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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eswatini Swazi Kitchen (Heavenly) Honey, Swaziland

I've never been to Swaziland, but my friend Lauren has and she recently brought me back some local honey. According to Wikipedia, Swaziland is a small, landlocked kingdom (roughly the size of New Jersey) in Southern Africa surrounded to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique. After the Anglo Boer war (1902) Britain made Swaziland a protectorate under its control, and it wasn't until 1968 that Swaziland gained its independence.

There is evidence that Swaziland has been inhabited by humans (or our ancestors) since the early Stone Age (200,000 years ago). Descendants of Bantu tribes people (known as the Swazis) make up most of the current population. Many of these are subsistence farmers and herders, although there are also significant industries in forestry, mining and manufacturing (textiles and sugar processing) in the country.

For such a small place the geography is quite diverse. There are mountains along the Mozambican eastern border and rain forests in the northwest. Climate and terrain can be roughly grouped by altitude above sea level with the country divided into Highveld (altitude of 1200 meters), Middleveld (altitude of 750 meters) and Lowveld (altitude of 250 meters). Rainfall is highest and temperatures are coolest in the Highveld regions; the Lowveld areas are the driest (and hottest) and this is where you find the thorn trees and grasslands.

It is hard to say what flower source the Swaziland bees used to make this honey; the label doesn't say. Although it does give an address in Manzini, the principal commercial and industrial city, which is found in the Middleveld. It also says that the honey is produced by the Eswatini Swazi Kitchen (ESK) and that proceeds from the honey support rural beekeepers across Swaziland.

I did an online search for the Eswatini Swazi Kitchen and found that they also make jams and chutneys, among other things. Processing honey is a relatively new addition to their kitchen that was supported by Missionary Development Funds from the Salesian Community in Swaziland (an Irish mission organization), to the Manzini Youth Care, an organization that promotes income generation projects. If you're interested I found an article describing it:

Another search to identify honey flower sources in Swaziland suggests that major sources of honey in the country include acacia, African Red Beech, Forest Ironplum, and Sagewood, among others. I have never heard of most of the sources and suspect that this honey may be quite different depending on the season and the batch.

Needless to say, given the mystery of the flower source and the exotic list of potential sources, I was eager to try this honey. It has a rich, dark amber color. And even at warm temperatures it is slightly crystalized, giving it a crunchy texture. It is sweet, but not too sweet and has a robust, and unexpected tangy flavor- a little like black tea. The after taste is smoky, again like a mild Lapsang Souchong tea. Very unusual and tasty. I like this honey. I think it would be very nice on nutty bread or in hot cereal, but probably not so good in tea, as it would change the flavor too much.

I understand from a website that ESK products are sold to customers in France, Germany, Netherlands, Austria (Oxfam), U.K. and Sweden. So you may be able to find this honey outside of Swaziland. If not, the label gives their email address as:, so you might be able get some directly.

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