Honey Tasting: Rainy Day Bees “Early” Neighborhood Honey

Early season honeys from Rainy Day Bees in SeattleThis weekend I came across a new apiary at the Shoreline farmer’s market: Rainy Day Bees, who offer “raw neighborhood honey” produced from hives they keep in the city of Seattle, in addition to raw Fireweed honey they get from beekeepers out of town. The two ‘city honeys’ are Fremont Early and Greenwood Early, labeled for the neighborhood within Seattle and the season the honey was collected. The bees that collected the Greenwood honey were actually situated on top of a building in the Greenwood area. These are the first honeys produced since the bees started foraging this spring. Based on the results, I can’t wait to taste the honeys produced later this year.

Tasting

These honeys look the same in the bottle, both being light-colored and clear, but they do not taste the same. The Fremont honey is more assertive, with a distinctive sour lemon taste from the maple trees that were blooming when it was collected. The Greenwood honey has much less of that lemon, though it’s there, and it’s decidedly soft and floral, with a green-melon flavor as well. It’s more runny and light on the tongue, but I find it the more complex tasting of the two. Both are keepers though.

Where To Find It

I found these at the Shoreline Farmers Market, where the beekeepers Peter and Amy Beth Nolte had a stand. They said they won’t be there every week and that they have limited stock (this year’s Greenwood Early is almost gone in fact). You can get honey directly from them on their website if you don’t manage to see them in person.

Honey Tasting: Polifloral Native Honey From Chile

Polifloral Native Honey from ChileThis is a honey I use all the time, and I’ve been buying extra in case it stops showing up in Seattle since it’s the best honey I know for putting in coffee. This is billed as a “polifloral” honey, which is just another way to say “wildflower”. But the Origen website says the flowers are native to the south of Chile and include “Coigües, Robles, Raulí, Arrayanes, Ciprés de la cordillera, Canelos, Tepas and Araucarias.” I want a picture.

Tasting

Despite all the flowers apparently involved, this is not a very floral honey (unlike Ulmo Tree and Tiaca, two others from Chile that are in-your-face flowery). Instead it reminds me of cooked bananas, or cooked fruit of some kind, with brown sugar. It’s very rich. It’s like a Thai desert I’ve had many times: cooked bananas with a sweet brown sauce.

I don’t take any kind of espresso drink sweetened, but if I make coffee at home with my grinder and French press, I like to add a little honey (or Dark Muscovado sugar) and coconut creamer. I’ve tried many honeys in coffee, and most just disappear into the coffee, which is a waste of good honey. But any honey with a cooked fruit thing going on seems to work in coffee.

Where To Find It

In Seattle, the only place I’ve seen this is Big John’s PFI. It’s imported by Origen (Chilean Gourmet), so maybe you can track down a distributor in your area.

Honey Tasting: Sourwood Honey from Georgia

Sourwood honey from Georgia A couple years ago I ordered sourwood honey from a company in Georgia. I had heard that sourwood is great stuff, so I was surprised to find it utterly characterless. Last month however I stepped into the Metropolitan Market in Queen Anne to look at their honeys and found this example from the Savanah Bee Company. I decided to give Sourwood another chance. Turns out it’s fantastic, and nothing like my previous experience.

There is an excellent article about sourwood honey and the trees it comes from on the Honey Traveler.

Tasting

This is surprising right away. It comes on both sweet and bitter/sour, with a bright woody sort of flavor and a background of spices (it’s those spices you smell in the jar). It ends with a dryness that lasts on your tongue after the echoes of its complex flavors have faded. All this reminds me of French chestnut honey, which is similarly bitter and dry, but it doesn’t have the funky nuttiness that chestnut honey has. It’s more like a candy or cough drop. In any case, if I ever make a “world class honeys” list, this will be on it.

Honey Tasting: Pine Tree Honey from California

Pine Tree Honey from California I returned to California in February and fully intended to come back loaded with honeys from the Honey Pacifica company, especially their pine tree honey, but came back with a bunch of other honeys instead. Then I remembered what century I live in, and ordered a number of honeys via their website. I’m really glad I did because all of them were good and this pine tree honey is really special.

This is the second honey I’ve gotten from Honey Pacifica that is slightly fermented on purpose (the other is the Brazilian Peppertree honey I’ve written about before). You can read about the pine tree honey on their site. In an email exchange with Honey Pacifica they told me regarding the fermentation that “the average honey has about 15% to 16% moisture and the Peppertree was at about 20% or so, it does not mean it has alcohol it just makes the honey expand and has a slight difference on the taste”. They didn’t specify the moisture content of the pine tree honey, but in its present state it’s quite thick so I doubt it’s going to ferment further.

I emailed Honey Pacifica to ask if any of their honeys are sourced from other places (I’ve recently come across other companies that repackage honey from other states or from as far away as Australia), but they promptly wrote back to say that “all of our honey is from mid to southern parts of California. Our Sage is from the Santa Clarita and Santa Maria Mountains, Pine Tree is from Sequoia, and Coastal Wildflower, Eucalyptus and Peppertree are from the Seal Beach area.”

Tasting

Today I gave a taste of this honey to my daughter’s friend without showing her what it was. She’s had little experience tasting honeys, but after pondering it a while she said, “it tastes like a tree”. I’ve had other tree honeys that tasted interesting but not like a tree, such as a Greek pine tree honey that tastes a bit sappy but more like molasses than anything else. This honey is actually what you would imagine a pine tree might taste like, but not in an aggressive way. Everything about it is unusual. It’s texture is viscous and gloppy but isn’t sticky; instead it dissolves quickly and turns sort of fine-grained in your mouth. It’s decidedly less overtly sweet than you expect honey to be, and with the gloppy texture it feels rather soft overall. The yummy flavor is kind of like warmed-up figs (and maybe a bit like cooked peaches?), but with distinct pine overtones like in a sawmill. I just love it.

Where To Find It

If you live in southern California, you can find honeys from this producer in specialty stores. I got mine directly from Honey Pacifica in the mail. If you order from them, I also recommend their Brazilian Peppertree, Premium Black Button Sage, Eucalyptus, and Avocado. Just don’t forget this one.

Honey Tasting: California Buckwheat Honey

California Buckwheat Honey When I was down in California recently I more than once came across buckwheat honey that didn’t at all resemble the buckwheat I’m used to from Washington state. At first I was skeptical because I thought I knew what buckwheat honey is: thick and opaque, ranging from dark brown to nearly black, with a strong smell and taste that takes getting used to (it can even have a whiff of cat piss). But this California buckwheat was viscous like a knapweed honey, was a non-opaque medium brown and had none of the hallmark buckwheat flavors I expected. Surely, I thought, this had only a bit of buckwheat in it and was mixed with something else the bees had found. But every time I saw this California version it was the same. The last person I spoke to, the beekeeper for today’s sample, told me that the honey was collected from wild buckwheat up in the hills near Saugus, CA. So this wasn’t coming from farmed buckwheat like the version we get here in Washington. It’s a different plant and it turns out that California has quite a number of native species.

Tasting

When I was a kid in northern Wisconsin there was a candy store called “Dan’s Gay 90’s” where they made fudge right in front of you, and where there were many rows of baskets, each with a different candy in it. The name and decor were meant to evoke the air of the 1890’s (when the 1990’s came around the name changed to “Dan’s Minocqua Fudge”…). I would go for the old-time candies, like horehound and root beer. They were like tantalizing translucent crystals in their clear wrappers. Every time I taste this California buckwheat I think of that shop and those candies. It’s viscous and sticky sweet with a good dose of classic honey taste, but also has a distinct herbal flavor that makes me think of those old-time candies.

Where To Find It

I saw this kind of honey at farmer’s markets in southern California. I got this one at the Santa Monica farmer’s market.