“Bees want and need nothing from us. We want something from them. It’s a very one-way relationship,” says fourth-generation beekeeper, Andrew Coté.
Coté sells his “Taste-Bud Bursting Local Honey” at the Union Square Greenmarket every Monday and Wednesday. His honey, known as being hyper-local, comes from rooftops and community gardens in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, as well as Westchester County, New York. His hives are even at the top of the Waldorf-Astoria.
As the weather gets warmer and the flowers in the city starts to blossom, scores of customers turn to his honey to fight against pollen allergies. It might seem odd, but exposure to small, manageable doses of the same local pollen that triggers allergies builds up immunity against it – just like a flu shot. The trick is the closer, the better.
Coté currently manages over 200 hives, which produce about 25 thousand pounds of honey every year.
“This one is from 14th Street and Second Avenue; this one is from Prospect Heights, and this one is from Long Island City. Where do you live?” he asks his customers, showing them the different honey, the amber color radiating from the jars.
While bringing a taste of local honey to New Yorkers, Coté also shares it with people all over the world. He and his father, Norm Coté, founded an organization called Bees Without Borders and travel to underdeveloped countries like Fiji, Haiti, and Kenya, to teach beekeeping as a way to alleviate poverty. Coté donates one-tenth of the proceeds from his honey sale to the organization to fund the travel expenses.
“Honey is a very economical crop because it doesn’t spoil,” says Coté. “It’s like a mother’s love.”
Coté brings back a jar of local honey from every country he goes, but he has a special love for New York City honey.
“The New York City honey has a unique taste because we have a plethora of trees that are found nowhere else in the world,” says Coté. “That honey is unlike any other honey and it’s phenomenal.”
Martha Yuan Tao is a master’s of science student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, specializing in broadcast.