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Canyon Coffee

       

Canyon Coffee’s gorgeous single origin coffee is small batch roasted in LA from certified organic coffee beans from Guatemalan or Colombian farm collectives. Founded in 2016 by a local (and lovable!) Venice couple, Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewicz, Canyon Coffee celebrates the ritual of coffee. We spoke with the couple about running a business with a life partner and got their thoughts on everything from inspiration to rituals. And, of course, the LA food scene.

Photos by John von Pamer.

You two have such magical energy together. As if you’ve known each other a lifetime. When and how did you meet?

Thank you for saying that! We met five years ago in LA, through our mutual friend, Carla. Casey was helping her start her non-profit Earth Angels and Ally was coming over to go out with her that night. When the doorbell rang, Carla looked at Casey and said, “That’s my friend Ally. Casey, you’re going to fall in love with her.” She actually said that. What’s interesting about it to us is that neither of us were really looking for a partner at the time. We were each on our own path and just decided to start walking together.

What inspired you to create Canyon Coffee?

We had dreamed of starting something together from the time we met. For Ally, her breakthrough moment came through reading Big Magic, and feeling like her career as a model, though gratifying, wasn’t giving her opportunities to express herself creatively. For Casey, he fell in love with coffee while living his passion as a touring musician. And while that was fulfilling creatively, he similarly felt a desire to build and grow something tangible. His background in community organizing played a large role in that.

Together, we knew we loved traveling, making coffee, taking photos and visiting coffee shops. We were inspired by other entrepreneurs, companies and friends in LA doing what they love to do. Watching them motivated us and encouraged us to take the risk of starting our own company. 

What has surprised you the most about running a growing business? What advice do you have for burgeoning entrepreneurs?

People really respond when what you’re doing is authentic and true. We know we began from a place of passion and sincerity. We know we love making coffee for people, talking about coffee, meeting people in the business and interacting. From this starting point, we’re free to be our authentic selves, and there’s really nothing to hide. 

When you know there’s something you’re curious and passionate about, just go for it. That sincerity comes through as confidence, and it shows. 

Any special tips for those who start a business with their life partner? You guys make it look easy!

Date nights. Be extra respectful of each other’s time. Living together is already an experiment in balancing with one another’s extrovert / introvert time. When you start a business together, it can be all consuming. You’re constantly full of ideas and want to talk and make plans. You really need to have strong communication and the freedom to say: “No business talk tonight."

We love that you focus so deeply on ritual. Tell us about your own rituals. Do you drink coffee together on the daily? And what other rituals do you each practice?

The first part of our mornings are our own. We always wake up and meditate, first thing. Ally follows that with apple cider vinegar. We both follow meditation with our own quiet time in the form of a walk, journaling or exercising. Coffee is the ritual that brings us together each morning. We make it for each other, depending on who’s the first to go through their pre coffee ritual. We make pourovers, either with the V60 or Chemex and drink it black, though lately we’ve also been adding MCT oil in and whisking it with a frother.

We only start work, and talking or even thinking about work, after we’re through our morning rituals. 

Your careful sourcing of coffee beans is an integral part of Canyon Coffee. Tell us a bit about your standards and your priorities around sourcing.

The universal practice whereby people taste and grade coffees is called cupping. It’s practiced the same whether you’re on a farm in Kenya, a roaster in Indonesia or a coffee shop in California. We only cup certified organic coffees. We do this to support farms and collectives who have taken the risk to make that investment and to assure our customers they know they’re drinking organic. We continue to learn more about sustainable farming practices and are planning our first trips to our farms in Central and South America this year! Regarding our buying practices, we only work with importing companies that have transparent, beneficial relationships directly with farmers. Small-scale farmers and their families depend completely on the check they get after their one, sometimes two harvests of the year. We buy the green coffee based on the quality of the coffee, which means we’re almost always paying higher than fair trade cost (which is just 10¢ above the market value… which means if the coffee market plummets, so does the "Fair Trade" cost).

Your community is steeped in wellness and self care. Is coffee healthy?

It is! Dr. Sanjiv Chopra (Deepak’s brother!) wrote a book about 5 peer review-established “facts” that lead to longevity, and coffee is one of them

According to Chopra's work, he was able to ascertain, irrefutably, that the benefits of drinking coffee on a daily basis include substantial protection against liver cirrhosistype 2 diabetesheart diseaseParkinson's diseasecognitive decline and dementiagallstonestooth decay, and a host of common cancers, including prostatecolonendometrial, and skin cancer. There also is a lower rate of suicide among coffee drinkers.

As with all things healthy, coffee's true benefit comes with buying good quality and consuming with balance and moderation. Loading it up with sugar and milk will cancel out the health benefit. Good coffee should never give you the jitters! If you ever feel you’ve overdone the caffeine, cut it with some potassium in the form of a banana or coconut!

Tell us about a typical day in the life. Or is there any such thing?! 

Well, we’ve covered our mornings! We keep the rituals as consistent as possible. From there, work can vary day-by-day, as we wear all the hats in our company. One day might be on a computer all day, another might be visiting our accounts and delivering coffee. With Ally’s modeling and Casey’s freelance work, we keep our schedules pretty full.

Canyon is really a coffee for aesthetes and you both come from careers that center around the arts. Music, fashion and photography. Tell us about your own inspirations. Who are your heroes? And what are you each loving now.

Georgia O’Keeffe was a big inspiration and hero for both of us in starting Canyon Coffee. We visited her home in Abiquiu, NM and fell in love with her aesthetic, lifestyle and the fact that she made coffee with a Chemex (it’s still in the pantry!). She created a beautiful life, and beautiful art in the process.

Another hero is Alice Waters. Not just for Chez Panisse as an entity but for the models she has created and the movement she has played a part in starting. She is an example of someone who became very in touch with their passion and has not compromised in turning that into a highly successful, wonderful business and place. Perhaps more than anything, we love how she views and treats people, and it’s something we would like Canyon to be known for as we begin to hire people and grow. 

As for what we’re each loving… we’re both very into ending hot showers with cold showers, and the mint chocolate from Honey Mama. We’re both avid readers. Ally’s recent favorite is Call Me By Your Name. The book and the movie are amazing. She’s been tearing through The Lonely City and is excited to dig into Lincoln in the Bardo. Casey’s been on this quest of defining what the 21st Century man ought to look like and has been enjoying reading Robert Bly’s Iron John in that pursuit.

LA has such a robust food scene. What are your favorite LA restaurants, farm stands and foods? Any favorites in New York? Or elsewhere?

In Los Angeles, we’ve been enjoying all the food on the East Side, since we recently moved there! Honey Hi, Mh Zh, Botanica and Night + Market Song are our favorites! We love Bar Bandini, an all natural wine bar, for a glass of wine. And we love stocking up at the Cookbook markets. For coffee, we love Triniti (their food is wonderful, too!), Maru and Little Ripper!

On the West Side, we love Gjusta and the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market.

In New York, there’s always new spots and we love exploring! We were just there over the holiday and loved Cervo’s, Harts, Marlowe & Sons and Lovely Day for their Thai food, hot toddies and COOKIES! For wine, we love going to Wild Air and Ten Bells. For coffee, we love Café Integral!

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