As a travel writer, Marianna, obviously finds herself in new and unfamiliar towns and cities on a regular basis. Whether it’s a rural suburb or bustling urban sprawl, her first port of call is always a local coffee shop.
No, she doesn’t have a caffeine addiction to rival that which you’d find in a Wall Street office block. In fact, it’s not actually about the coffee itself; it’s about what it sits in the centre of. “I naturally gravitate to coffee shops when I’m travelling, and it’s really started to become apparent how central they are to the community; how much importance they have; and how they can actually really reflect the culture of the area,” she tells us, as she hands us a cuppa.
“It’s about the roastery where the coffee has come from, the carpenter who made the furniture, the baker who supplies the bread, the artist whose work hangs on the walls…”
This recently gave the young explorer a bit of a brainwave for a new kind of travel guide: one that won’t be aging as its ink dries on the page. Instead of simply telling you
to go, it would be about
to find the best places. Having named it The Coffee Trails, Marianna has experimented with the concept in not only Bath and Bristol, but in towns as far flung as Havana and Stockholm.
She begins at a coffee shop (duh) and gets all her leads from there. It could be a chat with the barista about where they hang out in their down time, it could be noting down the local painter whose work is for sale there, it could be a talk with the kitchen about a farm they work with. She then visits those secondary destinations, and gathers more leads to continue with. And on it goes, until she’s zig-zagged her way around the area, having unearthed the local residents, businesses, locations and lifestyles that illustrate and shape the area’s character and culture.
“I’ve ended up in a Nepalese street food café playing Himalayan boardgames, and meeting an eco-baker who trades his bead for people’s surplus veg to go in his bakery’s sandwiches,” Marianna says, sipping her tea.
As we talk, we’re sat in the open plan kitchen-dining-living area of the Montpelier home that’s her base when she’s in Bristol. Light pours in through the large bay windows at the front, and the French doors that lead out to the garden at the back. Rustic but also bright and clean, the space mixes lots of wood (floorboards underfoot, a hand-crafted dining table and bench, dusty-coloured painted wooden cabinets) with gleaming white tiles and white painted walls.
“I like a lot of light in a kitchen. And there needs to be plenty of space for dancing,” Marianna tells us. “It’s my dance floor! My kitchen’s often filled with Latin tunes; I’m really into salsa.
“I much prefer the wooden, natural look, too. Nothing too sleek or glossy; it just shows up any mess too easily. And I’m a messy cook!”
We can relate…
Marianna is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to get the Coffee Trails onto paper, sharing the people, places and stories that she’s unearthed. If you’d like to support the campaign, get some more information, or just try your hand at your own Coffee Trail, drop an email to
, or follow Marianna on Instagram
Photos by NIcci Peet