trip to stay with friends in Leicester, I wasn't expecting to have time to check out many coffee shops. Nor did I have any time to do any research, but having enjoyed an espresso from Leicester-based St Martin's Coffee Roasters at this year's London Coffee Festival, I did have at least one café on my list — and one that is relatively close to both the train station and my friends' house.

We spent Saturday outside the city but on Sunday morning, craving coffee, we ventured into town. The plan was to head straight to the St Martin's cafe located on St Martins Square (apostrophes, or lack thereof, throughout reflect official sources). Walking along Market Street, however, we were intercepted by a woman handing out vouchers for free coffee. I was skeptical but as soon as I spotted the 200 Degrees branding, I knew we were onto a winner. Their Leicester branch opened in March 2017, but, according to the voucher, rather than spending 'thousands of pounds convincing you how good our coffee is, why not just try one for free?' Why indeed? The Nottingham-based roaster also has shops in Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and Cardiff; I haven't visited any of the other branches, but had heard good things.



With its sleek, black awning, 200 Degrees stands out from its Market Street neighbours. The interiors are rustic, spacious and — given the dark colours — surprisingly bright inside. Armed with our vouchers, we headed to the coffee bar and made our orders — a cortado (£2.40) and a cappuccino (£2.90). There were two espressos on offer: the 'Brazilian Love Affair' blend and the Fazenda Ouro Verde, a single-origin also from Brazil, and we opted for the latter. There was also a Guatemalan coffee available as V60- or Aeropress-brewed filter coffee (£3.20). I assumed (wrongly, as it turned out) that I would be able to have a hand-brewed filter at St Martin's, so I was sorry I didn't also try brewed coffee at 200 Degrees.




As it was a warm day, we went to sit at one of the pavement tables. My friends' dog was welcomed outside and brought his own 'doggycino' (an Acme cup of water). The coffees soon arrived and my cortado was really excellent: sweet, smooth and nutty. My friend also enjoyed his cappuccino. There were plenty of cakes on the counter and the lunch service was just about to start when we were leaving so I didn't get to see the sandwiches and other light meals on offer. Something to try when I return!



After a historical visit and lunch, we finally made it to St Martin's. St Martins Square is actually more of a crescent, with several interesting eateries. Indeed, my friends had eaten before at Crafty, the gourmet burger bar that materialises at St Martin's on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The café itself was fairly busy when we arrived on Sunday afternoon, but there is plenty of seating — mainly rustic wooden furniture with pops of vibrant primary colours — both downstairs and in the upstairs room. It was very light and airy in the café and the décor gave it a cosy, homey feel.




Unfortunately, I wasn't in the market for any coffee beans on this trip, but I enjoyed browsing the colourful selection of St Martin's single-origin coffees. When it was my turn to order, I asked which single-origins were available but alas, there was only one batch-brew option, while the Friday Street blend was in the hopper for espresso-based drinks. As such, we went for the same cortado/cappuccino combo as before, with my other friend ordering a mint tea (I forgot to note individual prices but the three drinks together cost £6.30).




The breakfast and lunch menus (which included avo toast, pancakes and rotisserie chicken, among other dishes) sounded amazing, but after a big lunch, we stuck to a peanut butter brownie (£2.50). It seems I will have my meals all planned for the next time I come!


I've tried the oh-so-drinkable Friday Street blend before (coincidentally, it also uses a Brazilian Fazenda Ouro Verde, which featured in my 200 Degrees coffee, but combined with a Rwandan variety) and enjoyed it, and my cortado was nicely brewed at St Martin's. The other drinks got thumbs-ups too, and we devoured the brownie in no time. There was a really nice atmosphere in the café with a diverse set of customers, from young families, to students and, well, us. It was a lovely place to hang out after our historical learnings.

200 Degrees. 10-12 Market St, Leicester LE1 6DP. Website. Twitter. Instagram.
St Martin's Tea & Coffee. St Martins Square, 2-6 Saint Martins Walk, Leicester LE1 5DG. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

3 comments:

  1. Good to see St Martin's Tea & Coffee doing well: like you, I was impressed with the coffee it had at London Coffee Festival. Unlike you, I have been to various 200 Degrees (Nottingham, Birmingham). I think you made the correct choice with the single-origin espresso. I'm not a big fan of Brazilian Love Affair :-)

    I really need to get to Leicester soon!

    Thanks,
    Brian.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Brian, and thanks for the espresso tip too. I had a lovely weekend in Leicester and hope I'll be returning again to visit my friends. Next time, I must try to book my train tickets even earlier. Such an expensive line!

      Thanks,
      Bex

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    2. I finally made it! I've discovered that if you go via Birmingham (not such a detour if you start in Guildford rather than London) it's far cheaper than going via St Pancras. It does take twice as long though!

      Brian.

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