Tell us how does a designer become a beekeeper?
After graduating from the School of Visual Arts I worked as a freelance designer and illustrator in New York City, eventually traveling to Shanghai and Italy to design for the giftware market. In 2000, I was unexpectedly introduced to beekeeping by a neighbor (Howland Blackiston, now the author of Beekeeping for Dummies) and became smitten after tasting fresh honey from the hive still warm from the bees’ bodies. The more that I learned about honey the more that I felt it should be regarded as a noble food and given the same respect as wine or olive oil. Eventually, I ditched my day job to become a full-time beekeeper and never turned back. Red Bee Honey is what happens when a hobby turns into a passion.
What is single-origin honey?
Single-origin honey is produced from the nectar of one type of flower, imparting a distinctive color, aroma and flavor profile. It represents a flavor profile that truly reflects its floral source and its terroir—the climate, region and soil. Every drop of honey reflects the season it was produced: what the bees are foraging on and what flowers are blooming at that exact moment in time. There are infinite nectar-bearing honey plants and each one influences the sensory qualities of the honey in a unique and delicious way.
What is a “honey sommelier”?
I coined the term “honey sommelier” in a chapter of my first book, Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. When I wrote it in 2009, beekeepers were not overly concerned with the flavor of their honeys; fast forward to today’s honey renaissance, and all we talk about is identifying the delicious flavors in our honey. Essentially, a honey sommelier is someone who is trained in tasting and identifying the sensory qualities of many different types of honey, and how best to pair them with food. There is only one formal training program that I know of to become a expert honey taster in Italy, and as I write this I am on my way to Bologna to finish my final certification. I will be sharing the program through the American Honey Tasting Society and my second book, The Honey Connoisseur.
What are your favorite ways to eat your honey?
I have the opportunity to taste many varietals of honey, from the US and around the world. Pure honey is so precious: I have learned to appreciate them all because I understand how difficult it is for bees to produce. Each honey tells a seductive story about its floral source, and the region and the season it was produced, and I love uncovering these stories and sharing them with others. My favorite honey depends upon what I am eating with it. Honey is best paired or used to finish a dish rather than cooking the delicate flavors away. Right now I adore Italian Cardo (star thistle – much different than our varietal), Robiola due Latti cheese, warm crusty Italian peasant bread and a glass of sparkling Prosecco. If someone tells you they do not like honey, you need to introduce them to real honey immediately; they’ll never turn back.
What is the best part about being a beekeeper?
Beekeeping has given me a tremendous respect for nature, honeybees and their essential work pollinating our food. The best part for me is changing the way people think about and use honey via educational courses through The American Honey Tasting Society. There is also an element of romance and mystique in ditching your job to live the life you dream about. I took a chance and it changed my life.
What should people look for when buying honey?
My advice is to speak to the beekeeper and ask them about their honey: the local floral sources and their beekeeping management style. Good quality honey, except for a few varietals, is rarely transparent; it should include pollen, never be overly heated or filtered to retard crystallization. Pure honey is fragile. To preserve the delicate flavors of your honey we recommend storing it at room temperature away from direct light or extreme fluctuations in temperature. Honey is a product of nature so the color, aroma and flavors will change with each harvest. The more you taste, the more you will learn about the honeys you buy. Taste, Savor, Repeat!