Soom: a better tahini

To make the best tahini, start with the best seeds.

When we think of single-origin ingredients, things like wine, coffee and chocolate come to mind.  But we may not think of tahini.  Even if we consider the brand, or reflexively reach for a container we recognize, we may not wonder where the seeds grew, how it was made, or how fresh it is.

At Soom, it all starts with the seed: the white Humera sesame seed.

Humera is a town in Northwestern Ethiopia, and the hot and dry growing conditions there are ideal for growing a particular variety of white sesame seed that’s considered one of the best in the world.  These are selected and purchased at the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange:
after being inspected for quality:
Omri inspection
For us, it’s pretty interesting to work with a company that approaches their product (tahini) the same way we approach ours–by talking to the farmers and brokers who work directly with the product about growing conditions, prices, and harvest methods–things that all make a big difference in the end product.  Until we tasted Soom, we didn’t know that there were such vast differences in the quality of tahini.  But here is what we now know:
  1. Seeds matter: some seeds varieties are fatter, oilier, less bitter, and different growing conditions favor the seed being plump and full of oil.  The dry growing conditions and seed varietal of the Humera white sesame stand out on those fronts.
  2. The choices the producer makes matter: most commercial tahini is made from a mixture of seeds from all over the world, whereas Soom sticks to a single, particular variety that they’ve found to be the best.
  3. Smaller batches matter: smaller batches mean fresher tahini.  Look at the consistency of your tahini.  The extreme separation that occurs in most commercial tahini doesn’t happen until it’s been sitting around for about a year.  The fresher it is, and the better the seed, the more emulsified it is.  That means a tahini that both tastes much brighter as well as being much easier to use.
Soom tahini was introduced to us by Ana Sortun, and this small company is run by three sisters.  To hear them describe their company in their own words:
“We fell in love with tahini as Jackie was falling in love with Omri.  Omri is an international sesame/ tahini export, who, at the time, was distributing tahini from Israeli manufacturers to restaurants.  The quality of the tahini he was distributing was unlike anything we had ever tasted.  Nutty, thick and flavorful, we were eating it by the spoonful.  All we had known of tahini was that it was an ingredient in hummus and/or an ambiguous white sauce drizzled on falafel sandwiches.  What was this delicious condiment that was used on everything in Israel like ketchup?
The real kicker was when Omri’s mom baked a carrot cake using the tahini instead of butter.  We were in shock how versatile tahini could be!  And then when she informed us of the health benefits, we had to learn more.
We discovered a lot about tahini, and were so inspired that we took a bold leap of faith (and a well thought-out business plan…) to offer this magical ingredient to the US Market.  We never previously discussed going into business together, but being from a family of entrepreneurs and realizing we had complementary strengths, we couldn’t pass up on this once of a lifetime opportunity.
What makes Soom tahini so unique is that it is made with Ethiopian White Humera Sesame seeds.  Like grapes to wine, or beans to coffee, the varietal and the terroir combines for very different types of sesame seeds.  The white Humera sesame seeds grown in ethiopia has a wonderful balance of “meat” to “Oil” which makes it perfect for milling into tahini.
We work with one of the best manufacturers in Israel to mill these seeds into tahini. Their cleaning, hulling, and roasting process is top-notch and brings out the best flavor of the sesame, enabling it to be used in both savory and sweet recipes.
It has been extremely exciting, rewarding and humbling to “meet” the diversity of customers that applaud Soom tahini.  From top professional chefs to novice bakers, Soom tahini is enjoyed by so many different people, and in so many creative ways!  Marinades, Gelato, Cakes, Sauces, Smoothies, Granola bars!  The possibilities are endless.  Tahini is high in calcium, nut-free, creamy, and plain-old delicious. Soom is passionate about getting tahini into the hands of as many people as possible who can benefit from its taste, versatility and healthiness.”
By Diego Maldonado