MEET YOUR MERCHANT: Amanda Daley has gone from barista to cafe owner with ‘Fable Coffee’ in Nevada County
Amanda Daley found her passion for fine coffee while working as a barista and attending Chico State. Like many people, she discovered that once you experience really good coffee, there’s no going back.
After graduation she moved to Portland, Oregon, and began home roasting coffee as a hobby. It gave her the freedom to hone her skills, and experiment with different kinds of beans and techniques.
In 2010 she moved to Grass Valley and saw there were limited choices when it came to specialty coffee. As people’s tastes had become more sophisticated due to exposure in larger cities, the demand was clearly exceeding the supply in Nevada County.
“Basically I just wanted a good cup of coffee,” said Daley, with a laugh. “I noticed there was a niche here.”
Thanks to AB1616, better known as The California Homemade Food Act of 2013, Daley was able to convert her home kitchen into a commercial kitchen. This enabled her to launch her own coffee business. She designed and built a mobile coffee cart, originally naming her business Fable Traveling Cafe, and began selling her coffee at all Nevada County farmers’ markets, including Truckee. It was a hit, and soon area businesses were asking if they could buy her beans wholesale in bulk. She eventually changed the name to Fable Coffee. The word “fable,” she said, was one that conjured up visions of fairy tales, community, art, and a feeling of belonging.
“Because of AB1616 I was able to serve my roasted coffee beyond friends and family,” she said. “It’s the reason Fable Coffee exists.”
GROWING THE DEMAND
The BriarPatch Food Co-op was the first to place a big wholesale order, followed by California Organics, Mother Truckers, Natural Selection, the Chico Natural Foods Co-op and a large San Francisco catering company. Daley had clearly outgrown her kitchen, and by 2013 she had raised enough capital to build a roastery/food processing facility on Loma Rica Drive near the airport. When a catering branch of Fable was added to the business, their coffee could also be found at music festivals, community events, weddings, a variety of Nevada County offices and a large San Francisco catering company.
Two years after opening the roastery, Daley spotted a “for lease” sign in the window of a store on the corner of Mill and Neal streets in downtown Grass Valley. In April of 2015, Daley and her crew opened the aptly-named Fable Coffee, a small coffee bar next to the Del Oro Theatre. For the next 16 months, Daley worked tirelessly in the cafe every single day.
“When we first opened our doors, it was so exciting — the interior was all my design,” said Daley. “I love the high visibility of the location and the fact that we can be part of the closed street fairs.”
When Ashley Brynes was hired as a barista, Daley immediately saw her “capability” and today she is the manager. Now Daley is able to focus on the inner workings of the business while Brynes handles day-to-day supervision of the coffee bar and the seven employees. Brynes has also learned about roasting and other aspects of the business so that Daley has “back up” should she need it. Future goals also include adding additional cafe locations.
“It’s hard to get into the roasting business and Amanda gave me that opportunity,” said Brynes, a native of Seattle. “I’ve worked in the coffee industry for 11 years and I love it every day. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just happy to be here and we feel embraced by the town.”
Menu choices now include items from Bubba’s Bagels, Buho Bakery and Red Dog Kitchen. Protein bowls and granola bowls are popular choices.
A key component to Fable Coffee is ethical business practices, said Daley, who knows the farmers who grow her beans, and in some cases has traveled to the farms.
“We support each local economy where the coffee is coming from,” she added. “We really want people to know where their coffee is coming from. The farming description for each coffee is available to customers.”
FLAVORS & ‘PERSONALITIES’
Additionally, descriptions of each coffee, as well as their flavors and “personalities,” are on display at the cafe. Examples include:
Tasting notes: Caramel, cherry wood, blackberry leaf.
Personality: Floating on a kayak on a summer alpine lake.
Guatemala Huehuetenango Cieba:
Tasting notes: Apricot, creamy, chocolate.
Personality: You’re on your way to the river.
Costa Rica Tarrazu:
Tasting notes: Dark chocolate, fruity, orange.
Personality: This is Bob Dylan to me: my story could be his songs.
Guatemala Finca Dos Marias
Tasting notes: chocolate pecan, caramel, vanilla, pie crust
Personality: Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.”
“I love all the different aspects of the coffee business, which has traditionally been male dominated,” said Daley. “It’s humbling to know how many people are out there now enjoying our good coffee and getting a welcoming experience at the cafe. Service is extremely important to us. What people feel when they leave here is happiness. That means a lot.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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