We wanted to be completely set apart….not another Canvasback coffee…we took two years to source all of our beans…find the rights ones…before we even launched.

Ethan Jerue

Owner/Operator, Canvasback Coffee

We talked with Ethan Jerue of Canvasback Coffee, we got into the origin story of the business, how this coffee brand stands apart, its connection to conservation and sustainability, and how people can get these self described “BADASS BEANS”.

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Transcript

Amy Gabay 00:00
The Great River Shakespeare Festival is running now through July 31st. Featuring Twelfth Night and the African Company presents Richard the Third and more at Minnesota’s premier Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota. Buy tickets online at grsf.org. Great river, great drama. This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. We talked with Ethan Jerue of Canvasback Coffee, we got into the origin story of the business, how this coffee brand stands apart, its connection to conservation and sustainability, and how people can get these self described “BADASS BEANS.” You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:03
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:04
And this is La Crosse Local.

Ethan Jerue 01:06
So my name is Ethan Jerue, I was born in La Crosse, grew up in Onalaska. And I have a business partner who happens to also be my fiance, Alexa. Very similar story grew up in the area. And our day jobs. I’m a marketing consultant. She’s a realtor. And honestly, we spend a lot of time in coffee shops. So you know, meeting clients, getting work done all the above. So there’s a need for coffee in this area that isn’t chain. And as coffee lovers, we felt that we could address that need.

Brent Hanifl 01:39
What was the kind of the beginning steps for the company also, like just looking at your brand and the relationship to nature, the ducks? Like how did the name come about?

Ethan Jerue 01:49
I think, you know, we kind of looked at it in three ways. You know, first being we wanted to be completely set apart. You know, there’s so many coffee shops that have the same name. They’re just in different cities or towns. So there is not another Canvasback Coffee, and we’re pretty proud of that. Secondly, you know, it’s kind of a play on the canvasback duck in the duck world is the king of ducks. So tongue in cheek, we’re trying to be the kings of coffee locally. And lastly, which I think is probably the most important is you know, we’re on the Mississippi Flyway being on the Mississippi River. So this is a main corridor for ducks, you know, migrating south and then back north every year in the canvasback passes through twice a year. And you know, kind of like a cup of coffee like you love it when it’s there, but you miss it when it’s gone. And that’s like the canvasback. So it’s kind of a spectacle to see them. They’re beautiful ducks, beautiful birds, you see them for short amount of time, then they’re gone. So it’s just kind of a cool little feature with living right on the Mississippi.

Brent Hanifl 02:48
Like you just said, you know, there’s many different coffee companies, some around the area, even here in La Crosse, looking for that sort of unique name, unique sort of brand with it. How does your coffee stand apart?

Ethan Jerue 03:00
Yes, so there’s quite a few chains in the area. And downtown La Crosse has a fantastic coffee scene, we are really trying to kind of hone in on Onalaska, not to say that we wouldn’t venture you know, towards La Crosse eventually terms of like a coffee shop or you know, some sort of location that houses our beans for us. But for the backpedal we took two years to actually source all of our beans and just you know find the right ones that were different standalone perfect for what we were looking for. So it is an adventure to try to get the right beans. I mean, there was days that we had 12 different coffee beans and your mouth is burnt and you can’t tell if it’s good or bad at that point. And yeah, so again, just the time and effort that we put into it the two year process before we even launched last August I think is just part of you know, kind of you know, showing the effort and the love that we have for this, for what we’re doing so.

Brent Hanifl 03:55
Yeah and you guys you know you dropped off a bag you know and I had the Canvasback Coffee Bandit Version. I normally you know I make my coffee in a French press and I probably drink you know four to six cups a day predominantly organic. But you know I want, and I do use cream heavy half and half, but I tried years you know straight black and then I had my normal traditional with heavy cream. But you know just tasted it just kind of black and also you could also taste it you know with the cream but you know, in no way is it flavored. But you know just kind of the elements and I think this one has it says pecan apple cherry sugar cane that really kind of really came through on the flavor that I’ve never really experienced before comparative to other coffees. And it’s not flavored at all, you know, I’m not a I’m not a fan of flavored coffee but yeah, it really kind of comes out at you. It was really actually quite surprising. That’s no BS either.

Ethan Jerue 04:48
Yeah, thank you. Yeah, in all of our roasts, you know, it was super important for us to try to tone down as much acidity and bitterness as possible. And a lot of that is the roasting process, but our goal was to make sure that we have beans that you can drink black. And then obviously the creamer is always an added bonus to that kind of thing. But at all the events we go to we serve samples. And you would be surprised, I would say 70 to 80% of people that stopped by say exactly what you just said, so.

Brent Hanifl 05:17
It’s surprising I mean, because that’s, that’s one fear I always have is like when you come to try a new coffee or go to a coffee shop, and it’s just I can’t stand this acidic flavor, sometimes it almost kind of makes me dizzy in some ways. So it was nice to get this in me, so.

Ethan Jerue 05:33
Yeah, exactly.

Brent Hanifl 05:35
You know, on your website, though, we talked about the ducks but you also reference conservation, sustainability. Why is that sort of process wrapped up in your business?

Ethan Jerue 05:45
Alexa and I are outdoorsman, slash outdoorswoman, you know, we spend a lot of time hiking and going on walks. And just being in nature. I’m a bowhunter and duck hunter as well. And obviously, when you’re in it, and experiencing it, you want to make sure it stays that way. And so our kids and great grandkids and so on can enjoy it. So I guess what we wanted to tie into this was obviously a great coffee legacy, but also like, what did that company do to get back and make sure that, you know, we left the world a better place than we found it. So currently, we’re working on, you know, building up those partnerships. And we’ve got some really neat ideas in terms of just really unique stuff that nobody else is doing. One kind of glimpse I can give you as I’m working on, I’m calling it the Shotgun Shell Initiative. So you know, when you duck hunt, you’re, you know, you expel your casing from your shotgun shell. And some of those are easy to grab, some of them, unfortunately, drift away. So we’re trying to figure out a way to get, I guess, bins or containers at landings, so you have somewhere to dispose of them. And they can get recycled from that point forward. And I’d love to tie in, whether it’s one or two days a year where we just get, you know, a team of boats out on kind of popular duck hunting spots, to just scour the grounds, see if we can clean up as much as possible. So that’s just one of the ideas that we’re trying to go after. Obviously, we’d love to get to a point where we can, you know, cut some checks, you know, whether it’s small donations or time and energy to other groups, like maybe the Brice Prairie Conservation Association, or some of the other local organizations. So we’re getting there. That’s Phase Two for us. And it’s been really exciting. But it’s also you know, once you figure out all the loops and hoops you got to jump through, they can be exhausting as well.

Brent Hanifl 07:35
So, just kind of looking at your website, you know, you have a variety of different flavors, can you run through a few of your favorites or looks like we definitely talked about the Bandit but there’s a few others on here, too.

Ethan Jerue 07:46
You know, all of our coffees are named, you know, towards kind of that duck theme. Again, we’re not trying to be too niche with that. But that’s it’s more so just a fun plan words for us. So we have five kind of mainstay roast, first being Cold Front, which is our light roast, it was a Kenyan, it’s actually switching to a Costa Rican, very delicious coffee, very floral part kind of, you know, upfront and not in your face, but just a little bit brighter in terms of flavor, great for cold brews, etc. You kind of mentioned the Bandit, that’s a Guatemalan, mild roast. You know, once you get to those South American coffees, they typically start to have a little more earthy tone, a little bit of you know, citrus with whether it’s orange or apple. In this case, it’s got the apple and cherry. Next is our Sky Bust, which is a medium roast, that’s a Colombian. This one is surprisingly really earthy, and kind of that umami with the milk, chocolate and vanilla. But then on the finish is a really cool little orange kind of citrus pop, which really comes through nicely. Fourth, we have our Decoy, decaf, dark roast. And this one we’re really excited about because it’s really bold and rich, with again, being at Columbia with those earthy tones. But we use an all natural sugar cane decaffeinating process, which is way better for you than you know some of the large coffee corporations that are using bleaching agents and chemicals to strip the beans of their caffeine. So that was great. You know, we drink that one kind of from noon on just because we don’t want to stay up till 4am. And then lastly, we have the Black Water, which is our dark roast. You know between that and the Sky Bust those are the two most popular. But the Black Water is really that rich, bold, you know, it’s got the dark chocolate, the toffee, flavor profiles, and that’s a Rwandan Brazilian blend, so you get kind of best of both worlds with like Africa and South America in the blend. And then lastly, sorry to ramble on, but we still have two new ones that are coming out, which are really exciting. One is a Honduran and one is a Birooney from Africa. And those are going to be a little bit higher end, they’re more premium. They’re microlab. So we’re only going to have them for three to five months. But those are two coffees that we’re extremely excited about.

Brent Hanifl 09:56
So some seasonal flavors as well. So we have referenced the website you’ve kind of referenced you know potential for for a physical location. You know you said right on your website some badass beans. Where do people get these badass beans? You know where should they go?

Ethan Jerue 10:12
Yeah so obviously you know online that’s the first spot you’ll pay for shipping obviously and then you’ll have, you know a little bit of a wait. But if you want to find them in town, our first spot we’ve gotten into is River Trail Cycles in Onalaska over by the YMCA off Highway 35. There. Emily is awesome. She carries our stuff. Natty West Home Goods store just opened up in Center 90. It’s right next the Lindy’s Subs in Onalaska there, they have our coffee. And then we’re working on a few other spots to St. Joe’s Country Market out on St. Joseph’s Ridge. And then there is a couple of restaurants we’re trying to get into as well. And we’re hoping in the next few weeks, we’re dialed in there. So a lot of good options.

Brent Hanifl 10:56
What’s next for the business? What’s next, I mean, is there anything you’re excited for coming down the road?

Ethan Jerue 11:02
Yeah, so short term, we have a lot of events coming up this spring and summer, little markets, you know, local get togethers for vendors. So if you want to check those out canvasback coffee.com/events. That’ll kind of show you where we’re at, and we’ll have coffee for sale there and then free samples so you can actually try, you know, before you buy. Secondly, building those conservation partnerships. That’s kind of a big thing for us. So we’re still working on that. And then again, you know, we both mentioned it, but we are eyeing up a physical location. We don’t have anything set in stone under contract yet, but we have a good idea of where we want to go. It’s just kind of ironing out the details right now, so.

Amy Gabay 11:49
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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