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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maple Honey, Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada

My friends Richard and Ronna went to British Columbia (Canada) this summer and brought me back some Maple Honey from Chilliwack River Valley, British Columbia. I've been to British Columbia before but had no idea where Chilliwack was and had to look it up on a map. It is in the Fraser river valley and very close to the US border. It is mostly an agricultural community- and as you may know, bees are an important part of most agricultural operations so I'm not surprised that there is a honey industry there as well. In addition to agriculture, though, there also have manufacturing, food processing and tourism industries in the area- and up until 1999 a Canadian army base.

The Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey LTD has a very nice website (just google it and it is the first thing that pops up). It has been in operation for 30 years and produces different types of honey and honey products (including beeswax candles). Agnes Coutt is the apiculturist.

Richard and Ronna brought me back Maple Honey. I called Montreal home for many years (the land of Maple trees) and had never heard of Maple Honey. I didn't think Maple trees had flowers that bees could gather anything from. I just assumed that it was honey with maple syrup mixed in. Silly me. According to the website Maple honey is gathered from maple blossoms (Maple trees have blossoms? I feel so stupid) and is generally the first honey that is collected in the spring.

The maple honey is clear, deep orange with a bit of a reddish tinge. It is completely liquid at room temperature and medium thick. It's texture is smooth. It is not too sweet and doesn't have a strong honey taste. What you notice most is the texture, which is very smooth. The after taste, though is subtle, but rather distinct; It tastes a little like homemade lollipops. This honey would be perfect for tea or baking because I don't think it would change the taste of things much, but would add a substantial dose of honey sweetness.

The Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey operation is visitor friendly. They have a store and can be found at 43476 Adams Road, Chilliwack, B.C., Canada V2R 4L1 (Phone: (604) 823-7400; Fax: (604) 823-7401; Toll Free: 1-888-361-2200; E-mail:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Katiramona Honey, New Caledonia

I've never been to New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie) but my cousin Céline (merci Céline!) lives there and sent me this honey.

As per Wikipedia (my usual source) in 1774 Captain James Cook named the place New Caledonia because the rugged shoreline reminded him of Scotland. New Caledonia is located in the southwest Pacific and is made up of a main island (Grande Terre) surrounded by smaller (groups of) islands (the Loyalty islands, the Belep archipelago, Île des Pins, the Chesterfield islands, and the Matthew and Hunter islands). Grande Terre is by far the largest island, is mountainous and houses the capital, Nouméa, where my cousin lives.

These volcanic islands have been inhabited since at least 1500 BC. Europeans came with Captain Cook in the late 1700s and brought with them smallpox, measles, dysentery, influenza, syphilis, and leprosy. Whaling and the sandalwood trade brought more foreigners. The indigenous people (the Kanak, known now as the Melanesians) were subjected to slavery and transported to sugarcane plantations in Figi. Not surprisingly, there were tensions between the Melanesians and foreigners.

In 1853 France seized the islands and made them a French possession, populating them with convicted felons from 1864 to 1922, after which free French settlers and Asian contract workers arrived. The numbers of Melanesians declined throughout these periods, mostly related to foreign-introduced disease and an apartheid-like system called Code de l'Indigénat which imposed severe restrictions on their livelihood, freedom of movement and land ownership. A Kanak independence movement was established in 1988 (the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak Socialiste) with a goal of establishing an independent state (Kanaky). After a bloody hostage taking, an accord was signed in 1988 giving Melanesians local citizenship and other rights. The current status of New Caledonia is between one of an independent country and an Overseas department of France. According to the more recent Nouméa Accord (1998) the Territorial Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on independence after 2014.

New Caledonia has a tropical climate and has two seasons: a dry, cool season (April-November) and a wet, warm (December-March) season. Given its varied soil content, temperature, and climate conditions, it has unique (and endangered) flora and fauna.

According to '' in 2006 New Caledonia had 150 beekeepers and 2100 hives. As far as I can tell, Katiramona is an wild area of Grande Terre that is known for its petroglyphs. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information about the honey sources for the region. All the label of the honey I have says is that: M. Burguiere is the apiculturist; it is Katiramona honey; and produced in New Caledonia.

Katiramona honey is clear and orange-golden, with a runny texture. A toothpick will sink in it. It has a deep, mellow taste with an undertone of molasses. The final taste has a whisper of black licorice, although this is somewhat subtle. Very interesting. I think this honey would be great on toasted, buttered, white bread so that you could enjoy its unusual flavor. It might alter the taste of tea, but in some herbal teas it might add a molasses/licorice flavor that might be interesting. It is great, just by itself(!)

I can't imagine that it is available outside of New Caledonia, but given its unique flavor, it might be worth the trip...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ulmo Tree Honey, Temuco, Chile

I didn't get this honey in Chile. I got it at TJMaxx in Brookline. Sometimes you find the most unexpected things at TJMaxx. I've been pleasantly surprised at how often they carry unusual honeys from different parts of the world. How did TJMaxx come to sell Ulmo tree honey from Chile? I'll never know, but I bet there is a story there.

This honey comes in a cute rounded jar, with a pretty art deco label. It also has a little pamphlet rubber-banded around the lid that gives information about it. The pamphlet states that this honey came from the Araucania region (700 km south of Santiago). The Araucania region is home to 'native forests and pristine streams.' A quick look at Wikipedia and I find that Araucania is one of 15 administrative divisions in Chile and contains two provinces: Malleco and Cautin. A lot of the region is protected national parkland containing coigüe, raulí, tepa, and bay, cypress and monkey puzzle trees (and Ulmo trees). The region is also home to the native Mapuche people, who harvested this honey.

The Ulmo tree (Eucryphia cordifolia) is indigenous to Argentina and Chile, and its natural habitat runs along the Andes Range (although the wiki site says that it also happily grows in Scotland). Its flowers (which look to me like simple white rose flowers but which are described as camellia-like flowers on another site) produce an aromatic nectar that makes for a good honey. The Ulmo tree is threatened by logging, so honey production may support an alternative, sustainable forestry option.

Ulmo tree honey looks like lemon curd. It is milky-cloudy yellow at room temperature. It is very thick (a toothpick easily stands up in it forever). It isn't grainy but has a texture to it, as if there were very, very fine particles in it. At first taste, the texture is most apparent and then there is a burst of floral perfume that is quite incredible with a minty glow to it. The final taste is one of a minty residue. Wow, what a great honey! My first thought is that it is too good for baking or tea, but then I think maybe it would work in an herbal tea that isn't too overpowering (camomile, for instance). I could eat it just out of the jar, but in large quantities it may lose the subtleties of its complex flavor. It would also work on plain bread. I'll say it again: Wow, what a great honey!

I can't say if it will ever be at TJMaxx again. I think I saw it there only once. But it is produced by Chilean Gourmet and they have a website:
It looks like WholeFoods supermarkets may carry some of their products in the US.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Specialty Pure Honey, Kitwe, Zambia

This honey comes from Zambia. My friend Lauren traveled to Africa this summer and brought it back. The label states it is distributed by Specialty Foods LTD out of Kitwe. Specialty Foods is a private sector honey buyer that processes, packs and distributes honey to wholesalers and large supermarkets.

An online search ( that most honey production in Zambia occurs in rural, farm areas in the Northwestern Province, and that the honey sources of most Zambian honey are woodlands and forests, notably Brachystegia, Julbernardia and Isoberlinia. Given this link between forests and honey, beekeeping is thought to promote incentives for sustainable forestry. Deforestation is a major threat to honey production.

Honey production was noted as early as the 1850s in Zambia in David Livingstone's journals (of 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?' fame). He described traditional log and bark hives, which are suspended from branches. These are being replaced by more efficient types of hives (e.g. Kenyan top bar hives, which resemble the hive boxes that I'm familiar with). Mud hives are also used. Given how and where honey is collected in Zambia, it is considered to be organic.

Honey, prior to being commercially traded, was mostly used to brew a honey-beer called mbote (which remains a popular drink).

One thing I learned, and never knew before, is that apart from honey bees (the indigenous African honey bee in the case of Zambia) there is another insect known as a 'stingless bee' that also produces a honey-like substance. This is generally not exported, though.

This Zambian honey is a warm, dark, amber color. It is clear and has a runny consistency. It is not too sweet with an incredibly interesting, complicated smoky flavor. The final taste is medium robust with smoky undertones. What a great honey! I think it might be nice on buttered bread or in plain yoghurt. It might change the taste of tea a little too much, unless it was a smoky tea.

I suspect it may be hard to find except in Zambia.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jahan Natural Honey, Iran

The Jahan Natural honey that I have was a gift from my mother-in-law who lives in Montreal. It is imported to Montreal by Jahan, and apart from the label stating that it is natural honey and a product of Iran, I have no other information about it. A quick google search to see if I could find out more came up empty. So, I don't know what the flower source is, the precise region, or anything else.

Iran is a pretty big country (relative to most European countries)- a little larger than Alaska- and has a very diverse geography and climate, ranging from rain forests in the north, deserts in the east, mountains in the west, and seas to the south. Climate ranges from subtropical to arid; You can't get more of a range than that! So it is hard to narrow down where honey is produced; It could be everywhere with quite different types of honey from each region.

I'm an oil brat and spent my middle school years in Ahwaz, so I'm vaguely familiar with the western, desert part of the country, but didn't travel much at that age. I was surprised by how different the regions of Iran are when it comes to climate and terrain.

It goes without saying that Iran has an incredible history and culture, with some cities dating back to 7000 BC. There was no information, however, on Wikipedia (my trusted source) about honey regions, honey sources or, actually, anything at all about honey. The closest I got was finding a list of honey exporters when I did a google search. In summary, then, I know that Iran produces honey (at that is about all).

The Jahan honey is a deep amber color- almost burnt orange. It is thick with no crystals (a toothpick with stand upright in it). Great, smooth texture with weight. Perfect for drizzling over plain yoghurt (and if I remember rightly, yoghurt honey is an Iranian treat). It has a robust sweet honey taste; A deep nutty taste in the beginning, followed by a smooth honey taste, and a lingering final taste that is a little floral. This honey would be perfect on hot, buttered toast, or in tea.

If you know anything about Iranian honey, I'd like to hear from you! In the meantime, you can pick up some Jahan Natural Honey in (all places) Montreal, Canada.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Clover Honey, Ferme Léonard, Richmond, Quebec

We don't live too far from Québec and visit regularly to see family. As a result I have a lot of local Québec honey, mostly picked up in supermarkets (Provigo, IGA) in Montréal. This honey, though, is a an exception in that it was bought near where it was produced. It is a honey from Richmond, Québec, in the heart of the Eastern Townships close to where my in-laws have a cottage on Lake Memphremagog.

According to Wikipedia (my knowledgeable source on all things eclectic), Richmond is one of the earliest settlements in the Eastern Townships (1798). In the 1800s Richmond (named after Charles Lennox the 4th Duke of Richmond and Lennox, and Governor General of Upper Canada (1818-1819)) had a bit of a boon related to expansion of the railroads; it was an important railway junction between Montreal and Portland, Maine. However, as the railroads declined, so did Richmond. Today it has a population of about 3,000, and among them are apiculturists who produce honey at Ferme Léonard.

This clover honey (miel de trèfle) is a non-pasteurized (natural) honey. As you may know, pasteurized honey is high-heated to kill pathogens, whereas non-pasteurized honey is not. Some claim that taste is negatively affected by pasteurization and that it also reduces the medicinal benefits of honey. I don't have an opinion either way.

Ferme Léonard's honey is a very light, clear yellow honey. At room temperature some of it crystalizes in little round balls that make larger clumps. These are crunchy, granular and very sweet. The liquid honey is delicate and runny. It has a clear taste of honey with no other flavor, and a sweeter final taste.

This is a good, multipurpose, table honey. Good in tea and in baking (and maybe plain yogurt). It won't change the taste of anything much but will give a good honey sweetness. It probably isn't that interesting on bread, though.

If you are near Richmond, Québec you might like to drop by and visit Ferme Léonard. It is at 402 chemin Vallée, Richmond, Québec.