Across Leicestershire and further afield, the name St Martin’s is becoming synonymous with speciality coffee. The independent roastery’s bespoke blends are popping up in shops, restaurants, hotels and bars across the country. But what of where it all began? In a city with no shortage of places to get your caffeine fix, St Martin’s Coffee Shop has carved itself a niche as a welcoming home-from-home with something crafty up its sleeve…

“Occasionally, we’ll still have a customer coming in and asking if they can buy an electric cheese grater,” says the manager of St Martin’s Coffee Shop, Josh Shirtcliffe. St Martin’s began its journey as the Original Cookware Company, selling everything from pots and pans to more hi-tech kitchen gadgets. But things were set to change. “Several years ago, we fell in love with coffee,” says Josh. “We started with a little table top roaster, but soon outgrew it, and expanded into the industrial-sized one we have now. Over time, we phased out the cookware and spread our wings into the world of specialty coffee.”

The resulting coffee shop is a cosy hideaway tucked away in the corner of St Martin’s Square. Beloved of Leicester’s creative community, it has at its heart a philosophy based on inclusivity and the sharing of knowledge. “I think we’re really good at being approachable,” Josh says. “What I mean is, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to coffee, and we’re always happy to enlighten people. It’s so important to develop a culture where people appreciate beautiful coffee.”

If closing the original Original Cookware Company paved the way for these adventures in coffee, the second pivotal moment in the history of the business was just around the corner. “Opening our burger restaurant, Crafty, was a key moment in our development,” says Josh. “We joined forces with its creators to totally overhaul our food offering.”

Those creators are Chris and Andrea Elliman, who took a leap of faith two years ago by moving their fledgling burger business to Leicester. The partnership was an immediate success, says Josh. “It exploded! We could never have anticipated the reception we got. I think what people love about Crafty is that they feel welcome every single time they come in, but also, that they feel part of something. I think there’s a real sense of belonging that you feel when you arrive. Not to mention the burgers. Our chefs must be wizards or something.”

The Crafty recipe of locally sourced ingredients, freshly ground beef and that touch of wizardry has added an extra dimension to the St Martin’s offering. The burger pop-up has been so well received that it’s extending its opening times to four evenings per week, Wednesday to Saturday. In Crafty, it seems that St Martin’s Coffee Shop has found a kindred spirit, with a shared dedication to excellence. “People inspire us,” Josh says. “Passion inspires us. Pride in serving something that you love, that really gets us going.”

Find St Martin’s Coffee Shop in St Martin’s Square.

Photography by David Wilson Clarke.

Ruth is a communications professional and freelance writer. Her writing reflects her adventures as a foodie, travel addict and arts festival aficionado. She’s traversed Leicestershire and Rutland reviewing restaurants for Food & Drink Guides and writes uber-local blog Clarendon Spark.

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