By: Gabriella Vigoreaux
Photos by: Chris and Sarah Rhoads
James Turell, the artist known for his expression of light and color and a huge source of inspiration for this week’s couple, once said, “We eat light, drink it in through our skins.” No one embodies this concept quite like Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewic, who seem to radiate light and positive energy with everything they do.
After discovered Ally and Casey on Instagram, I immediately found myself returning to their feeds time and time again for inspiration. They seemed so genuine and laid back and shared my passion for wellness and California nature. Not to mention they effortlessly exude that enviable West Coast glow that we all strive for in our everyday lives. Just when I thought they couldn’t get any cooler, the model and musician launched their coffee company, Canyon Coffee. We caught a glimpse of the sunny (in every sense of the word) couple in their home in Venice, LA and chatted, morning routines, inspirations for Canyon Coffee, and how to brew the perfect cup.
Every couple has a story…what’s yours?
Casey: We met through our mutual friend, Carla. I was working with Carla at her apartment randomly one day, and Ally came over to join Carla for a speaking event that night. When the doorbell rang, Carla looked at me and said “That’s my friend Ally. Casey—you’re going to fall in love with her.” And that’s pretty much what happened!
Favorite moment together?
Ally: Riding bikes back to our apartment in Amsterdam after an incredible dinner at BAK. The moon was full, it had that beautiful dusty pale gold, and it would come in and out of view as we pedaled over the bridges criss-crossing canals. This came at the end of a sunny day biking around town, having coffee, going to the Van Gogh museum, and napping on the grass in a park.
How do you balance having a healthy relationship with being business partners?
Ally: It’s a constant process, just like being in a normal healthy relationship [without a business]. It requires creating clearly defined roles within the business (who’s doing what), and respecting when it’s time to “turn off.” We have date nights where no business is discussed, and we respect each other’s personal time. Having something to look forward to has always been important for us, too. This could be a weekend trip to Ojai or an adventure to Japan. And of course, we never forget the little things: making coffee for each other, taking each other out, going on a hike, etc.
You both know your way around a kitchen. So Casey, if you had to cook Ally her dream meal what would it be and vice versa?
Casey: So easy. some sort of bowl with roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, salmon, greens, avocados, kimchi and extra hot sauce.
Ally: Buckwheat pancakes! with bananas, maple syrup and a bowl of blueberries on the side and a fresh pot of coffee.
What are some of your favorite spots in LA for a date night out?
has been a longstanding favorite. We’ll even go to Gjusta
, their bakery, for something more casual but still special. Also, Necco
—a Japanese restaurant near us on the west side.
What is your favorite thing about each other?
Casey: I love how Ally constantly stays inspired. She’s always finding new restaurants, new podcasts, new places to travel, new recipes; pouring through magazines and cutting out her favorite things. I also love how well she takes care of herself: her meditation practice, making time to be with friends, going to yoga, eating well. On a deeper level… I think it’s her passion for life, coming out in myriad ways, that has always drawn me so strongly to her. Her desire to see, learn, taste, laugh—to be—and the ways that desire reveals itself.
Ally: His kindness, generosity and patience. He’s the most dedicated, driven man I know. I feel very lucky to not only be in a romantic relationship with him but a business one, as well. When I feel stressed or overwhelmed with work or anything, he is always there to talk me though it all. He’s so smart, and I love being able to learn from him. Oh AND I love when he sings! He did a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” and its pretty amazing.
Have you both always been into coffee? Why did you decide to start a coffee company together?
Ally: When we met four years ago, we were constantly traveling apart for work. The distance made us really cherish coming home and making coffee for each other. It also introduced us to a bunch of cool roasters and shops while on the road. Before long, all our friends were asking us where to get coffee in such-and-such town, or how to make a pourover. This culminated in Casey starting to work in the coffee industry a few years ago—first as a dishwasher, then as a barista. He became friends with James (who roasts for Canyon), and shortly thereafter we came up with the idea to create our own coffee company.
What’s the story behind the branding? How did you come up with the name for Canyon Coffee?
Casey: We wanted to create something representative of what coffee means to us. Something warm, inviting, and special. We drew inspiration from one of our favorite artists, and even adapted her name into a one-liner for our vision: “If Georgia O’Keeffe had a coffee company…”
“Canyon” encapsulated the vibe we wanted to create, while maintaining relevance to us. We met when Casey was living in Beachwood Canyon, and as a nature-loving couple in LA, we take refuge in the quiet and solitude of the trails and canyons of the Santa Monica mountains. Canyon’s also symbolize the concentration of energy, much in the way that (we feel) coffee brings people together.
Where do you source your beans and how did you decide which bean to go with?
: We made a decision early on to commit to Certified Organic beans that are in season. For our first bean, we decided (somewhat arbitrarily) that we wanted it to be from Guatemala—one, for the chocolatey taste characteristic of beans from there and two, because Casey lived there for awhile. We sampled and picked our favorite one: Chochajau
. We repeated the process in selecting Tatama
, from Colombia. After launching Canyon
, we noticed a significant number of people (maybe 1 in 8?) love
coffee but can’t handle the caffeine. Because we think anyone who loves coffee should be able to enjoy it, we rolled out a Swiss Water Process decaffeinated bean
from the same farm as our original bean.
Take us through your morning routine, starting with breakfast. Obviously, there’s coffee….
Casey: Of course. Black. Made with V-60 by whoever gets up first. Then Ally makes almond butter toast on paleo bread, and I make avocado toast on sourdough with pesto and an egg or two. Then there’s usually a short walk outside to the beach, or a little time reading or journaling on the front porch or in the kitchen. By 8:30, we’re ready for work and have a check-in on what needs to get done for the day.
For those of us (me) who are new to making coffee at home, what’s your preferred method? Any tricks?
Casey: We like making pour-overs. When you’re using a kettle, there are some basics to apply no matter what kind of device you’re using (chemex, V-60, kalita, french press, aeropress, etc.).
1) Grind the coffee right before brewing (getting a Burr grinder, as opposed to a blade grinder, is highly recommended!).
2) use roughly 2 tablespoons per cup. Don’t pour boiling water on your coffee! Let it cool off a little bit (ideal temperature is around 201ºF – 203ºF).
3) Bloom the coffee: Essentially, use just enough water to get all the grinds wet, then wait 30 seconds.
4) After the bloom, pour water slowly over the grounds until you’ve got the amount you want to drink!
If you could pick 3 people dead or alive to have coffee with, who would it be?Ally: Georgia O’ Keeffe, David Bowie, James Turrell
What’s on the horizon for Canyon Coffee? Any special projects you’re excited about?
Ally: We’re excited to continue meeting and building relationships with cool shops, restaurants and cafes, to continue traveling and making coffee guides, to pop-up in more places, to visit the farms where our beans are grown, and—always—to continue learning! We’re also going to start rolling out more handmade ceramics and equipment to make the home coffee-making experience even more special. We’re often asked if we’re going to start up a shop, and while it’s a dream we have for the distant future, we’re really content to sustain and grow our business as a coffee bean supplier. It affords us the freedom and mobility to pop-up anywhere, and run our business while continuing our other careers.