Monday, May 19, 2008

I've become a Honey Sommelier!

For those of you who still think of honey as a condiment well have I got news for you. I have just returned from the University of Georgia's annual Beekeeping Institute where I learned the art of honey judging. I studied under the finest, Robert Brewer, co-founder of the Institute, coordinator of their Master Beekeeper program and Certified Welsh Honey Judge. Yes, there are honey judging shows! Honey is respected all over the world similar to wine and olive oil and now these standards have crossed the Atlantic and landed in Georgia. The program consist of a class based upon the Welsh credentials and an opportunity to steward (assist) in a real honey show. Judges adorn a white lab coat and fedora style cap seen in the photo above of world decorated honey judge Michael Young of Dublin. (The one holding the jar of honey)

Michael is a chef, artist, life long beekeeper and founder of the Welsh Beekeepers Association. He holds 3 prestigious certifications for honey judging. I had the pleasure to meet him back in 2003 at
London's National Honey Show where hundreds of beekeepers enter their honey and at numerous beekeeping educational programs. This talented and gracious man personally extended an invitation to me to contact Robert directly and take the course to become a certified honey judge.

Robert and Michael are responsible for raising the esteem of honey among beekeepers here in the U.S. Honey judges evaluate honey on color, clarity, smell, taste and presentation. Who knew honey tasting was a high art? I've presented similar honey tastings at Murray's Cheese Shop (I wrote about it on my earlier blog post) and many of Red Bee's customers. Guest are always surprised to learn that there is more than one type of honey besides what you find in that silly plastic bear on grocery store shelves. Hummmm...maybe this is why some people claim not to like honey. Obviously, they've never tried blueberry blossom or comb honey.

There are approximately 300 different honeys found in the U.S. alone each with its own flavor based upon the nectar source of individual flowers foraged by the honeybees. This is the basis of my recently completed book titled Honey Sommelier, honey is a gourmet worthy food that can be tasted and evalutaed similar to wine. I have collected and researched some 200 different honeys from around the United States and the globe documenting nectar sources, color, tasting and pairing notes. This is the ultimate honey lovers resource guide that will change the way many think about honey by your local Honey Sommelier.

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Far East Designer Honey

Before you spend a Yen on cosmetic surgery you should know about designer honey for all your beauty needs. On my recent trip to the fashionable Harajuku shopping district of Japan, I came across a new product called Hacci Honey 1912. The booth looked like your typical cosmetic counter in a shopping mall anywhere, USA. There I found elegant bottles of honey for eating as well a cosmetic uses. Honey has a rich history as a beauty treatment and Cleopatra was said to take baths in milk and honey. This designer style Hacci Honey was presented in tasteful hex jars, eye dropper bottles and even a sophisticated silk scarf a la Hermes with the Hacci Honey 1912 logo. The 1912 is definitely was a western touch with an attempt to give provenance to this unique Japanese product.

As I browsed the wares, the sales girls offered me a chance to taste or wear their honey. I politely refused the opportunity to have a sticky face in public but enjoyed a sample taste of something called Grand Bloom Honey. It was sampled to me with a lovely, spoon and I found it delicious. Pricing of these honey items were outrageous and one small bottle of honey was $35.00 USD but I had to have one for the packaging alone. The Japanese are so far ahead in their design sensibilities and price is no object when creating new products. Reminding me of Italian conviction for design. Hacci Honey is truly an original and I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up on Fifth avenue in New York City.