Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published October 11th 2012
Be There Or Be Hexagonal
Before my visit to The House of Honey, brainchild of Rupert and Kim Phillips, if I thought about honey at all, it was as that sticky stuff one puts on toast.
I knew in a vague sort of way that one got different flavours of the stuff, it tasted pretty good and that was about the extent of my knowledge. No more.
Queen Bee and Honey Tasting
For example, do you know that honey is the only food produced by insects for human consumption? Or that of the 20,000 or so species of bee, only four - that's right, four - produce honey?
Did you know that it takes a whole colony visiting two million flowers, the lives of 300 bees and flights of over 80,000 kilometres to make half a kilo of honey?
And were you aware that honey is one of the oldest foods? A cave painting in the Spider Cave in Spain shows someone robbing a hive - dated to 15,000BCE. and bees have been producing honey for at least 150 million years.
Or that honey is the only food without a 'use by' date? Kept sealed it never goes off - never. Containers taken from Tutankhamun's tomb held honey still edible in 1927.
All this knowledge and more is waiting for you at the House of Honey, as well as tasting samples of the various honeys taken from their hives.
Even I knew that the different flowers influenced the flavour and taste of honey, but I was staggered at the wide variation between, say, light Whitgum honey with its toffee flavour and the rich, malty, almost smokey, taste of Jarrah, which incidentally contains a naturally occuring antibacterial which makes it truly a 'healing honey'.
The honey also gets mixed with additives such as Ginger - and just wait til you try the honey/ginger mix.
As well as honey hives produce, obviously, beeswax, made into luxury candles by Kim and for sale as well as Royal Jelly (firmly believed by Barbara Cartland to aid longevity - she died aged 99, the same age as her mother when she died, also fed huge quantities of the Jelly).
Hives also produce a substance called Propolis, a resinous mix that is collected by the bees and used to seal unwanted holes and gaps in the hive casing - it is a natural anti-biotic, anti-inflamatory, anti-fungal and anti-septic, widely used to boost the immune system.
The House of Honey sells a lot, and I mean a lot, of honey and bee-based products but it also has a small café attached (the Sticky Spoon) offering light lunches, Devonshire teas and cakes, all home-made.
After my barrage of fascinating facts I was more than ready to restore myself with a nice pot of tea and a scone, so I had a Devonshire Tea ($7.50).
This comes in a glass teapot on a glass chaffing dish in a variety of flavours, both traditional and new (I chose honey flavoured). This came with a beautiful scone, still warm from the oven of surpassing lightness and taste, home-made strawberry jam, honey and whipped cream.
Owner Rupert's fascination with bees began at an early age when in Africa, at the age of eight, he failed to catch a wild swarm of bees in a cardboard box decorated with cut flowers.
From that early attempt has grown a life-long attachment to bees and since 2006, the House of Honey.