A professional cyclist from Canada, a patient partner sharing the vision, and one single cup of coffee, drunk in Portland, that created the dream. Orica Green Edge rider Christian Meier has opened Ã¢â‚¬Å“La FabricaÃ¢â‚¬ï† cafÃƒÂ© on a mission to bring fine coffee to Girona.
I became friends with Christian and Amber Meier through Instagram. I’m a massive pro cycling fan. Christian is Canadian and races for Orica Greenedge, Australia’s top team, as a specialist climber. They live in Girona, one of Catalonia’s key cities, and a place I adore. It’s home to many English speaking and Northern European pros. Scanning over his Instagram @christianmmeier I found his wife, Amber’s account @meierwife. It was a warm, loving, fun account of what its like to be married to a pro who's often abroad, or out training, in a foreign country. Their instagrams are full of affection for each other, and being a bit of a softy, I said how much I loved seeing the reality of two ‘normal’ people whose relationship blossoms under unusual circumstances. Oh, and their Dachsund puppy Awsker.
Christian is a coffee nutter. He does his own bean roasts and all kinds of other stuff I don’t understand. He was called up to the 2014 Tour de France on a few hours notice when Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews crashed prior to the Yorkshire start. In the mad rush (imagine the panic, thinking you’re not riding the Tour, the biggest hardest race on Earth, then you are!) Christian forget his beloved Aeropress. Now I know nothing of coffee, but I knew this as a big deal to him. Riders need their anchors and coffee was Christian’s ‘get through this’. So I and a few others tweeted out to the Great British public to find Christian some great coffee. He soon had fans bringing him awesome beans, fresh ground coffee, and he even got an Aeropress coffee maker! Sorted.
All this, along with being obsessive foodies, led to Amber & Christian opening La Fabrica Girona in the last few weeks. A beautiful old bare-brick space in the Old Town of Girona. It’s a cyclist’s space that is as friendly as it is classy. Pros hang out there, as do passing tourists and local families. The coffee is amazing, and it’s just got the right vibe. The Meier’s love for each other and what they do, be it coffee, socialising, cycling or food, is only too clear. Girona is my cyclist’s paradise. The roads are amazing, the food is incredible, the drivers and locals are cycling clued-up and chilled, and there’s the Meiers with the perfect ride start or end. You can hire bikes at Girona Cycle Centre, owned by Brit/Irish pro Dan Martin, as I did when I last visited. It’s a highly recommended bike mecca.
Now on to Christian and Amber, in their own words. Go visit.
His story: I like coffee and I like riding my bike. The two go so well hand in hand and both have become strong passions of mine. It started at Stumptown (a cafe in Portland) where I tasted the best "coffee with milk" I had ever had. Fresh roasted coffee (no sugar) and whole milk – it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I have spent almost every "coffee with milk" experience since trying to match that one coffee. I’m a professional cyclist, which is my full time gig. Coffee has always been something I have wanted to explore further whilst still being able to ride my bike.
Any pro cyclist living in Girona will give you the same good reasons that we all stay. That's why so many of us live here now. The training is fantastic. The food, the weather and the people are great. You have the mountains one hour away in one direction and the coast 1 hour the other.
Our concept of a cafe was formed some time ago. Even at the time it seemed right. And the more we thought about it, the more it appealed. We knew what we wanted to do and shared the vision. That’s not to say it wasn’t a very intimidating and scary process. Going after a big dream always is. We were and still are afraid of failure, negativity and skepticism.
We still ask the same question, "what if we aren't good enough?" We finally opened last week. The support and encouragement we’ve received has been overwhelming. Being the first specialty coffee shop in Girona, we have been getting a mix of professional cyclists, coffee lovers, tourists and alleyway wanderers. We don't ask for much from "La Fabrica". My wife and I just want to break even at the end of day and give people a place to enjoy a damn fine brew. That and I get to buy all sorts of fun coffee gadgets that the wife would have never let me buy without the cafe! It's an adventure we see ourselves continuing for the next 3-4 years or until I retire. I might need to come up with a second retirement plan now though.
Her story: Basically I cracked. We’ve been based in Girona for eight years and one day I woke up with the hard realization that I needed something for me. Cycling was taking up every ounce of our life. From the way Christian sleeps, to the way that he eats, to the amount of walking he can do a day – it all comes down to his cycling career. I knew when we got together what being married to a cyclist would involve and while we’ve been living here in Europe I dedicated myself to being the best housewife I could be. Don't get me wrong; they were eight great years of travel featuring sleeping in, extensive book reading and spontaneous adventure. But after living so long with no job and only grocery shopping to get myself out the door in the morning (minimal mental stimulation) I knew my days of early retirement were going to have to end. When Christian would leave I’d be miserable, as my "job" would be put on hold. With no laundry, grocery shopping or dinners to prepare I found myself a bit low. I took some online courses, learned Spanish and became a nanny for some local families. But I was craving a schedule. A 9-5 with 30 minute lunch breaks and a reason to put on nice clothes in the morning.
The grass is always greener on the other side, eh? My favorite job, and where Christian and I first met, was in a little coffee shop in Vancouver. So we had always toyed with the idea of a small cafe or restaurant. People would often ask us what we were going to do "after cycling" and although we didn't know exactly what the plan was, we knew it would be a job that involved people. There would be some sort of culinary addition and it would be based in Europe.
When I was about to crack (see above) Christian randomly suggested our retirement plan – open a cafe in Girona. We were having a lazy afternoon when the idea was brought up. We analyzed every single pro and con. This took four hours! By the end of the evening we had decided to lay all our cards on the table and go ahead and open our cafe. This was in August of last year. We worked out we would need to complete a task each day in order to open on March 2nd. Even then we were still missing a bit of paperwork!
It’s been a huge process. Every detail from the exposed copper to the types of coffees we use, have all been thought out and planned to be part of what we want to bring to Girona. It's corny and a bit too mushy to say out loud but here it is. Christian basically created a cafe so that I would have something to be passionate about. An outlet and opportunity to grow as a person and develops new relationships and be in my element. He has given me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received and could ever ask for – my dream job.