Down the Aisle:Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewicz

Owners of Canyon Coffee Interview and Images by Aimee Brodeur

As I parked my car a few blocks from the Santa Monica Farmers Market, I saw the ocean on the left and an abundance of produce to my right. I thought to myself, "Damn, California grocery shopping does not disappoint". Ally and Casey, the founders of Canyon Coffee, greeted me with huge smiles and a level of energy one would only expect from true coffee enthusiasts. Over the course of the last year, these two have poured their hearts and countless hours into making the perfect bag of beans, and by the looks of it, they've been having a blast.

I’m assuming the two of you are pretty busy these days, how often do you make it out here to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market?

A: Before we started Canyon coffee? Once a week. Since then… not as often! (laughing)

C: But that’s true of a lot of things. But we have had a little breather since the beginning of the year.

So tell us about your typical routines since starting Canyon. Are you both home cooks?

A: Yes, we are! With the exception of fish, we are pretty much vegan at home. We like to try to get creative with vegetables and greens. This place has so many of our favorite things to eat. We get a greens mix called “Stellar Green” which has a mixture of lettuces with herbs in it and flowers. Then there is our sourdough bread guy.

C: It’s the absolute best toast to put avocado on… seriously.

A: Oh, and our egg lady! Best eggs ever!

So you have your people.

C: Yeah, totally. Our go-to meal is roasted vegetables- roasted sweet potatoes… squash. We also do lentils often.

A: I really love to make lentil stew with curry and tomatoes…

How often do you make the trip to grocery store?

A: I feel like I go everyday. Have you been to Erewhon?

I have!

A: I fricken live there. It’s dangerous. We go to Gjusta a lot too.

C: We’ve been so busy and making the time to cook hasn’t been easy. But the lunches there are high quality and convenient.

A: Or… I’ll pick up salmon from Erewhon and a side dish from Gjusta to cut down on cooking time.


“Ally could live off of sweet potatoes and squash. Don’t get between her and her sweet potato.”

 

 

So let’s do some shopping. What are some of your favorite things here?

C: Ally could live off of sweet potatoes and squash. Don’t get between her and her sweet potato.

So Ally tell me about this squash love. How do you like to cook them at home?

A: I like to cut them into half moons and then cook them in the oven with coconut oil. Once they are out I put pesto on top. Gjusta cooks them like this too, and I’m so addicted to them.

C: She’s in heaven during fig and persimmon season. Sometimes, instead of buying mixed greens, we just get heads of lettuce to chop up when we want them. They lasts longer that way.

(Ally eagerly jumps in with much enthusiasm)

A: Do you love coffee?

I do! I drink it just about every day.

A: What’s your favorite coffee place that you have been to in Los Angeles?

I have a few, but once I had Dinosaur coffee I kept going back because they made the best Americano on the east side.

C: That’s Four Barrel coffee.

 

A: I love Four Barrel coffee! It’s up there with my favorites. We were just up there in San Francisco a few weeks ago… and let me preface this by saying I only drink coffee in the morning. It’s a ritual for me. I’m not big on coffee in the afternoon, but when we were going to Four Barrel, I was finishing everyone’s Americanos all day long.

C: I worked for a while at Bar Nine in Culver City, and left because my new band and I were touring. When I came back, which was about the same time we were starting Canyon Coffee, I began working at Menotti’s, which I think is the best coffee on the West Side. They serve Four Barrel. Actually, the woman who opened Dinosaur Coffee (Michelle Hantoot) trained at Menotti’s too.

When you guys think of an ideal setting to drink coffee- what makes it ideal and where is your favorite place to have a cup?

A: Have you been to The Mill in San Francisco?

I have. That space is lovely. They also have insanely delicious bread that I have waited in very long lines for (laughing).

A: That’s my favorite. I love the big tables. It’s a great place to sit and catch up with people, and they have good reading material on hand.

C: Our ideal coffee location, really, is in bed.

A: (laughing) But I also love coffee with friends. We have had a friend staying with us for the past few nights. (She looks to Casey) Isn’t it so nice to have her there in the morning to make coffee for? I love making people coffee.

What’s your favorite way to make coffee?  

A: I love V60.

What is V60?

C: That is the little ceramic pour-over cup with the grooves in it. It makes the water go through quicker, as opposed to a Chemex, which is glass and paper. The weight on the paper creates suction and the water goes through slower.

A: I don’t love french presses.


“…you can put them in the freezer, and when you take them out, they are like ice cream.”

 

 

They are really messy to clean up.

C: You want to know a trick for cleaning them fast? Fill your french press up with water so you catch all of the grinds and then pour that over the colander top part.  It will catch all of your grinds and the water will pass through.

(Ally walks over with a large handful of persimmons.)

C: I don’t really like that kind…

A: No guys… Listen. We are going to get these because when they are super ripe like this you can put them in the freezer, and when you take them out, they are like ice cream.

C: I don’t want that many though.

A: Here babe do these look good to you? (holds up different persimmons that aren’t so ripe)

C: You can’t argue with her when it comes to persimmons.

Tell us about your roaster for Canyon Coffee.

C: We’ve known him for a while, and we just really trusted him. That’s really important for us in business and in life. Really, if we didn’t have such a close friend who is roaster, it would have been much harder to start a coffee company.

So the roaster is like the chef to your restaurant? You guys are the restaurant and he is your chef.

A: That’s exactly what it is like. If you were to start a restaurant with no idea as to who your chef would be, it would be really tough. But if you had a friend who was a great chef, you would be like, “Okay, let’s do this!”

C: But in terms of the actual roast, good coffee is all about the source- the farm. If you do your diligence in picking the bean and roast it well, then all the coffee shop really has to do is not mess that up. It’s all about the bean. That’s our philosophy.

What were you attracted to with the bean you chose.

A: I remember tasting the bean we ultimately went with and I was like, “This is it, hands down.” I also liked the name, Chochajua.

C: It’s important to us that we connect directly with the farms and help ensure their workers have a good livelihood and well being. That’s part of the reason why the name of the bean is simply the name of the farm, instead of making a cool little name for ourselves. We also decided we wanted something that’s a bit more medium to dark roast. We wanted that chocolate flavor, but also the fruit notes that a light roast gives you that is tied to the terroir of where the bean is grown.


“…with quick extraction methods like a Moka pot, Bialetti, and espresso, you will get more of a bright citrus flavor. But pour-over and french press will give you that delicious chocolate taste.”

 

 

So if I pick up a bag of Canyon Coffee, what’s the best way for me to not mess it up?

C: We made it versatile. It actually makes great espresso, even though in our minds we kind of made it for drip and pour-overs. We’ve found that with quick extraction methods like a Moka pot, Bialetti, and espresso, you will get more of a bright citrus flavor. But pour-over and french press will give you that delicious chocolate taste.

So you guys mentioned your schedules and routines being changed now that you are business owners. Tell me some of the things you miss or the things you love about the new routine?

A: Oh I can answer that very easily. (laughing)

C: I’m excited to hear.

A: It’s going to sound silly, but I don’t get to cook or go to yoga as much! I miss my personal time. Reading, as well.

Alright Casey what’s your answer. 

C: I think it’s been really fun for our relationship. Now I think to myself, “What did we even talk about before Canyon Coffee?” (laughing)

 

Recipe Recipe

Recipe:

Ally and Casey’s Squash with Vegan Pesto

For the Squash: Set the oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into quarters and drizzle with olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt. Place pieces on parchment paper on a baking tray and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on how crispy you like it! After about 15 minutes, flip and stir the squash around. After 15 more minutes, check the squash. Once a fork can easily go through the skin, it's ready. Remove squash, drizzle with more oil and salt and let it cool PESTO Blend together the garlic, basil, hemp seeds, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Drizzle pesto over squash and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Kobocha or Red Kuri Squash
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1-2 garlic bulbs
  • A handful of basil
  • 1/4 cup of hemp seeds
  • 1/3 cup of pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and chili flakes

Serves

2

A quick and easy recipe that I love to eat at least once a week. This dish is inspired by the bakery and cafe Gjusta in Venice, California.
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