Bulgaria has miles upon miles of open countryside that is home to millions upon millions of honey bees producing an abundance of honey. The bees are cared for by Beekeepers who range from those who have a single garden hive to those who have made it their business and manage large Apiaries of hundreds of hives. In June 2016 we began working with local Beekeepers. We explained to them our dreams and ideas and our plans for the future; about how we wanted to show the world what excellent, high quality honey Bulgaria produces - a big ambition we know, but that is how strongly we feel about our product! Word began to spread about what we were trying to do, and we are now in the enviable position of having Beekeepers recommended to us from all across Bulgaria, ensuring that we are able to offer more and more varieties from the diverse flora and fauna that exists across this beautiful country.
The laws surrounding the importation of honey into the UK are strict, and understandably so when you realise how much honey is out there that is not what it says it is on the jar!
When we launched our honey business we were lucky enough to be introduced to a father and son team who are bee keepers themselves but also own a production and packaging plant. We went to visit them to look at their company in order to assess the process the honey would undergo during the packaging process.
It was important to us that the honey is never heated above 40º (It is a myth that any heating is detrimental to honey, as the bees themselves will heat the honey in the winter in order to feed off it). It was also important that minimal filtration takes place. We know that the general consumer is accustomed to seeing completely clear honey in the jars on the supermarket shelf, but our emphasis is on the 'quality' of the honey and any health benefits it can provide, so we want to retain the naturally occurring additional 'healthy' elements of pollen, propolis and even a small amount of Royal Jelly, which are all natural ingredients of raw honey. Thus, our honey is not crystal clear, with the exception of Acacia and young Linden.
Pollen is the honey's DNA. It is the analysis of the pollen found in the honey that enables the honey to be categorised; acacia, linden, sunflower, wild flower, etc. Once the pollen is removed, it is impossible to verify the pollen source from which the bees have foraged.
There is more information on the health benefits of bee pollen on the Bee Pollen page.
Without wishing to partake in scaremongering, there is a massive international problem with 'food fraud'. There is the very well documented case of the USA's problem with Chinese honey. As we all know, the Chinese are experts in mass production and are famous for their ability to 'imitate' original goods for a fraction of the cost, and sadly, honey is no exception. Chinese honey is very cheap, but virtually nutritionless, making it merely an expensive sweetener! The full version of China vs the USA can be found at organics.org. And sadly, Chinese honey is not confined to the USA alone...it's out there...on our shelves.
There are all sorts of 'tricks of the trade' that unscrupulous manufacturers will use to get round a problem, including things like:
- importing the cheap Chinese honey, mixing it with a small quantity of quality honey from their own country and then selling it on as that country's honey.
- "Cutting" quality honey with corn syrup, sugar syrup and numerous other products which will keep the honey runny but dramatically degrade the quality, and make it significantly cheaper to produce - the more corn syrup used, the cheaper the production and the more degraded the honey.
- Pasteurising the honey which again ensures 'runny' honey but destroys all its nutrients.
There is also an article on the very expensive Manuka honey that appeared in the Independent dated 1st July 2014. The article explores the disparity between the 1,700 tonnes of Manuka honey that New Zealand claim to produce per annum, and the 10,000 tonnes that are actually consumed globally. The UK alone allegedly consumes 1,800 tonnes per year. You don't have to be a genius to see that these figures just don't add up!
One explanation for this disparity is the pollen. Kanuka pollen is practically indistinguishable from Manuka pollen, even under a microscope, but is a much cheaper honey. The similarities in the pollen mean that Kanuka honey can easily masquerade as Manuka, meaning that your average consumer, buying in good faith, is paying well over the odds for pretty standard honey!
'The Grocer' magazine commissioned tests on seven randomly tested jars of Manuka on sale in the UK and all but one showed discrepancies between what was on the label and what was in the jar.
So what's the answer?
In our opinion, whether you buy off us or not, you need to deal with reputable honey producers who are passionate about their honey and have nothing to hide.
Here at Honeyman's we ensure that we visit all our beekeepers personally, we ensure that they have the necessary paperwork and certificates and above all else, we ensure that when the honey leaves the beekeepers, it is handled with care, and processed according to our own specifications.