Est. 1960

ONE17 NOTES MAGAZINE - DARK WOODS COFFEE - AUTUMN/WINTER 2017

When three people with huge experience in different aspects of the coffee business decided to combine their talents, something special came into being.

If You Go Down In The (Dark) Woods Today….

England of course was having none of it and it took a crack squadron of evangelists years to convert us from the thin, bitter, watery and often blisteringly hot liquid we insisted was coffee.We are reliably advised by the song that they’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil. In researching this piece I have come to appreciate that there is an awful lot of coffee knowledge on the edge of the West Yorkshire Pennines. Try working that into a song!

 

At a time when some aspire to be a barista rather than a barrister, this is the age of the bean. But rather like high speed broadband, there are still parts of Britain where you will struggle to get a decent cup. My first childhood memories of what was at that time referred to as coffee in our house was the legendary ‘Camp’ bottle. More notable for its highly dubious illustrated label than its contents, you could confuse it with the gravy browning bottle and not much was lost.

 

There followed a series of abominations calling themselves instant coffees that logically should have put me off the beverage for life. Not so. An uncle was at the time employed on one of the USAF bases in our region and gifted us a bag of ground coffee (no details, no pack drill) and a percolator, purchased from the base stores. The product of this happy marriage was revelatory and probably accounts for my subsequent lifelong obsession with the dark brown stuff. The smell alone as the magic happened was worth it.

 

Admittedly, by the time the pack of ground coffee had languished in our pantry for a few months (nobody told us!) the results seemed to go off a bit but hey, we were living the life!

 

Fast forward to my first visit to Italy. After the bliss of a simple espresso in an ordinary motorway services stop that blew anything I’d drunk in England out of the water, there was no going back. England of course was having none of it and it took a crack squadron of evangelists years to convert us from the thin, bitter, watery and often blisteringly hot liquid we insisted was coffee. »

 

And so we come to the edge of the West Yorkshire Pennines where in 1999, after a long career working in hotels and restaurants in Britain and the United States, Paul Meikle-Janney started Coffee Community Ltd to train baristas and to provide coffee consultancy services to retailers, caterers and others in the industry. Amongst other things Paul has helped to write the City & Guilds Barista qualification, has been involved in the World and the UK Barista Championship since it began and was Head Judge for the World Latte Art Championship and the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship for four years after being a competitor, having come third in the World in 2006. The man knows coffee.

 

When Paul met Damian Blackburn from the next village, a talented coffee roaster with wide experience of the industry, and Ian Agnew, a man with a passion for international development and social enterprise as well as an understanding of the needs of coffee, tea and cocoa farmer cooperatives (Ian is a Trustee of the Genesis Community Foundation in London and a Fellow of the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurs) all in the same small area, something happened. Dark Woods coffee was born.

 

 

 

 

 

But it is the support and advice that Dark Woods offers that marks it out. Talking about the five fundamentals of coffee: species, origin, processing, roasting and brewing, they can spellbind an audience for an entire evening. And that’s before you even taste the stuff.

 

 

 

Based in a former textile mill on the edge of the Pennines, Dark Woods combines the talents and enthusiasms of the three founders to roast and sell a range of coffees that are ethically traded and designed to appeal to as wide a market as possible, connoisseur and casual drinker alike. As Dark Woods supplies Liberty of London as well as ONE17 Architects and Interior Designers, the policy clearly works.

 

But it is the support and advice that Dark Woods offers that marks it out. Talking about the five fundamentals of coffee: species, origin, processing, roasting and brewing, they can spellbind an audience for an entire evening. And that’s before you even taste the stuff.

 

If you don’t know your arabica from your robusta, couldn’t distinguish an Ethiopian coffee from an Indonesian one and you wouldn’t know how to prepare an espresso, a macchiato or a cappuccino if your life depended on it, Dark Woods can tell you - and they passionately want you to know.

 

This could all be PR flannel. Perhaps they dragged me into their lair, plied me with multiple ristrettos until I would write anything they wanted? If I tell you that Dark Woods entered 10 of their products in the prestigious 2017 Great Taste Awards and came away with 10 gongs, you will know that is not the case. And there were 12,300 products being judged in total. »

Furthermore three of the products won 2-star Great Taste awards, which is classified as ‘outstanding’ and three of the products won 3-star Great Taste awards. These raised comments from the judges that included “exquisite” and “wow!” All this whilst being stripped of the rather fetching packaging that Dark Woods products enjoy. A few graphic miles from the Camp label.

 

So when you want to get away from work for a while, what tipple do the Dark Woods boys enjoy? Paul admitted that for him whisky was a great way to wind down whilst Damian owned up to being into real ale and craft beer. Ian was mysteriously silent on the matter – perhaps he just drinks coffee?

 

www.darkwoodscoffee.co.uk