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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Miel de Caféier (Coffee Honey), L'ile de la Réunion

One of the more unusual honeys I have in my collection is a coffee honey (miel de caféier) that I got in Gourdon, France. It isn't local to Gourdon but comes from l'Ile de la Réunion (or La Réunion). This island is formally known as Bourbon Island (but this was a very long time ago). According to Wikipedia, l'Ile de la Réunion is a smallish (slightly smaller than Rhode Island) French, volcanic island that is located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. It was first named by the Portuguese in the 1500s- Bourbon Island- (at which time is was uninhabited) and then colonized by France in 1665. It became a département d'outre-mer (overseas départment) of France in 1946.* It has a tropical climate much like Hawaii's, with similar crops (sugar cane, pineapple, etc.); Coffee was introduced in the 1800s and became an important crop, although not its most important (that would be sugar cane).

I had never heard of coffee honey before I bought it in Gourdon. It is one of the darkest honeys I've ever seen, dark like molasses. Or, maybe dark like coffee. It has a distinctive aroma that is not honey-like at all. It smells a little like molasses. It tastes like honey, though, but has a rich, deep, warm brown kind of taste (if you know what warm brown tastes like). It isn't too sweet, and has a smooth rich honey 'final' taste. What I mean by 'final' taste is that when you swallow, the taste- presumably related to the location of different taste receptors- can change. Sour and bitter receptors are at the back of the tongue, so a 'tangy' honey might have a very different 'final' taste as you swallow it than when you first put it in your mouth. For some honeys the final taste is very fragile and transient. This honey has a very robust final taste.

I like this honey. It is very nice on toasted, buttered, thickly-sliced German bread (spread thick- with the melting butter and honey blending together). It is less nice in tea; it changes the taste of the tea too much. I haven't tried it in baking, but I expect it might be good in whole grain bread. It also might be a good substitute for molasses or brown sugar (on oatmeal or in thick, plain yoghurt, for instance).

I can't say for certain if they still sell this honey in Gourdon, France; I bought it a few years ago, but I expect they do. Gourdon is a beautiful village (one of the 'most beautiful villages of Provence') and worth a visit if you are in the area, even if they don't. It is perched on a rocky cliff and has a spectacular view of the surrounding area. It also has interesting and unique craft shops (in addition to honey I found some very high quality soap and lavender oil there). Apart from this coffee honey, shops in Gourdon also sell honey (both local and from other areas) that have different flower sources. If you are a honey junkie, you've probably already heard of Gourdon.

*a piece of trivia is that given its time zone Ile de la Réunion was also the first region in the world where the euro became legal tender.

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