Sudan Rume is an heirloom type of Arabica coffee plant that originates on the Boma Plateau of Southern Sudan near the border with Ethiopia. Plant breeders have long used this cultivar of Arabica when creating new varieties of coffee plant. Hybrids using the genetics of a high yielding disease resistant type with lower cup quality have been crossed with the Sudan Rume, which is prized for its amazing flavors and moderate disease resistance but lower yields. Many modern coffee plant types; like Castillo, Centroamericano, and Colombia use this technique, crossing the delicious Sudan Rume with heartier types to create a higher yielding, disease resistant type that is delightful to drink.
As the Sudan Rume is low yielding and relatively difficult to cultivate it is only rarely grown as a stand-alone type. Granja La Esperanza (GLE) of Valle De Cauca, Colombia is one of the few coffee producers to offer this type and we are more than thrilled to be adding it to our menu. Part of GLE’s mission is to push the bounds of producing the world’s best coffees through experimentation and innovation in post harvest milling and growing unique and rare types of coffee. They gained international renown for growing some of the best Gesha coffees in the world, another spectacular but low yielding and difficult type of Arabica, and have identified the Sudan Rume a similar type of coffee with huge potential.
Finca Las Margaritas, outside the town of Caicedonia, serves as a test bed for growing new and different varieties of coffee, often from seedstock obtained by the organization’s owner Rigoberto Herrera from friends and relatives throughout Latin America. After planting the Sudan Rume type on Las Margaritas, GLE was pleased to find it seemed perfectly suited for their microclimate in the central cordillera of the Andes. It produced a cup comparable to their prized Geshas but with less need for supplementary nutrient inputs into the soil. For Granja la Esperanza the Sudan Rume provided an exceptional cup while being easier to grow than the Gesha.
Although GLE has been successful growing Sudan Rume at Las Margaritas it is still a great example of a farm emphasizing quality over quantity. The plant is still low yielding compared to most varieties of Arabica and does require a special level of care. It is phosphorous hungry, and requires regular pruning to keep at a size where it can be easily picked. This type, like its cousin the Gesha, has a tendency to develop into long, gangly plants with the fruit spread out widely among the branches.
Care must also be taken during the harvest and at the mill to maintain the quality of this potentially excellent cup. One of the challenges with many of these exotic types of coffee is that the fruit ripens unevenly, meaning that pickers must make several passes through each section of the farm, selecting only the coffee cherries that are at their ripest point. A single under ripe or over ripe fruit has the potential to spoil an entire cup with off flavors. Consequently GLE uses only their most experienced workers to harvest this precious crop.
Granja La Esperanza has experimented with several post harvest processing methods to accentuate different characteristics of the Sudan Rume. The lot we purchased from this harvest cycle was naturally processed, one of the most venerable methods of processing coffee. The coffee fruit is dried whole, with the layers of skin, mucilage and parchment still surrounding the precious seed inside.
Although this is the most common processing method world wide, it is relatively uncommon in high end specialty coffees. It requires little to no expensive milling equipment, but for successful results it requires extreme care. Drying time is extended due to the mass of biological material surrounding the seed, and the coffee must be frequently rotated to prevent uneven drying, possible degradation, and the potential for off flavors. However, when done with care the results can be spectacular. The long contact time with the coffee fruit can emphasize the fruit forward notes, making for a truly unique experience.
Water Avenue Coffee only purchased 150 pounds of this treat of a coffee, and we are selling it in a special cylindrical package in a smaller 8oz size (order some HERE). This limited edition offering is perfect as a gift for the coffee lover in your life, or as a special treat. The cup is wonderfully delicate yet rich. The natural processing has brought forth many of the fruit notes available in the type, reminiscent of wild strawberries and ripe blueberries alongside an intense sweetness with a rounded yet delicate body. Due to its limited nature we will only be roasting this coffee on Tuesdays, available in our café every Friday and, shipping out from our online store on Wednesdays.