Pour a Cup of Joy
For Sadie Brooks, coffee is the key to glee
Words by Nicole Letts
Leipers Fork, Tennessee has a population of 650 people. Within its 1,100 acres, there are a bevy of celebrities—Nicole Kidman, Chris Stapleton, and Justin Timberlake all call it home—a few art galleries, several boutiques, three restaurants, a spa, a distillery, and a gas station.
There’s also a tiny-house coffee outpost where Sadie Shaw-Brooks concocts proprietary coffee blends. Sadie and her husband Kyle own The RedByrd Coffee Shop, a small building on wheels oozing with mid-century modern charm. The couple’s menu is as surprising as it is soulful. Think blueberry cold brews, rose espressos, and blackberry lattes. For Sadie, a classically trained opera singer turned bluegrass artist, dreaming up the blends sparks her inner creative. Flavorful storytelling is the true artistry of coffee; it awakens the senses and the heart—like the tunes she belts.
Tell me about your love for coffee. Where did that begin?
I was born and raised in Northern California. I discovered opera in college and thought that was it--that's the crown jewel of the music world. As I went about my studies and years of performing and singing opera in the Bay Area, I discovered coffee shops. San Francisco had great coffee shops that were warm and inviting, and of course, had great coffee. I grew to enjoy them as a sort of sacred space. I'd go there before a performance to translate the script. My fascination with the creativity, safety, coziness, and vibe of coffee shops was brewing.
Your first passion is music, and your career has spanned opera to bluegrass. How does a California girl come to love bluegrass so much that she moves across the country to pursue it?
I discovered bluegrass through a song called “Redbird” by Ralph Stanley and Jim Lauderdale. I immediately fell in love; I went to all of the bluegrass festivals in Northern California I could find. Then, in 2008, I sat opera down and moved to Nashville to sing bluegrass instead. It breathed new life into me.
How did you shift from a singer to a coffee shop owner?
I had a dream that I owned and operated a coffee shop. As I worked in corporate America, while singing and putting my album together, I kept remembering this dream. Years went by. I met my now-husband and partner of the coffee shop, Kyle, and we got married in 2013. We kept looking for potential places that would be perfect for the coffee shop. Fast-forward to 2016, and Kyle and I were binge-watching tiny-house shows. Then it hit me. Forget about doing a brick-and-mortar—let's just build a tiny-house coffee shop! And so we did.
You have these unique blends filled with flavors, such as blackberry or turmeric. How do you become an expert bean sniffer and therefore coffee creator?
I'm not sure anybody's an expert at anything, quite frankly. I don't see myself as an expert. I see myself as someone who has a passion for coffee and a palette that melds those flavors. We have the Papa Byrd, our blackberry latte; the Mama Byrd, our lavender French vanilla latte, and then the Baby Byrd, which is a steamer. It's honey and steamed milk with chocolate sauce drizzled in. You can put espresso in too, and it's really delicious!
Where do you get your beans?
We source our beans from three roasters. I designed the main espresso blend called Espresso Red with one roaster in Nashville and a lighter espresso blend with another in Montana. We get our cold-brew beans, some of our decaf, and some of the darker roast beans from another roaster in Maine.
For many people, morning coffee is a ritual. When customers come to your window, how do you help them with that ritualistic experience?
Our tagline is, “It's all about joy.” When I make a coffee, I say to myself, This is a cup of joy. That's how I treat it when I show up in the morning to open, and it’s the energy that goes into every single thing I do. We pride ourselves on it. When the first customer shows up, I greet him almost as if I've known him for years, even if I don't. I want his day to start as good as I remember my day starting when I was in the Bay Area getting my first cup of coffee. Joy is the secret ingredient that goes into every cup.
How do music and coffee go hand in hand, on a global and personal scale for you?
Because we're a tiny house and not an actual brick-and-mortar, our space is limited, but that is something we hope evolves a little bit more. Music is good for the soul, and coffee is something that brings us joy. We had a customer and a friend who's also a musician come and play a couple of times, and it was just so nice to hear live music outside. We are hoping to make that a priority this coming year.
I have just one more question: What is your coffee order?
A drip coffee and a side of espresso.