Honey and the coffee bean

5 Sep

Coffee bean shapes

In our pristine Araku Valley, the Naandi foundation has been working alongside about 10,000 organic coffee farmers. They are working with the Arabica coffee which is self-pollinated. This mean that to obtain fruit, the plant doesn’t depend on the presence of bees, relying instead on the wind to propagate its pollen. However an independent Indian study reveals that the introduction of bees to Arabica plantations produces a greater proportion of fruit berries (2-seeded fruits) while the exclusion of bees results in higher proportions of pea-berrys (single seeded fruits). The shape of the seeds are being improved due to the presence pollinators. When the coffee is processed, only the perfect shaped beans are selected and roasted for a quality coffee. Therefor bees can play a vital role in improving the coffee quality and assuring better returns for farmers.


Bees get high

Geraldine Wright, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University in England, conducted a study finding bees may actually be benefited  by low concentrations of caffeine in coffee flowers. Caffeine, a compound which is toxic at high dose to pollinators and other animals is  generally produced by the plant as a defense mechanism . However at low doses, caffeine becomes effective for attracting pollinators.  It actually improves the long-term memory of the bees and encourages them to come back to the coffee flowers.The plant is secretly drugging the pollinator to spread its pollen!

b n c

Even if Arabica coffee is self-pollinated, their is a clear co-relation between bees and the plant. It attracts the bees thanks to a small amount of caffeine and the quality of the bean improves thanks to the bee pollination. In my opinion this represents a perfect example of a a symbiotic  pollinator exchange.

Planting species like coffee  amongst crops might improve pollination. The more we know about bee foraging, the better a chance we have at keeping them around and healthy, both for their sake and ours.”- Dr. Wright

[Photo creadit by Ducan]

[Photo credited by USW]


3 Responses to “Honey and the coffee bean”

  1. A Fan September 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Great post. One question – what is the difference between a 2 seeded berry and a 1 seeded berry? Why is a 2 seeded berry better?

    • titel974 September 16, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Thank you for your comment! A coffee cherry normally contains 2 coffee beans. A single seeded cherry is a defected berry in which one of the ovules of the cherry has failed to develop. The remaining bean with no second bean to provide pressure will form a rounded shape with no flat side. A single seeded berry will not be able to germinate.


  1. March Timeline: Visitors time | apianon - May 28, 2014

    […] flowers started blossoming – do you remember my article on the effect that coffee has on bees? I could not capture a bee on the flower but here’s a picture of the coffee flower […]

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