Meet the producers: Dark Woods coffee roasters

Coffee roasters Dark Woods may travel the globe to source beans but, as Patrick McGuigan discovers, the other half of the artistry happens closer to home.

Meet the producers: Dark Woods coffee roasters

Discover the award-winning coffee beans from Dark Woods

The coffee beans roasted by Dark Woods come from exotic locations such as Ethiopia, Costa Rica and Brazil, but the company’s headquarters couldn’t be more British. Headquartered in an old textile mill beside a canal and the River Colne, Dark Woods roasts its beans surrounded by the moorland, dry-stone walls and the ancient woods of the Pennines. 

“Working in a dramatic, windswept valley helps inspire the mood and flavours of our coffees,” says roaster Damian Blackburn, who co-founded the business in 2013 with two coffee-industry friends, Paul Meikle-Janney and Ian Agnew. “You need to be in the zone when you’re roasting to be able to hear, see and smell the beans, so it’s good to work in a peaceful space.” 

The company sources speciality coffee varieties from skilled farmers, then roasts them in a vintage 1950s German drum roaster to bring out their distinctive flavours. 

A taste of true distinction

There is plenty of distinction in La Huella Café de Panama, for example, last year’s winner of the Great Taste Award’s Golden Fork for Best Northern Product. It’s created in partnership with the La Huella farmers’ collective in Panama – headed up by Pedro Moss, who hand-selects and mills micro-lots of beans for Dark Woods. 

coffee beans

“These small, unique batches are sourced from different producers under the La Huella umbrella. Every farmer works with the distinctive micro-climates, soils, altitudes, Arabica varieties and process styles found in and around the town of Boquete,” explains Blackburn. The batches used to make the Café de Panama Natural coffee are primarily selected from a farm called Finca Pandura, and the beans are dried within their cherries on raised beds in the sun. 

“This form of ‘natural’ processing lends the beans an extra-sweet fruitiness, which is combined with a rich body and chocolatey flavour once they are carefully roasted,” says Blackburn. 

Unlocking the natural sweetness, acidity and complex aromas is a delicate job, however, and only 5kg of beans are roasted at a time. “We leave the roast a little lighter so the inherent fruitiness shines through in the cup,” he says. 

The final flavour is remarkable, taking in berry and milk chocolate notes with a clean, sweet, cranberry finish – a taste of Panama with a hint of the Pennines. 

Where to buy Dark Roast coffee

Visit darkwoodscoffee.co.uk for information or to shop online

Photographs: Richard Faulks

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