Canyon Coffee Cofounders on Bonding over Coffee and How Best to Make It
California cuties Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewicz are ideally matched. The two met through a mutual friend and quickly fell in love while sipping cups of joe around the City of Angels. Their shared passions for the beverage, for travel and for giving back to the people they encounter provided a natural bond from which their relationship grew. Eventually, the duo decided to make their personal relationship a professional one, forming Canyon Coffee in 2016.
Canyon Coffee sources organically grown beans from international farms, usually paying more than the fair trade price to farmers they work with. In coming months, the company plans to expand its importing to involve additional regions. We caught up with Ally and Casey to talk about coffee. Get their tips for brewing the perfect cup for the person you love, and watch the video of them around L.A. in some styles from Treasure & Bond (exclusively at Nordstrom).
Why did the two of you decide to start Canyon Coffee?
Coffee has been an integral part of our relationship from the beginning. We’ve always loved the community, making coffee at home for each other, going to see different coffee shops. When we started dating, we were both on the road for work quite often and spent a good amount of time apart. Finding local roasters and sending home bags of great coffee to each other became a favorite pastime and a way for us to stay connected. When we’d finally be home together, we really grew to cherish being able to make coffee for each other every morning.
Why is it important that you pay more than fair trade to the farmers with whom you work?
Fair trade value is 10¢ above the market average price for coffee. This means that if the market plummets, the fair trade value can plummet with it. We’re more interested in buying our coffee at a price that’s based on the quality and value of the coffee. We’re more interested in seeing a real improvement in the lives of the people we get our coffee from than in being able to check a “fair trade” box.
Where are some places that you’ve sourced coffee? What can you tell us about your providers there?
We sourced our first two beans from Guatemala and Colombia. We narrowed down our selection to these two countries because of the chocolatey and caramelly coffees we had grown to love from there.
We bought our first bean from the Chochajau Collective in Guatemala. We wanted our first bean to come from Guatemala, because it’s the country in Latin America that we most have a connection to: Casey lived there for five months several years ago. Chochajau is a small cooperative composed of 24 farmers who work about 80 acres of land, collectively. Their fields are nestled not far from the beautiful Lake Atitlán (which Alexander von Humboldt called “the most beautiful lake in the world”).
In Colombia, we purchased beans from the Apia Farmers’ Association. This cooperative began around 10 years ago when twenty-some farmers organized together to be competitive in the coffee market. Today, there are over 500 members in the association. Their farms surround the village of Apia, which is flanked by three natural parks. It’s no coincidence that this region is the second most biodiverse region for birds in Colombia. Being fans of all wildlife, that was a special selling point for us when learning about this farm!
Where is the best cup of coffee you’ve had lately?
Well, we just had a cup of our new Ethiopian bean we’re about to release, and we must say it is the best cup we have had in a while! We’re very excited about it. Besides Canyon, we’ve been having some delicious cups of coffee at Maru here in Los Angeles lately.
You travel together a lot. Where is a place that you had a really memorable coffee?
The coffee and culture in Japan was such a joy for us to experience. All of the heart, passion, attention to detail and appreciation for subtlety that we saw in Japanese society comes out in full effect in the coffee scene over there. The people who start shops do such a wonderful job of establishing their own unique culture. For instance, one of our favorite shops in Tokyo, Shozo Coffee, only serves hot and cold drip, and baked goods. Their location in Aoyama is a tiny little hut made of natural-stained wood, large windows and a whitewashed wood interior. It’s light, cozy and warm, and it’s done so well.
Also, we didn’t encounter batch-made drip at any shop we went to in Japan. Virtually any time we ordered a “filter” coffee, it was made by hand. That really goes to show how much care and attention is put into everything in Japan!
How do you take your coffee?
We drink it black! When you have great-quality beans, roasted well, there’s nothing better.
Give us your tips on making the best cup of coffee possible.
Buy fresh-roasted beans and grind only as much as you need prior to brewing. Aim to clear through the bag within a few weeks. Anything that’s a month or more past roast can still taste good (especially as cold brew), but you’ll just need to grind it finer in order to extract the flavor. The reason for all this is that coffee gets a lot of its flavor from carbon dioxide gas trapped in the bean from the time it was growing. Once the bean is roasted, this gas starts to escape. The loss of gas is increased greatly once the bean is ground. That’s why it’s best to grind right before making it!
Regardless of the way you make coffee at home (there are so many ways!), consistency is key. Try using the same measuring spoon every morning to keep the amount of coffee you use consistent; use the same amount of water each day; and use the same grind setting. When everything’s consistent, it’s easier to keep track of what makes the coffee taste better when you change a variable.
Finally, the water. We never pour boiling water on coffee, as water that’s too hot can make the coffee taste bitter. It’s best to use just-boiled water to preheat your coffee-making vessel, and let it cool off for 30 seconds to a minute before pouring it over coffee. Whenever you’re pouring water by hand to make coffee, we always suggest “blooming” the coffee. This basically involves using just enough water to get all the coffee grounds wet, and then letting it sit for about 30 seconds before continuing to pour.
SHOP: Treasure & Bond