A huge thank you to everyone who joined the interactive honey tasting online. A recording of the virtual event is available on Church House Westminster’s YouTube channel.
In her introduction, Sarah, who is ironically allergic to bees, explained how every honey is a novel, as it tells the story of the climate, producers, and the bees, underlining the importance of the pollinators to the whole biosphere. Single-source honey, just like fine wine or olive oil, is a perfect expression of its origin: the climate, the soil and the pollens and nectars the bees bring into the hive.
Sarah dispelled a number of myths surrounding the world of honey, including the fact that honeybees are definitely not going extinct. There has, in fact, never been as many honeybees as now. In nature, it’s all about balance and instead, we should focus on the global support of bees.
Sarah transported us back to the earliest days of humankind when our ancestors first found honey, and how that unique taste created a neural sensory pathway in the brain. What followed was the use of honey in ceremonies and religion, leading to honey being regarded as a ‘gift from the Gods’. Honey was also the earliest source of alcohol, by just adding water. Interestingly, all sacred books mention honey, and then of course the marvellous medicinal properties of honey over the years.
With the onset of the Second World War, food processing brought “honey fraud” with honey being produced from blends on a mass scale. This has a massive impact on real beekeepers and Sarah explained that we stand to loose 10 million hives in Europe alone as a result. When shopping for honey, do have a look at the label. Single source honeys will list the actual beekeeper. Stay clear from labels that say ‘blend of…”.
1. Tasmanian leatherwood
An ancient tree species, unique to Tasmania’s temperate rainforests.
Colour: Tawny, ochre
Nose: Warm caramel, intense florals, herbaceous, faintly beery on finish
Mouthfeel: Soft-paste, no discernible crystals (creamed)
Flavour notes: Abundantly sweet and floral, camphorous/balsamic, dessert spices
2. Portuguese Arbutus (Wild Strawberry Tree)
Native to the Mediterranean. One of the more startling kinds of honey you will ever taste.
Nose: Vinegar, coffee, spice
Mouthfeel: Spreads beautifully on the palate
Flavour notes: Tart and lingering bitterness goes to aromatic coffee and caramels with florals on the finish
3. Greek pine forest
How can conifers that never flower produce honey? The answer is ‘Honeydew’…
Colour: Rich amber
Nose: Big, resinous, tarry
Mouthfeel: Notably thick, gelatinous, chewy
Flavour notes: Penetratingly resinous and warming, cinder toffee, Seville marmalade
4. Supermarket honey (“Blend of Non-EU Honeys”)
Industrially processed and blended, supermarket honeys have only one taste: an aggressive sweetness never found in real honey. There are no remarkable flavours and no evolution. It is as different from real honey as instant coffee granules are from a fine single estate coffee.
5. Lambeth Palace Garden, London
83 different pollens have been identified in this sublime urban honey produced by the twelve hives in the 800-year-old gardens of Lambeth Palace. Cold filtering keeps the honey in its natural, raw state, preserving all of its nutritional values and complex flavours.
Colour: Cloudy pale amber
Nose: Fresh, earthy, grass clippings (little florality)
Mouthfeel: Silky (Bramble dominant)
Flavour notes: Tart citrus, mango/tropical fruits, apricot jam
Find out how we can help sustain the honeybee by following ‘plantingforhoneybees’ on Instagram.