Smile Politely

The perfect pair: local art and local coffee

Champaign-Urbana’s artistic community is pretty well-represented in town. Obviously with the Boneyard Arts Festival happening each year and the various studio spaces to share local art there’s not a shortage of ways for local artists to share their passions with the community. But there’s something extraordinary when local businesses play a role in growing the local art scene.

Last week, Columbia Street Roastery released a limited edition run of their Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee. They teamed up with FEW Spirits in Evanston to age coffee beans in freshly empty rye whiskey barrels for three months and then roasted the beans. There was a wait list for this particular release and according to CSR’s Managing Partner John Herriott, the coffee sold out quickly.

Customers, though, were treated to a bit more than a bag of great coffee. Columbia Street Roastery partnered with local artist Langston Allston to create a limited edition bag to go with the coffee. Allston’s usually known for paintings and murals, and this was a new challenge for him.

“It was a really interesting challenge to do product design because I had never done that before and I’m totally not a graphic designer,” Allston said.

Herriott came to Allston right before the artist was headed out on a pretty comprehensive road trip to the West Coast and he worked on his piece for the bag along the way. 

“I was doing it in pieces, just in random places where I could find a studio around the country. It was fun to make it an aggregate of all the things i was doing throughout the trip.”

The two exchanged emails and Allston sent his ideas to Herriott over email. The final product was actually markedly different from most of the earlier works Allston had submitted. 

“He sent me a couple of drawings along the way and I was down with whatever he’s doing because it’s Langston’s art,” Herriott said. “It was just cool to watch the process.”

While that particular blend of coffee is no longer available, coffee drinkers will still have an opportunity to pick up a bag created by Allston in the early summer when Columbia Street Roastery releases a new limited-edition run of coffee.

Columbia Street Roastery is open Monday through Saturday and is located at 24 E. Columbia Avenue in Downtown Champaign. You can see Langston Allston’s works here and contact him at

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