Whether our customers are choosing a tempting treat from our shop to take away with them or wish to take a seat in our café and enjoy a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, we want to ensure that experience is as pleasurable as possible.

If you’re looking for a quick (or leisurely, stay as long as you like!) pick-me-up in the cafe, you can leave any preconceptions of having ‘a nice cup of coffee’ at the door.  We don’t deal in wishy-washy liquid that’s slurped and forgotten about in the space of a few minutes, far from it. We are only interested in providing you with the most satisfying, deeply aromatic hot beverage that can be savoured down to the very last drop and will linger in your memory.

With this in mind, we are now using some of the finest beans available from the award-winning coffee-roasting experts Dark Woods Coffee, based in West Yorkshire, who we met at the Fine Foods Fair in Harrogate. The trio who run the company, Damian Blackburn, Paul Meikle-Janney and Ian Agnew, each bring their own specialist experience and knowledge to the business, and are united in their focus on ethical sourcing. Together they excel at craft-roasting a seasonal range of products from espresso coffee beans to decaffeinated, classic all-day filter coffees and characterful single origin coffees from farms, estates and small-holder producers across the Tropics.

We have chosen Dark Woods’ ‘Crow Tree’ beans, which have a fuller roast with a bittersweet dark chocolate flavour. Crow Tree also has strong ethical roots, being sourced from smallholders and cooperatives. Of course it would be scandalous to limit this amazing product to our drinks so we’re also using it to take our espresso and cappuccino truffles and our cappuccino crunch chocolate bar to the next level too.

Here we talk to Paul about Dark Woods, and the creation of some truly exceptional coffee.

A meeting of minds

Dark Woods Coffee is housed in a renovated mill on the edge of the Pennine moorlands, a very different landscape and climate from the plantations of Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Brazil, where many of their beans originate.

Damian and Ian have both worked in the speciality coffee industry for many years and Paul, who specialises in barista training, has a long career history in catering. “That is how we all met, with Damian travelling the world working for a large well-respected company, I was running Coffee Community providing training and consultancy to some of the world’s biggest coffee brands, and Ian was running a number of charities and ethical companies, fighting the corner for the coffee farmers,” said Paul.

The trio had tasted and worked with some of the finest coffees in the world, but realised there was a gap in the market in the North of England. “We knew it was time to do our own thing. We wanted to have the freedom to experiment with the finest beans, roasting coffee that the coffee specialist will appreciate but which the general public will also love,” he added. And so Dark Woods Coffee was born in 2014.

Now they have a clutch of Great Taste Awards under their belts, putting a prestigious seal of approval on what are undoubtedly superior quality products. Asked what the secret of their success is, Paul said: “Roasting coffee is what gets us out of bed in the morning. We’re a small company and we just focus on sourcing and using the best quality beans. We hand-roast and hand-package, and we believe good coffee should be universal.

“Producing a great cup of coffee requires quality to run throughout the whole process, from good farm management to bean roasting to the final preparation of the drink.”

Releasing the aromas

Paul, who cites South American beans as his favourite for everyday drinking due to their round, sweet and rich taste, explains that the cooking process is key to producing particular flavours: “We roast each small batch of coffee in a lovingly restored gas-fired, 1950s cast-iron drum roaster, which is a bit like a big tumble drier. The batches don’t take long to roast, about 12 to 15 minutes, but the exact heat and time profile has a big bearing on the taste. We’ve been able to experiment with it to discover the best aromas and flavours from each different coffee.”

Dark Woods produce a wide range of beans available for sale to businesses and the general public. Paul added: “It’s important to understand that people enjoy a variety of styles and flavours, and what they want in a breakfast filter coffee is different to what they prefer as a mid-afternoon espresso or an evening decaff.”

Anyone wishing to purchase Dark Woods Coffee direct can do so online from their website, www.darkwoodscoffee.co.uk or keep an eye out for it at farm shops around Yorkshire.

The team hope to eventually open a coffee shop at the mill, and in the meantime they hold occasional pop-up coffee shop days and other events – see the website for further details.

So, next time you pop in for a coffee at the White Rabbit café, you can rest assured your drink has been prepared with the utmost care and attention from start to finish.


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