The commingling of coffee and cycling has been documented assiduously here, there, and everywhere. For the pros, caffeine is a legal, globally accessible performance booster. For those of a more athleisurist bent, cafes and bicycles offer a gentle, seated opportunity to take in the world while still getting a dose of vim and vigor.
These circumstances were surely relevant to the founding of La Fábrica Girona. It helped, too, that the business filled a major market gap in Girona, a city in Catalonia, some 60 miles north of Barcelona. Having little to no specialty coffee or breakfast and brunch culture is not unusual for smaller-town Spain, but it must have disappointed Girona’s growing international crowd. That includes professional cyclists—many of whom have, like Lance Armstrong, been sojourners, taking advantage of the dry weather, tranquil roads, and varied terrain—along with culinary travelers building trips around a precious reservation at the tri-Michelin-starred El Celler De Can Roca, and more recently, fans of Game (and Gay) of Thrones, the sixth season of which was filmed at spots across Girona.
And yet, a more personal matter urged the March 2015 opening of the pioneering specialty coffee enterprise. It was the commingling of its owners. When Christian and Amber Meier arrived in 2008 from their native Canada, he was on a professional cycling contract. After the couple married in 2010, they decided to settle in Girona permanently. The years went by, Christian Meier did a Tour de France in 2014, among other races with impressive results, and Amber grew tired of playing expat housewife.
She recalls her frustration, saying to him: “I don’t want to have to resent you for living your passion, so I’ll go back to Canada and we’ll do long-distance.”
Christian demurred and proposed the idea of establishing their very own watering hole. After all, they met at a cafe in Metro Vancouver, where she worked and he was a customer, and they had been pining for comfort foods and drinks.
“There was nothing,” Amber remembers of Girona back then. “We lived here for so long, and maybe two or three times a week, [we’d realize]: ‘Oh, I wish we could go for a coffee. I wish we could go for brunch.’”
But, she stresses: “The reason we opened La Fábrica is because I needed something to do. It was never about the money. It was never about success. It was just: I want something to do a few hours a day while my husband is out cycling.”
Intended or not, their success is surging. Christian, once on the road 170 days a year, has since retired, nowadays channeling the focus of a competitive athlete into roasting for their own label, called Approachable Coffee. Amber, who is approachableness personified, manages much of the daily operations with equal parts meticulousness and merriness.
Open daytime hours from 9am to 3pm, La Fábrica offers dining options in sol y sombra: outside at tables arranged on a landing between steps, visitors can take in sun; inside, the converted carpenter’s workshop provides a cool, stone-walled sanctuary. With a tire pump at the door and a basket of borrowable cable locks, the peloton is welcome, though, the Meiers emphasize, non-cyclists are, too.
Toasties and artisanal pastries are par for the course, but so are bagels and breakfast bowls. The kaleidoscopic spread of tropical fruits surrounding violet sugar-topped yoghurt must be the most edigrammable breakfast on the Iberian Peninsula.
The espresso machine is a two-group Rocket R8. While the brand is less common in commercial settings, it is no coincidence that the company’s founder, Andrew Meo, is a former pro cyclist and someone the Meiers call a friend. The Compak grinder holds one Approachable Coffee roast at a time—a “people-pleaser,” according to Amber, that works well alone or with dairy. Ask for a café con leche, a cappuccino, or a flat white, and you get the same double-shot of espresso with foamed fresh milk. Order a café amb gel—espresso poured over ice as Catalonians traditionally do it—and you get instead a cold brew because Christian hates the thought of his flavor profiles being shocked on the rocks.
Remarks Amber: “In the nicest way possible, we’ve wrecked coffee for a lot of people because now they can’t drink it anywhere other than here or Espresso Mafia.”
Her reference is to the Meiers’ second cafe, which opened in March 2017. For all of La Fábrica’s Middle-earth coziness, Espresso Mafia, which is a two-minute walk away, sparkles in a Pearly Gates palette. Its whiteness with metallic accents simultaneously index the place’s designation as, in Amber’s words, “the experimental laboratory.” Of its branding, “we could’ve done a little bit more research into the sensitivity of the word ‘mafia,’” she admits. “A couple people don’t like the name, but you learn and you move forward.”
Here a custom two-group Sanremo Cafe Racer and two Victoria Arduino Mythos One grinders facilitate the serving of up to five different coffees. Menu highlights are a tasting flight, cascara, and summertime nitro. Open til 7 PM most weeknights and an hour later Fridays and Saturdays, it attracts aficionados as well as the spandex set.
When not kitted and cleated himself, Christian is regularly found next door, where he roasts green beans from Falcon Coffees and Mare Terra on a 15-kilo Joper. Approachable Coffee’s wholesale business is expanding, notably in Barcelona. The most like-spirited venue so far seems to be specialty coffee-serving bike rental shop On Y Va, whose French name means, most aptly, “Let’s go!”
Karina Hof is a Sprudge staff writer based in Amsterdam. Read more Karina Hof on Sprudge.