Sudan Rume

This year, some surprising coffees made an entrance to the specialty scene. Where two years ago, people were raving about expensive Panamanian Geishas, now other origins give more perspective. Some of these are the Colombian naturals like the Potosi that made an entrance. They showed what a collaboration can achieve and what the potential of some traditional coffees can be. However, one other coffee in particular sparked my interest: the Sudan Rume. This is a coffee from the Las Margaritas farm in Valle de Cauca, Colombia, with an exotic varietal that has roots in Sudan. Lex Wenneker of Fried Hats Coffee won the Dutch Barista Championships with this coffee, which I thoroughly enjoyed cupping at Harvest Coffee Brewers . However, I tasted  a different processing method at Kaafi Coffee in The Hague the other day, roasted by La Cabra, which actually blew me away.

Five years ago, during my hotel management studies in Leeuwarden, a group of students got invited to Qatar by the sheikh who owned the sister university over there. We spent a week discovering the local culture and hotel business culture. It was an amazing experience with huge culture clashes that definitely improved my cultural awareness.

At a certain point, we enjoyed an Arabian coffee ceremony where we all got handed tiny cups like in the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. This coffee was actually made from green beans and a lot of cardamom and sugar and other ingredients. At that point in time, its flavour certainly surprised me, but I did not think too much of it.

Over the years, I also spent time discovering other coffee cultures. One drink that comes to mind is an Indonesian coffee that has condensed milk and also cardamom and sugar added to it. It seemed to me that cardamom is an ingredient that keeps popping up when we talk about nostalgic coffee experiences.

When I first experienced the Sudan Rume, I was stunned by how much cardamom I tasted in the cup and how sweet it was. Never before had I experienced this flavour without it being an “artificial” addition to coffee. With Sudan being the disputable origin of coffee, this feat really sparked my interest. Could it be that when coffee was first discovered and passionately brewed, people tasted cardamom and sweetness in it? Is this why all these different cultures keep working towards sweetness and the cardamom taste through artificial means in order to replicate the original flavour?

In specialty coffee, we are generally geared towards bright, fruity sweetness; it is something we have gotten used to and that we all seem to enjoy. Drinking this coffee made me stand still for a bit and realize that the coffee experience is something that has evolved over time. During the second wave of coffee, people were geared towards intense, bitter flavours because this is what they had gotten used to from the commercial, industrial product. In specialty, we mainly look for sweetness, because this is intrinsically the most enjoyable taste. Most flavour-oriented projects in origin I see nowadays are about sustainability, but when flavour is involved, people steer towards eccentric florals and berries.

I’m very much wondering if we will some day see a shift towards the authentic mellow, spicy, sweet and cardamom-like beverage. I know that, despite my initial surprise (I once again expected florals and berries, and even said that my first reaction would probably be to disregard this Sudan Rume on a cupping table), I most definitely enjoyed this amazing cup. Relating these flavours to history and to a story broadened my view of personal flavours and therefore added a new dimension to my world of coffee.