Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewicz, Canyon Coffee
Nicki Sebastian for Parachute
The ritual of making morning coffee together inspired Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewicz to launch their own line called Canyon Coffee. Having traveled the globe for work – modeling for her, music for him – they’ve enjoyed coffee across different cultures. They combined their love for a good cup with their penchant for bringing people together, and their brand of organic beans has been gaining steam since its start in 2016. We stopped by their Santa Monica home to chat about their joint venture and the best ways to balance budding careers with romance.
How did two people with different creative pursuits come together to start a fair trade coffee brand? Please share when and why you launched Canyon Coffee – and how it’s evolved since then…
Ally Walsh:We met almost five years ago and hit it off pretty quickly. As we traveled for work during the first few years of our relationship, we developed an appreciation for coffee. We’d scope out local roasters on the road, and really treasured being able to wake up and make coffee together when we were both home.
Before long, friends started asking us how to brew a good cup at home or where to find one. Casey started working in the coffee industry in 2015 and became friends with roaster James Klapp, who is well known and respected in the speciality coffee industry. A year later, we hatched the idea to start Canyon, and James was down to roast.
The idea was born from a genuine passion for coffee, and a vision for the kind of life we wanted to create for ourselves. For us, coffee is special. We treasure its place in our morning ritual: It warms up our days and gives us a daily dose of mindfulness. As for the coffee itself, we realized most of our friends really craved a nice chocolate or caramel-y cup. So we set out selecting beans and developing a roast profile to create just that.
Canyon Coffee’s brand aesthetic is understated and natural. Does that design philosophy apply to your own home? How would you describe your decor?
Ally: We take our time filling out our rooms and walls with pieces that we love. We only bring something home if we really appreciate it.
Casey Wojtalewicz: That same philosophy was applied to Canyon in that we sought to create something that (a) felt special and (b) we’d want in our own kitchen. We knew it would be surrounded by ceramics made by our friends, artwork and other wares collected from our travels – so it had to fit in!
You’ve both traveled extensively for your careers as a model and musician, respectively. Do you have favorite pieces from your travels incorporated into your home decor?
Ally: Ceramics and magazines from Japan; wooden coffee spoons from Portugal.
Casey: A rug from Sweden and a framed print from Book/Shop in Oakland.
Do or don’t: coffee in bed?
Ally: Only on the weekends…
Do or don’t: coffee before bed?
Ally: Nope. I’d be up all night!
Casey: Every once in a while I go for an espresso after dinner. Usually, I get my afternoon ‘siesta’ cup in before 4pm.
Walk us through your bedtime routines – skincare products and all!
Ally: I wash my face with Earth Tu Face every evening. Lately I’ve been using La Tierra Sagrada’s hair mask, which I leave in overnight. It’s so nice! I’ll put it in while in the bath and wash it out the next morning. And I always make a cup of calm magnesium before bed.
Casey: I don’t use many products. I haven’t shampooed since 2011! I have a cup of magnesium about a half hour before I go to bed and then brush my teeth, take out my contacts and crawl in.
When you can’t sleep, you…
Casey: Tell myself I should’ve gone with decaf for my after-dinner espresso…then get up and read my book.
The Instagram account you have to browse before bed?
Ally: I can’t get enough of the breakfast recipes on @MyNewRoots.
Casey: I leave my phone in the kitchen overnight and usually don’t touch it after dinner.
Who’s the early bird between the two of you?
Ally: Me! I love getting up early.
Who makes a better cup of coffee?
Ally: I do!
Casey: Hmmm…it goes back and forth. Ally’s been doing pretty well lately – I can’t complain.
How do you make your coffee (pour-over? cold brew?) – and do you prepare it the night before?
Ally: I love making pour-over coffee on our V-60. I wake up, start the water in our kettle, use our favorite wooden spoon to measure out the beans, grind them, and brew the coffee into our wood and glass pitcher to serve.
Casey: I like to use a variety of methods when brewing coffee. If I’m making cold brew, specifically, I usually grind and prep that in a french press the night before. I fill the press about 1/3 full with coarsely ground beans and fill with room temperature water. Then I let it stand for at least 12 hours, plunge it, pour it into a mason jar and dilute the concentrate about 1:1 with water.
Among all the countries you’ve traveled, where did you find the best cup of coffee? Or do you bring your own Canyon Coffee beans and coffee accoutrement?
Ally: I really loved the coffee in Japan. I think the cup I had at Shozo Coffee in Tokyo was my favorite! I also loved having oat milk cortados in Copenhagen and Stockholm on our recent trip. But, I think my favorite cup could still be an americano from The Mill in San Francisco.
Casey: In terms of countries, we’ve got it pretty good in the U.S. You can find amazing coffee everywhere from Maine to Minneapolis to our home in Los Angeles. Outside of the U.S., though, I think my favorite cups have been pour-overs from Little Nap in Tokyo, 108 in Copenhagen and Satan’s Coffee at Casa Bonay in Barcelona.
What’s your advice to other couples who want to start a business together? How do you separate shop talk from pillow talk?
Ally: Make sure to keep date nights and other rituals that keep the relationship separate and special!
Casey: Believe in your capacity to learn and grow together. Starting a business requires doing lots of things you’ve never done before. Trust and support each other in taking on new roles and responsibilities. It’s not easy (growth occurs at the edge of your comfort zone), but it’s very rewarding to watch each other transform! Also, before starting a business with your partner, think about what you want your lives together to look like. Then, see if starting a business together is going to help bring that vision to fruition. If you don’t have a shared passion or vision, then it might not be the right time. It’s not right for everyone, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Canyon Coffee came about pretty naturally and was enabled through our unique experiences and friendships. In hindsight, the wheels were turning years before we launched.