In July, some of the Hathersage Social Club team were lucky enough to head over to Slaithwaite (apparently pronounced Slah-wit, but we remain dubious!), deep in the gorgeous Yorkshire countryside near Huddersfield. Here Chris, Alfie, Sky and myself (I’m Kerry) were treated to some hands-on coffee training with our fantastic suppliers, Darkwoods coffee.
Darkwoods are the masters of speciality coffee, having been founded by three gents from a range of backgrounds as broad as international development, hotel management and hands-on coffee roasting. Damian, Paul and Ian had all achieved excellent things in their chosen lines of work before joining forces to source, import and promote quality coffee in the north of England. Read their full story on their lovely website here.
Darkwoods’ MO is to be ‘inclusive rather than exclusive’ both up and down the supply chain, supporting customers through coffee’s more ‘challenging’ flavours and preparation techniques, and making sure to include and support the suppliers of that coffee too.
Here at Hathersage Social Club, we make sure that all the suppliers we choose – dairy, meat, seafood, fruit and veg and sundries – match up with our high standards of quality and welfare. It’s the way you guys want it, too. This means we do our fair share of scouting around when we’re looking for new partners, as we know the stakes are high! The boys over at Darkwoods say of their practises: “It’s not just about ethical buying, which should be a given, it’s about good business practice for everyone involved in the supply chain who’ve put a little bit of their own soul into delivering the very finest coffee from the harvest to Darkwoods.” Be still my beating heart!
The Darkwoods blend we serve up at the Club is called Crow Tree, rich and clean with dark chocolatey flavours, and a nice hint of fruitiness. It blends with milk beautifully for a top-class flat white, and is equally as enjoyable on its own as one of our punchy double espressos. The arabica beans for this blend are sourced from Peruvian grower’s community ASPROagro, based in the ancient town of Chiclayo. ASPROagro is also part of the worldwide Cafe Femenino objective, which works to support women and girls in coffee farming communities and making sure they get a fair deal.
Unfortunately exploitation is rife in coffee growing, so organisations like this are essential in protecting the rights of workers and making sure their incomes and livelihoods are protected. Wholesalers like Darkwoods contribute to a safer, fairer working environment for the coffee growers we have to thank for our morning cup o’ joe. That’s why we love working with them!
Chris, Alfie, Sky and myself have varying degrees of barista experience between us, from true pro to absolute beginner (that’s me), but we were all keen to learn from the coffee maestros themselves. It’s an extremely fine art to make sure the coffee beans are produced, roasted, transported, ground and poured in a way that protects the unique aspects of their character.
We joined a few other groups at their stunning renovated mill HQ for some hands-on practise with Tom, Darkwoods’ coffee trainer. He talked us through pouring the perfect espresso, texturing milk to perfection, and we even got the chance to slurp a range of fresh coffees, just like in wine tasting, to give us a feel for the huge scope of flavours and characters that present across different beans.
Sky was keen to know all there was to know, and Chris couldn’t resist flexing his latte art muscles and sweet-talking his way into an armful of samples. Alfie busied himself with technical details (is the grind fine enough? Is the temperature just right? How can we spot if the coffee is ‘chanelling’?), whilst I made sure our adventures were documented on Instagram stories (go on, give us a follow here) and tried not to cover the whole group in hot milk.
We all had a great time over in Slaithwaite (despite problems around pronunciation), and really enjoyed getting to know the Darkwoods team with their really valuable insight into the world of coffee. It’s a privilege to work with such a passionate supplier, and pass on their quality products and expert knowledge to you, our lovely guests. We hope to return to the Darkwoods mill for some further learning in the future, and can also exclusively recommend a banana as a quick fix for a caffeine overdose.