Local Monofloral Honey in Guangdong, China

22 01 2015

About 4.5 years ago, when I was teaching high school in the countryside in Hunan province, I decided to give myself a Chinese name. Most of my students could barely speak English, so this gave them something to latch onto and everyone remembered it easily. The name I chose was not standard or traditional in any way – it translated to Ms. Honeybee White – but it made sense to me and to the students. (original post here).

One of those students went on to study English in the same city where I live now, and we get together regularly for food and adventures. We have a good connection. And she knows my love for bees well.

Schefflera octophylla - ya jiao muSo well, in fact, that she gave me something quite special last week. She has a friend whose family works with bees around Zhao Qing (肇庆) a city of about 4 million in Guangdong province. My friend put a request in for winter honey. It doesn’t get that cold here, so there are flowers year-round. This particular honey is monofloral – it is derived from a single type of plant. In this case, it is a tree: Schefflera octophylla, also known as Australian Ivy Palm, umbrella tree, octopus tree, and in Chinese, ‘ya jiao mu’ (鸭脚木, yā jiǎo mù) or ‘duck foot tree’. The bark of this tree is considered to be medicinal in China.

Duck Foot Tree Honey from GuangdongThe honey appears to be unfiltered, and I am assuming since it came from a personal stash, it was not adulterated. In terms of colour grading, it could probably be classified as a ‘white’ honey. It is light in colour, light golden. (See my article on honey quality, including a section on colour grades here).

The taste is very interesting. The initial flavour is a mildly bitter tang, which is immediately chased by a lovely sweetness. My first try was on its own, of course, but I added some to my morning oatmeal, and it was positively delicious.

Honey is precious. Every time you eat it, remember that a bee, during the span of her life, only produces 1/12 teaspoon. This container above represents the contributions of thousands and thousands of these beautiful beings.

Acacia Honey in China

21 01 2013

Chinese Acacia Honey - yang huai feng miFrom time to time, I buy a jar of Chinese honey. It makes sense. After all, I live in China. Why not buy local? Of course, Chinese products are often suspect in some way – many Chinese folks I’ve spoken to are suspicious of honey coming from their own country, and as I’ve written about before, they have a reason to be. But I’ve also written that it’s impossible for us to avoid toxins completely given what we, as humans, have done to our world. So Chinese honey and whatever chemicals it contains makes their way into my kitchen.

Robinia pseudoacacia 004This time round, I secured a jar of acacia honey.  One of the more common monofloral honeys, this honey comes from the false acacia tree  (洋槐 yáng​ huái – black locust tree or Robinia pseudoacacia). The tree grows in warmer climates in Europe and North America, but it also grows in China. The honey is usually rather light in colour, but can have an amber hue (particularly if it has been pasteurized) like in the jar you see here.

Acacia honey has a higher fructose content than most honeys. As a result, it tastes sweeter – you will likely need less to sweeten your tea – and it probably won’t crystallize like most honeys will over time.

See other posts on my Chinese honey adventures:

Motherwort Honey

18 09 2012

One of the delightful things about being back in China is the availability of honey from crops that are uncommon or non-existent in Canada. I have written in the past about the notoriety of Chinese honey, and I stand by that. Many Chinese products are suspect and/or cheaply made, reality being lack of regulation, standards and labour laws, all in the name of capitalism.

Leonurus cardiaca - motherwort - yi mu caoBut, of course all bodies living in the modern world are filled with carcinogens and other poisons from numerous sources, including food. If I spent all my time worrying about what I put in my mouth, I’d eat nothing at all. Besides, research to date does not yet demonstrate that organic food, for example, is better for us (see this recent study done by Stanford University on the health benefits of organic food). I do support organic farming and beekeeping – it is good for the environment and the ecosystem – but I also eat notorious Chinese honey.

Motherwort honey from China - Leonorus - yi mu caoToday, as I am currently plagued by a recurring throat infection, I went honey shopping in my local grocery store. And I found some motherwort honey. Motherwort or Leonorus (most common varieties: L. cardiaca, L. sibiricus and L. heterophyllus), known in Chinese as 益母草 (yi mu cao), is an herb with healing properties. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, motherwort is used to energize the liver and the blood, and for menstrual issues. I found an interesting link to a Western blogger who has used it to calm emotionality.

Motherwort honey is light amber to amber in colour (see my colour standards guide at the bottom of this page). It is fragrant, and it is tangy, and almost spicy. After tasting it, I read others’ reports that it tasted of mint. I’m not sure that is what I tasted, but I could understand the interpretation.

In additions to the purported healing effects of motherwort listed above, the honey is recommended as a tranquilizer, sedative, and can soothe hoarseness and sore throats.

Wish me luck!

Support a Beekeeper! Bees Alive! Now Taking Advertisers

10 08 2012

Are you a beekeeper that sells honey, value-added products or offers other products, courses or services? Do you know and appreciate a beekeeper in your area? Then please read on.

Bees Alive! is now devoting space to the advertising of local honey, beekeeping services, workshops and other products.

This is an an established web site since June 2010 that serves to educate people about bees, what they do, and why they are important. We also support a ‘shop local and organic’ philosophy, and this kind of consumption does not exclude honey and honey products.

In the last month, I created a page on Bees Alive! devoted to advertising for local beekeepers to find out whether we’d get any interest/traffic (I can monitor search terms used to get to our site), and indeed, I’ve had visitors looking for honey in specific regions as well as for specific beekeepers, specific farmers’ market venues, and specific products. I’d like to open the advertising up to people in other regions than those I’ve tested. This is a site that attracts international visitors, and ideally, I’d like to see that reflected in the advertising.

So, why not advertise your or your favourite local honey and value-added products with Bees Alive!…?

Makes an affordable gift to the beekeeper in your life (even if they’re not selling honey, but might like some exposure to their projects). And if that beekeeper is you, all the better!

Check out fees below. If you have something a little different in mind than the options below, let’s talk. Further info, and a contact form can be found below.

Advertising Options 2012

Option Example Pricing
Business name that links to your web site Bees Alive! $5 / month
$55 / year
Name and address that links to your web site
ABC Honey and Honey Products
123 Bee Lane
Beeville, HB
phone number/email
$6 / month
$66 / year
Business Card
that links to your web site
bee business card sample $10 / month
$110 / year
Blog Post
(once published, these details remain accessible to search engines until the end of time)
Jean-Marie Sempels: Local Honey in Quyon, Quebec $200 / post
$10 for later modifications such as address changes
(major changes require a new post)

To add a single line of text that lists your products or special features (organic, specialty crops, workshops, etc.), add $1/month or $11/year.

Listings will be categorized by country, then province/state/territory, then region.

Honey vendors who opt to advertise through a blog post will be listed as a FEATURED LISTING in their respective region.

See how this works: HERE.

We are currently taking payment through PayPal.

If you are interested in advertising with Bees Alive! or would like to talk about options, please fill out the form below, including a way to contact you via email.


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