I smelled many amazing things in January. Some highlights:
- Early in January, my new friend Mario, who has been
incredibly generous with his amazing olfactory knowledge, invited me to a
cupping at the Starbucks Farmers' Training Center in Kigali. It was great fun
to play around with the coffee notes kits, to sniff and slurp
freshly-roasted coffee with expert cuppers, and to gain insight into how
professional noses approach coffee. Mario stressed the importance of being able
to differentiate between preference and description, something I struggle with
when approaching complex aromas. My nose zooms right in on the notes I love
(chocolate, maple syrup, and toast when it comes to the coffee I'm drinking
most often these days), and I want to work on sussing out those notes that I
don’t love so well.
Mario in his element
- Mario, pictured above with an in-bloom coffee tree growing in his front yard, is also responsible for introducing me to the smell of a coffee flower. It was so beautiful! It smelled of jasmine and lilac, two flowers I adore, and I was swooning at the thought of encountering whole fields of these. Mario and Lucius, resident coffee geniuses, have both spent loads of time in just such fields, and their descriptions have propelled coffee-field-in-bloom to the top of my travel wishlist.
- I learned that the heady, crazy-making flowers in
the previous post are called brugmansia, or, in
Kinyarwanda, ikigogo/ikijojo, and that they can legitimately make you mad. (Thanks to Elizabeth and Diana for sharing your plant wisdom.)
- In late January, there was a freak hailstorm in Butare, amidst day after day of sunshine and near-90s weather. The ground near the National University was steaming as the huge pieces of hail melted, and this seemed to set off every fragrant plant in the area—my husband and I could smell blasts of eucalyptus and lemongrass from the car even with the windows rolled up. There was also a super-intense curry-like smell that reminded me very much of asafoetida. We found the scratchy little leaves that were giving off the hing-smell, and I'll endeavor to find out what the plant is called (when the leaves dried, they smelled much fruitier, almost plummy or currant-like. Nature is nuts!).