As beekeepers, there are many practices we can do (or not do) that affect the taste, and in some cases the nutritional content of our honey. The results are subtle – too subtle for most to detect individually – but all of them together add up. If we make sure all of them happen, we will have noticeably superior honey.
Never fed sugar syrup / pollen supplement
Raw Cold hand-pressed
True-source *allergy honey
“You just can’t buy honey like this because it takes way too much care, attention and time to ever make commercial sense.”
Why is it so special?
Garden Honey. We have created a network of honeybee colonies throughout backyards in our local community where they stay in one place and are hopefully not moved at all. This means happier healthier bees as it provides them with a stable and diverse foraging area which allows them to be more settled and in tune with local conditions.
Pristine Conditions. Our bees are kept throughout backyards in the small sun-soaked country town of Castlemaine/Chewton, in The Goldfield Region of Central Victoria. The bees are spoiled for choice between the town’s parks and gardens and the vast expanses of trees in the bordering National Heritage Park, State Forests and other bushlands. There are no agricultural chemicals used within our bees foraging range.
100% Pure Naturally-foraged honey. We NEVER feed our bees sugar syrup or pollen substitute. Unless a honey producer specifically states that they do not feed sugar syrup, it is very likely that they do as supplemental feeding is standard practice in beekeeping – even for many “natural” beekeepers! Bees who forage their own nectar instead of being fed sugar syrup are more robust; feeding processed unnatural forms of food is likely to have an effect on the the bee’s health… as well as the honey they produce.
Uncontaminated honey. We NEVER use any treatments on our bees whatsoever. No chemical treatments; no anti-biotics, no fungicides, no herbicides, no organic or essential oils: nothing. It would not be unusual for some or all of the above to be used on bees used in conventional honey production.
Raw Cold Hand-Pressed Honey.
True-source honey. The flowers and plants that the bees foraged to produce this honey all within the bee’s foraging range (3-5 kilometers) of the location named. We call this “True-source” honey. Almost all Australian commercial honey is produced by bees that are kept in large numbers together and constantly trucked from place to place following flowering trees and plants. Apart from the enormous amount of fuel and resources spent in this practice, even if you buy honey from a local honey producer, the actual honey itself was almost certainly produced in an area far away from where the honey producer is based.
Minimal Smoke Used.
Hive Conditioned Honey. To ensure our bees have enough honey to see them through the winter, we harvest the majority of our honey in spring. Like all artisan foods, honey seems to benefit from time sitting in ideal and controlled conditions. After being in the hive for at least six months or up to a year or more, the honey has appreciably changed. It has become more rich and complex in its body and taste.
“Wild” Poly-floral honey. Lots of the honey we buy in the shops is a particular variety – honey made from a particular plant and with a particular taste such as Leatherwood, Manuka, Yellowbox or Lavendar. And it’s lovely to have such strong specific tastes. But it’s not so great for the health of the bees. And here’s why.
In nature bees collect a very wide variety of nectars, pollens and other forage. It is said that the average “wild” honey is made of at least 300 different plants. Bees, just like humans need this variation in their diet to stay healthy. The way most beekeepers are able to harvest varietal honeys is by forcing the bees to only forage from one particular plant by taking them to an area where that’s all there is. A bit like forcing people to only eat one kind of food.
Our True-source Hyper-local Natural-comb Poly-floral Garden-honey will usually not taste of a particular plant. Rather, like all artisan foods, the honey tastes of the region – the terroir.
Natural-comb Honey. Ok, bear with me here as this is not a straightforward one.
We provide honeybees with homes that mimic, as much as possible, the natural structure of a wild bee colony. This includes, allowing the bees to build their own natural comb instead of using foundation.
Almost all other honey is produced using a wax or plastic foundation. These are flat sheets of wax or plastic embossed with a honeycomb pattern that beekeepers put inside the hive. The bees are then forced to build the cells in which they store their honey on these flat sheets.
Conversely, with natural-comb honey, no foundation is used and the bees build their own natural honeycomb entirely out of their own wax.
Why does it matter? For lots of reasons. One I’ll menion here is that there are many studies (though the ones I have found are all non-Australian) which show the beeswax used to make foundation is often heavily contaminated with agricultural pesticides and miticides (look here for info). Pesticides bond easily to the oils in beeswax. Wax foundation is largely made from recycled commercial beekeeper’s beeswax the contaminates build up over time.
Some inexpensive foundation “wax” often imported from China is not even made from beeswax. It’s made from paraffin!
And so it follows that when we eat honey produced using recycled foundation wax, we are exposed to this wax along with any contaminates it contains. For this reason, in my opinion, we should always seek honey made by bees allowed to build natural comb.