Queen City Coffee Collective just announced the newest release in its Artist Series: a rare Colombian Wush Wush coffee that comes in a canister designed by illustrator Becca Reitz. This is the third collaboration between Queen City and the FRNDS Agency that supports local artists affected by COVID-19; for the ongoing Artist Series, a different artist designs the packaging for a new coffee every month.
The RiNo-based FRNDS specializes in content creation and digital marketing and branding; it began working with Queen City three months ago to help identify and promote artists for the series. "We find people who are incredible artists who are doing incredible things...and tell more about their story, get their name out there as much as possible through captivating imagery and video assets," explains Corey Mercer, the agency's founder and creative director. The two previous packages were designed by Jon Kalisz and mural artist Hiero Veiga; this one is by Becca Reitz.
"As Denver becomes more of a creative hub, following in the footsteps of New York and L.A., we want to highlight [local artists] — especially during COVID, when we can’t connect in person as much," Mercer continues. "A lot of artists don’t have full-time studios, and we know a lot of people are being very frugal with their money. Art is typically one of those things you buy when you have more disposable income, so we want to give them any uplift we can. We're giving back to [the artists] in multiple different ways, and any boost we can provide during COVID is our goal."
Luke Byington, one of the three brothers behind Queen City, says that while the pandemic was the catalyst to getting the project started, the idea wasn't completely new. "A lot of our friends and customers have been involved in the art scene," he says, and the brothers wanted to support that scene. "With Queen City, we’ve always been pretty connected with the arts community, so we wanted to do something that’s less about coffee" and more about the art.
Before she had a studio in RiNo, Reitz worked on projects out of Bellwether, a coffeehouse at 5216 East Colfax Avenue where the Byingtons originally did all of the roasting for Queen City before moving into their own space. (They now have two locations.) "It's fun to do something where I have free rein a little," she says. "I have a lot of work that's super-illustrative, mystical-illustration style...but that’s only 10 to 20 percent of my work. The rest of my time I’m a designer, so I saw it was an opportunity to pull in some of my creative illustrations."
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The coffee itself is considered a work of art by many fans of rare beans. Byington explains that Wush Wush is "an Ethiopian varietal grown in Colombia — a wild-fermented coffee that goes through a crazy process before we get it. The way we describe it is a kombucha fermentation on the nose and watermelon fruit. When people think Colombian coffee, they think chocolate and nutty. This is not an everyday drink; it’s definitely an experience. The producers of this amazing coffee, the Gutierrez family of Finca Monteverde, supplied just a nano-lot of the coffee, so there's only a handful of six-ounce canisters available."
The two Queen City coffee shops are open from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, with service at walk-up windows and outdoor seating only. The Baker location, at 305 West First Avenue, has always had a walk-up window, and the Five Points outpost, at 2962 Welton Street, recently added one to minimize contact inside the shop. "The past two were available at our walk-up windows," Byington says of the Artist Series coffees. "But [Wush Wush] is only available for pre-order online because it’s kind of a special coffee. Any leftover will be at the walk-up window." A sticker of Reitz's design is available at both locations.
Visit Queen City's online store to purchase a six-ounce container of Wush Wush for $25. To receive advance notification for the next Queen City Coffee Artist Series collaboration, follow @queencitycoffee or @FRNDSAgency on Instagram, then send an Instagram DM to either account.