Coffee comes from a pretty spectacular plant. Not just because it produces the wonderful little seed that makes our favorite beverage, but also because it is a beautiful flowering tree that erupts in bountiful, fragrant coffee flowers each spring. Find out what makes these buds unique, when you can see them in bloom on the Kauai Coffee farm, how they grow and produce coffee.
The coffee we grow on the Kauai Coffee farm is a species known as Coffea arabica. Arabica is one of two coffee species grown for consumption, but there are at least 100 different species of coffee that grow in the wild. Coffea is a botanical genus within the Rubiaceae family of plants.
The Rubiaceae family contains flowering trees, shrubs, herbs, and several species with economic value, such as the plants producing coffee, quinine, and gardenias! Most of the plants that share family ties with coffee are tropical and subtropical plants. This is one of the reasons coffee grows so well on Kauai!
Why are Coffee Flowers Unique?
Arabica coffee flowers have a unique superpower – they are self-pollinating! However, this doesn’t mean that bees aren’t helpful to have around the coffee farm. Even though arabica coffee flowers self-pollinate, plants visited pollinating insects produce more fruit and therefore more coffee!
At Kauai Coffee, we host several beehives every year to make sure our trees and flowers are happy and healthy. Keeping bees on the farm also has the sweet benefit of producing coffee blossom honey which is delicious and has floral and citrus notes that compliment coffee and tea quite nicely. Blossom honey is available for purchase at the Kauai Coffee Visitor Center and on our website after the flowering season. Look for it in summer or fall.
How Do Coffee Flowers Grow?
Coffee flowers develop in seven unique stages. First, green coffee buds develop in small clusters along the nodes of each branch of the coffee tree. In a few days, the green clusters of buds turn white and begin to elongate. The buds then reach what is known as the candle stage, in which coffee flowers are still closed but nearly ready to bloom.
Once coffee flowers bloom, they are only open for a day or two before withering and falling from the branch. When flowers wilt, they have reached the end of their pollination period. When the blossom falls off the tree, it leaves behind a small carpel that looks like a tiny, green pinhead. In about 6-7 months’ time, this little carpel will turn into a coffee cherry with one or two seeds inside that will become coffee.
What Do Coffee Flowers Smell Like?
In short, coffee flowers smell heavenly, but not like coffee! At one time, coffee was botanically misclassified and put in the same family as jasmine. It is no wonder this happened as the two flowers have a similar scent when in full bloom. Coffee flowers also smell a little bit like citrus blossoms – pleasant, sweet, yet mild.
Coffee blossom fragrance oil is occasionally used in luxury perfumes and other scented bath and body products, but we recommend seeing and sniffing them in person.
When Do Kauai Coffee Flowers Bloom?
Coffee flowers generally appear a few days to a few weeks after significant rainfall or extended wet weather on Kauai and last for only a few days before withering and falling from the branch to make room for the coffee cherry to grow. Our trees typically bloom between late February and May. There will be 1-2 big blooms over that period and several smaller blooms in between.
If you live on Kauai take a drive past the coffee farm to spot blossoms this spring. If you plan a springtime visit to Kauai, the Kauai Coffee Gift Shop is open, Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Self-guided tours of the Estate are also available. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the coffee bar and museum are temporarily closed.
If you would like to schedule a group/private tour, please contact Darla Domingo at 808-335-0813. Our online store is still accepting orders and shipping as usual.