NORTH OF ENGLAND Silky and dark-chocolatey as an espresso shot but, as its literary name implies, Dark Woods Coffee’s house blend is transformed into a caramelly hazelnut delight by a splash of milk.
amian Blackburn is a man who definitely knows his beans. Having helped to set up and develop the Grumpy Mule coffee brand, he departed two-and-a-half years ago to start a new project, this time with fellow coffee gurus Paul Meikle-Janney and Ian Agnew. Under Milk Wood was the first coffee to be developed by Dark Woods Coffee, once the roaster was installed at their converted textile mill in the Colne Valley. “It was designed to Espresso blends be our house blend, can often be so had to be perfect for most coffee shops polarizing. We and restaurants,” says wanted to create Damian. “The other a blend that challenge we set was complex, ourselves was that it aromatic, tasty had to work as both a stand-alone espresso and with balanced and blended with acidity. steamed milk in lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites.” So the blend’s name, he says, is both a respectful nod to Dylan Thomas’s classic play and a clever hint at its versatility. Although they wanted to create a different espresso blend, the Dark Woods team were also aware that there’s a limit to what boundaries can be pushed. “Espresso blends can often be polarizing – those that are too traditional in style, so they are too dark roasted and flat tasting, against the modern style of light roasting very high altitude, high acidity coffees,” says Damian. “We wanted to create a blend that was complex, aromatic, tasty and with balanced acidity.” Damian first discovered the critical ingredient in this blend – coffee from the Kalledevarapura Estate in the Indian state of Karnataka – while on a sourcing trip back in 2009, and it had made a strong impression.
“It was fate that one day I’d get a chance to work with this coffee, and we’re the only UK roasters that do,” he adds. The estate’s Arabica is blended with beans from the Ethiopian OCFCU Killenso Mokonisa Co-op and Fazendo Passeio in Minas Gerais, Brazil. At the mill, the coffee is roasted on a vintage Probat drum roaster, which is not only inspiring to roast coffee on, but also imparts its individual character to the beans, with lots
GREAT TASTE 2016-17
of heat-retaining cast iron used in the design. The lower altitude Brazilian and Indian Arabica beans are roasted together to a darker profile to develop chocolatey sweetness and velvety texture. The high altitude Ethiopia Arabica is roasted separately and to a lighter roast character, adding citrusy lift and complexity to the final coffee. Under Milk Wood is, as Damian puts it, “a global team effort”, and winning a Golden Fork was not just a proud moment for Dark Woods Coffee, but also a victory for a rare sourcing approach that relies on good oldfashioned relationship building. www.darkwoodscoffee.co.uk
How to use: There can be no better pairing for this coffee than a brownie www.greattasteawards.co.uk