Honey Education

8 Best Honeys for Baking & Cooking

Tea and honey is such a natural pairing (especially in the Tea & Honey store) that it's very easy for us to get in a rut of thinking about our honeys solely in relation to our teas. 

But honey is beautiful and marvelously diverse in both its flavor and its applications - from gustatory to medicinal. Using honey in cooking and baking is neither new nor particularly groundbreaking, but it is something we've gotten away from doing in modern times. Some popular, food-related honey pairings are fruit and yogurt, peanut butter toast, or on a cheeseboard - and these pairings are pretty obvious once you manage to get yourself out of the Tea & Honey mindset. But where else might we use honey, either in place of sugar or to enhance the flavor of an existing recipe?

cooking with honey - pizza and grilled fruit around a honey jar

Using Honey in Cooking & Baking

Today we're throwing popular and customary to the wind to tell you the best honeys to keep in your kitchen cabinet to use just like you would sugar, spices, and other pantry staples. 

Best Honey to Substitute for Sugar - Alfalfa Honey

Alfalfa Honey is our hands-down favorite for a sugar substitute in most recipes. Medium-bodied and sweet but buttery, Alfalfa honey will add a sweet richness to your recipes without darkening the batter or changing your original recipe's flavor profile. In fact, you might even find substituting Alfalfa honey for sugar improves your results!

Learn more about how to substitute honey for sugar in recipes >>

Best Honey for Grilling - Palmetto or Black Forest

For grill marinades, we like to recommend a darker honey like Palmetto or Black Forest. You will want a honey with a rich enough flavor profile to stand up to the grill, and we love how just a little bit of one of these honeys will deepen and round out your favorite marinade. 

Best Honey for Roasting Vegetables - Lemon Tree

Roasted veggies are a dinner-table staple, and while there's nothing wrong with just a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper, we like to take our veggie prep to the next level with a little Lemon Tree Honey

Lemon Tree honey is light with a definite citrusy or even mineral taste and pairs superbly with veggie marinades. 

Best Honey for Soups, Stews, & Savory Sauces - Acacia & Buckwheat

Wait, what? Honey in soup or tomato sauces? We promise you that grandma's secret ingredient is probably a dash of sugar she forgets to mention. Instead of adding sugar, we like to include a drizzle of Acacia or Buckwheat honey in our soups, stews, and sauces. 

Acacia honey is great for light soups and sauces, while Buckwheat honey will add even more robust and deep flavor to heavy winter soups and stews. 

Best Honey for Cocktails - Ghost Pepper or Wild Lavender

Depending on your palate, we like to recommend either spicy Ghost Pepper Infused Honey or the lightly floral Wild Lavender Honey for cocktail simple syrups. 

The Wild Lavender is particularly delightful in spring and summer gin or vodka cocktails, while Ghost Pepper provides a sweet kick to margaritas or Bloody Marys. (Hint: Ghost Pepper honey is also great in marinades, drizzled on grilled fruit, or over fried chicken!)

"shop honey for baking and cooking" superimposed over image of dripping honey

 

What is Tupelo Honey?

You most likely have heard of Tupelo honey. This famous honey has made its way into multiple pop culture references, including the 1997 movie Ulee’s Gold, a film that follows a beekeeper and his family troubles. Both the famous 1971 Van Morrison album and title track, Tupelo Honey, written in Woodstock, New York, and Tim McGraw’s song, Southern Girl, mention love interests as sweet as Tupelo honey. But what exactly is Tupelo honey? What makes it stand out among the rest? Why has it been referred to as the champagne, or the Cadillac of honey? 

Tupelo honey is the blissful result of many different aspects of nature and labor coming together during a short period of time. Together Mother Nature, geography, and skilled beekeepers come together at just the right time to yield this sweet substance. 

Geography

One common misconception is that Tupelo honey hails from the city of Tupelo, Mississippi. Tupelo honey is only commercially produced in a specific geographic region of Southern Georgia and the Florida panhandle, home to the Apalachicola River Basin. This system of  winding rivers and swamps creates the perfect environment for Nyssa ogechee, also known as the White Tupelo, Ogechee Lime, or White Gum Tupelo tree, to thrive in large numbers. The roots and bases of this tree prefer to stay submerged in water. Most years, there is a Tupelo Honey festival held in the town of Wewahitchka, Florida. This area is notorious for its Tupelo Honey production, and here, beekeepers from the surrounding area come to show off their best product. There is a bit of a rivalry between which state, Georgia or Florida, produces the best of the best when it comes to Tupelo honey.

Environmental Risks

This region and its unique ecosystem have faced environmental factors that have led to a steady decline in Tupelo honey production since the mid 1900s. The New York Times now estimates that there are less than 200 beekeepers producing commercial amounts of Tupelo honey, as of 2019. Dams built along the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers and an increase in agriculture in Southwest Georgia have led to a decline in the floodplain and tributaries of the Apalachicola River. A 2006 U.S. Geological Survey Report, "Water-Level Decline in the Apalachicola River Florida from 1954 to 2004 and Effects on Floodplain Habitats”, shows the loss of 3.7 million white Ogeechee tupelo trees due to the increasing lack of floodplain water flow since 1954. Another U.S. Geological Survey Report, “Drier Forest Composition Associated With Hydrologic Change in the Apalachicola River Floodplain, Florida”, describes the loss of at least 44 percent of Ogeechee tupelo trees from 1976 to 2004. In October 2018, category 4 hurricane Micheal came through the river basin area of Florida and Georgia, and damaged beehives and Tupelo trees, throwing off the normal Spring bloom schedule and resulting in a poor harvest season. In addition to the normal threats to beehives, such as mites, pesticides, and Colony Collapse Disorder, the increasing commercialization and development along these river basins, a decrease in floodplain water levels, and other environmental factors like hurricanes, could lead to the production of Tupelo honey continuing to decrease over time.

Harvest Season

Historically, beekeepers constructed and used wooden barges to float their hives on, right in the rivers and swamps, as close as possible to Tupelo trees. In order to get their beehives on these floating barges, they had to transport their hives on boats. These days, it is more common that beekeepers use land located close to the river’s edge, and place their hives there, eliminating the extra labor of the boat to barge hive transport. Land close to the river’s edge is high in value to the beekeepers, and is either passed down through generations, or negotiated between beekeepers and landowners. The promise of a few jars of pure, fresh Tupelo honey in exchange for a few weeks of hive housing is one I, myself, would not turn down!

Beekeepers have to act right on schedule, as Tupelo trees only bloom for a few weeks between April and early May each spring. If the environmental conditions aren’t just right, and it is too windy, too dry, or too rainy, this window will be shortened. These imperfect conditions will disrupt the bees ability to collect the pollen and nectar necessary for a good harvest. Other plants and trees, such as the Black Tupelo, Ti-ti, Black Gum, and Willow bloom just before the desired Ogechee Tupelo tree, and beekeepers must make sure they empty their hives at just the right time and replace them with empty frames. The same goes for the end of the few week window, as other plants, such as Gallberry begin to bloom. The bees do not differentiate between one plant and another, and follow whatever nectar source is available at the time. It is up to the beekeeper’s perfect timing to ensure the honey harvest is truly monofloral. Vaughn Bryant, the director of palynology at Texas A&M, where he tests the exact pollen and nectar makeup of honey, says many samples people send to him believing to be Tupelo, are often Gallberry. This means the beekeeper’s timing of emptying the hives, both before and after, was off. This demonstrates the importance of environmental observance required of successful beekeepers.

Taste

Tupelo honey is unique for its high fructose to glucose ratio. Because of this ratio, raw Tupelo honey is very slow to, and rarely ever crystallizes. The higher fructose to glucose ratio also makes Tupelo honey one of the sweeter honey options. Fructose is less taxing on your body than some other forms of sugar, and less likely to result in any “sugar crash”. Fresh Tupelo honey, straight from the hive, takes on a slightly green hue, due to the green pollen of the trees. Tasting notes include at first, a touch of cinnamon, then jasmine or citrus, before opening to a light and buttery sweet finish. We suggest trying it paired with a lightly oxidized oolong tea, such as Nantou Four Seasons, our June Tea of the Month. Or try it as a sweetener in our summer tea "sangria" recipes!

Call to action Image: "Shop Tupelo Honey" super-imposed on an image of honey

How to Substitute Honey for Sugar in Baking

Sugar has a bit of a complicated socio-political history, and its reputation has only gotten more complicated in recent years with studies linking sugar consumption to heart disease and other chronic illnesses. 

So, it should come as no surprise that lots of us are looking for other alternative sweeteners like honey or maple syrup to flavor our cookies, cakes, tea, and coffee. 

Honey is an excellent and much healthier substitute for sugar in baked goods and cooking, but swapping honey for sugar is not without its challenges. Read on for our recommendations on how to make your favorite recipes with honey instead of sugar!

 baking with honey - a rustic baking scene featuring a bowl with flour, eggs, honey, and other ingredients in unmarked jars for baking

How to Substitute Honey for Sugar in Baking or Cooking

There is no magic ratio for substituting honey for sugar because they are not equivalent ingredients (honey is a liquid while sugar is dry; honey is sweeter than sugar, etc.), but as a general rule use 1/2-2/3 cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar... then follow the guidelines below to make sure your recipe still rises and doesn't burn!

Rules for Swapping Honey for Sugar in Baking and Cooking

1. Choose your honey wisely.

Anyone who's spent time doing the rounds in our honey room knows that honey comes in all sorts of colors and flavors. From our light and delicate Acacia honeys to the rich and dark Black Forest, each honey has its own character and flavor profile.

When baking or cooking with honey, it's important to take things like color and flavor into account. Just like you probably wouldn't sub brown sugar for granulated sugar, you might not want to sub a dark honey like Buckwheat in a recipe where the honey's robust and molasses-like flavor will overpower the other ingredients or make your batter oddly dark.

For everyday substitutions, we love the sweet and buttery flavor of our Alfalfa honey. Some quick breads like banana or zucchini bread might benefit from using Black Forest or Buckwheat honeys, but we recommend starting lighter and working your way around the color spectrum until you find your perfect fit!

2. Honey is much sweeter than sugar, so use 1/2 - 2/3 cup honey for every cup of sugar in your recipe. 

Because honey is sweeter than sugar, you might not want to substitute at a 1-1 ratio (even though you can up to one cup). We recommend experimenting with a ratio of 1/2 - 2/3 cups honey to 1 cup sugar. 

It's also worth noting here that a lot of American recipes tend to call for more sugar than they actually need, so don't be afraid to err on the low side with the sweetener!

3. Honey is a liquid ingredient, so you will need to adjust other liquid measurements.

Generally, you should subtract 1/4 total from your liquid ingredients for every cup of honey. Make sure you do this evenly, as baking is quite a bit like chemistry and things like fat content really matter!

4. Honey burns at a lower temperature than sugar, so don't forget to adjust your oven temp!

We recommend lowering your oven temp by about 25 degrees F when baking with honey. This will keep your baked good from getting too dark before it's finished baking through.

5. Add extra baking soda, even if it's already in the recipe. Trust us.

Adding 1/4 tsp of baking soda for every cup of honey will help balance the flavor, and because honey is acidic the baking soda-acid reaction will add a nice rise to your baked good!

6. Make your measuring cups and spoons non-stick.

Honey is very sticky, so using some crisco or oil to make your measuring tools non-stick is very helpful in the baking process!

Now it's up to you to get baking - share your successes and failures with us on Instagram, Facebook, or via email

 Click through CTA with "Shop Honey for Baking" Superimposed over image of dripping honey

 

 

The Health Benefits of Dark Honey

Look closely inside any bee hive, and you will find an army of bees working in unison to create a sweet, sweet thing: honey. Not only is honey a wonderful natural sweetener, there are also some amazing health benefits that can be gained from incorporating raw honey into your diet. While all honeys contain healthy minerals and antioxidants, these health benefits can be found in higher concentrations in certain dark honeys. Similarly to other goods, such as maple syrup, honey is classified by the USDA into different categories depending on color. These categories are: water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber and dark amber. The classification of honey color is measured using a tool called the Pfund Grader. A variety of factors contribute to the vast color variety of honeys available throughout the world. 

Photos by Kurt Wiegand

What is Dark Honey?

In order to produce a certain type of honey, beekeepers position their beehives in areas that contain a high concentration of plants the bees are intended to pollinate. While there is no saying exactly where a bee goes, and exactly what it chooses to gather nectar and pollen from, they generally remain within about a four mile radius when pollinating. This is how we get monofloral honey, or honey that contains over a certain percent sample of represented pollen. Certain plants that the bees pollinate have darker pollen and nectar, and contain different minerals in higher amounts that contribute to the darker color of the honey. Beekeepers will find the honey they harvest will be different colors in different seasons, based on what plants are in bloom and when. Honey that also remains inside of honeycomb for longer periods of time than other honeys can become darker in color, due to some oxidation. These combinations of factors contribute to the wide spectrum of honey color gradient that can be found in the world.

Is Dark Honey Healthier?

Raw honey in general has lots of health benefits. Raw honey is naturally antimicrobial, and contains minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Studies have also shown that some raw honey contains Lactobacillus probiotics (Shin H.S, 2005). However, darker honeys have been shown to contain higher amounts of these antioxidants, minerals, and enzymes. Lighter honeys have been recorded to contain about a 0.04% mineral content, when some darker honeys have been recorded to contain closer to 0.20% (Solayman, Md, 2015). Research seems to conclude that the minerals and antioxidants found in honey have a positive correlation, meaning darker honey has higher amounts of both. Minerals found in honey come from the environment and soil, and then into the plants that bees pollinate. Trace minerals are important to human health, and are needed for body function. Antioxidants are important to our health because they help our bodies fight free radicals, which can cause harm if they become too prevalent in our bodies. Antioxidants prevalent in higher concentrations in darker honeys include flavonoids, phenolic acids, and enzymes. Antioxidant and mineral content found in honey can be tested by measuring the electrical conductivity of a honey sample. Pretty neat!


Our Dark Honeys

 Sourwood

Sourwood honey is on the lighter side of our darker honeys, falling in the light amber category. This domestic honey comes from sourwood trees, growing in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and into Georgia. These trees bloom only for about three weeks, and produce high amounts of nectar, making them a highly desirable stop to honeybees! The pollen from the sourwood trees can also be an allergen to some, and it is said that regular consumption of raw sourwood honey can help folks ease these allergy symptoms. This honey has tasting notes of caramel, butter, and a touch of a spice or star anise in the aftertaste. A popular drink among farmers in the Appalachian region is the “switchel”, also known as the haymaker’s punch. This usually consists of a mix of ginger, apple cider vinegar, seltzer water, and sourwood honey. It can help ease stomach pain and be a natural refreshing source of electrolytes on a hot day, offering just some of benefits of honey and apple cider vinegar when working together. You can also use sourwood honey in gingerbread recipes, biscuits, as a pork glaze, or in black tea


Palmetto

The next darkest honey in our collection is Palmetto, falling into the amber category. This honey comes from saw palmetto trees. These slow-growing trees grow in the south, including Florida, where our Palmetto honey originates. Bees do not pollinate them until they are mature enough to produce enough nectar, or closer to 100 years old! This honey is harder to find and a beautiful result of nature working together over time. It has been said to rival the health benefits of manuka honey, since it is rich in similar enzymes, antioxidants, and antimicrobial compounds. Palmetto honey has a rich, sweet, and smoky flavor with light citrus and wood notes. We think it tastes almost like a toasted marshmallow, and recommend trying it with a smokier tea, like Lapsang Souchong or Russian Caravan.


Black Forest

Getting into the darker honey category of dark amber, we have our Spanish Black Forest honey. This unique honey does not come from the usual blossom nectar and pollen of a plant alone, but also from the help of some of our little friends, the aphids! Aphids and other plant sucking insects feed on trees, leaves, and sap to get their required nutrients. They need to work their way through lots of plant matter, which contains water, sugar, and amino acids, in order to get the right amount to keep them energized. The waste product that they don’t need is what we know as honeydew. They expel this sweet substance onto nearby leaves and branches in large quantities, where it is then utilized by other insects, like honey bees and ants. Because the honeydew is plant matter processed through the digestive system of the aphid, combined with some other pollen and nectar sources, and then processed by honeybees, it contains extra minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants than many other honeys. Honeydew honey is also said to be higher in certain oligosaccharides, or prebiotics that can have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria and digestion. We recommend trying honeydew honeys like our Spanish Black Forest over toast with eggs sprinkled with pepper and turmeric, or in rich earthy aged teas


Buckwheat

Buckwheat is our darkest honey, falling into the dark amber category. Buckwheat flowers grow in a variety of climates and can be found in different parts of the world, and ours comes from Washington state. A University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign study showed that honey made from the pollen and nectar of buckwheat flowers can have 20 times the antioxidant value of lighter honeys, such as sage honey. It is also said to be a natural intestinal health aid, as studies have shown it supports the growth of the good Bifidobacteria and restricts the growth of bad gut bacteria (Jiang et al, 2020). This honey is earthy, rich, and comparable to molasses. It pairs wonderfully with sharp cheeses, as a syrup substitute over breakfast, or as a marinade for barbecue. It also pairs nicely with rooibos based teas, like Saratoga Red Chai.

Overall, raw honey is an excellent and proven healthful alternative to other sweeteners. Buzz on over to our monofloral page to explore these dark honeys for yourself, and try them in your everyday routine, or in exciting new recipes. 


Resources and further reading:

Carbohydrate composition of honey from different floral sources and their influence on growth of selected intestinal bacteria: An in vitro comparison. Shin H.S; Ustunol Z. Food Res Int 38:721-728, 2005.

Honey  with High Levels of Antioxidants Can Provide Protection to Healthy Human Subjects. Derek D. Schramm; Malina Karim; Heather R. Schrader; Roberta R. Holt; Marcia Cardetti; and Carl L. Keen Departments of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at the University of California. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2003, 51 (6), pp 1732–1735

Jiang L;Xie M;Chen G;Qiao J;Zhang H;Zeng X; “Phenolics and Carbohydrates in Buckwheat Honey Regulate the Human Intestinal Microbiota.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 

Solayman, Md., et al. “Physicochemical Properties, Minerals, Trace Elements, and Heavy Metals in Honey of Different Origins: A Comprehensive Review.” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, vol. 15, no. 1, 2015, pp. 219–233., 

Terrab, Anass, et al. “Mineral Content and Electrical Conductivity of the Honeys Produced in Northwest Morocco and Their Contribution to the Characterisation of Unifloral Honeys.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 83, no. 7, 2003, pp. 637–643., 

University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. (1998, July 8). Dark Honey Has More Illness-Fighting Agents Than Light Honey. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 21, 2021






Beeswax: The building blocks of the hive

What is Beeswax?

A question that we often hear in our honey room is "What is beeswax?". The simple answer is that beeswax is the construction material of the hive. But over the centuries, humans have found many ingenious ways to use this incredible natural material - from candles to food-safe wraps. Most of us see beeswax products in our honey room and accept that it always has a warm yellow color and a sweetly fresh scent that makes a long- burning candle and we don't even question it. But why is that? What is beeswax used for in the hive and how have we adapted it to use in our everyday lives?

Bees On Honeycomb

Beeswax & The Hive

Beeswax forms the structure of the hive, which also serves as honey storage. The beeswax comb is constructed around the brood nest, where the queen deposits eggs. The honey is then stored in the combs around the brood nest but will be moved if the hive needs more space for the eggs laid by the queen. The beeswax forms the organization of the hive in order to keep the bee operations running smoothly.

How is Beeswax Made?

Swarm bees, the bees that set out to start a new hive, gorge on the honey stored in their current hive in order to produce the beeswax needed to start their new colony. The bees then digest the honey and convert the carbs into liquid beeswax. Beeswax is produced from a gland in the abdomen of honeybees and is excreted to create the hive itself. The female worker bees have 8 glands in their abdomens to produce the wax when it is time to build the honeycomb. The wax that is secreted hardens as soon as it hits the air and forms a wax scale. (Fun fact! Each wax scale is like a tree, under a microscope you can see the different layers of wax much like you can see the rings on a tree!)

Man-made hives consist of organized boxes and frames that facilitate easy inspection of the hive for beekeepers. Bee colonies draw out comb from the foundation provided to create a network for egg laying and honey production. The worker bees will usually secrete beeswax until they are around 17 days old. The wax glands of older worker bees will atrophy after they begin daily foraging flights. 

This seems like an extraordinarily complex process for a little bit of wax, but this also gives a new meaning to the old saying busy as a bee.

Using Beeswax 

Beeswax is a food-grade wax with a white color when fresh that develops its characteristic warm, yellow color as bees introduce different pollens to the hive. As a natural storage material, beeswax is hard to beat, and it also makes amazingly fragrant and long-burning candles and excellent body care products. 

Explore our beeswax products and their benefits:

Beeswax Candles

Lighting of Beeswax Tea Lights

From a local company in Saratoga, NY, our beeswax candles have a naturally slightly sweet and fresh fragrance. No two batches of candles are ever exactly the same, often varying in color from a pale gold to a rich, warm yellow depending on what the bees were pollinating! Beeswax candles have long been the gold-standard because they burn brighter and longer due to the high melting-point of beeswax.

Beeswax Honeypot

hand dripping honey from a wooden dipper into moulded beeswax honey pot

Gorgeously moulded into a honeypot shape, this decorative beeswax honeypot is a great way to store your honey the way nature intended while adding a bit of visual interest to your counter or shelf!

Bee's Wrap - Beeswax Food Wrap

package of beeswax food wrap

Sustainable and reusable, this flexible food wrap made from beeswax-coated cloth is the perfect substitute for plastic wrap (and has even been rumored to keep avocados green)!

Beeswax Bodycare by Honey Bee Rich

beeswax and olive oil handmade soaps

Honey Bee Rich creates locally made soap and body cremes using not only beeswax, but honey and our tea as well! Beeswax is an excellent ingredient for soap and lotions as it helps to create light barrier that seals moisture into your skin without leaving you feeling oily.

Check out our different beeswax gifts the next time you stop in!

Resources:

Tinto, W.F., Elufioye, T.O., & Roach, J. (2017). Waxes. In Pharmacognosy (pp. 443-455). Academic Press. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/beeswax

Menezes, J., & Athmaselvi, K.A. (2018). Report on Edible Films and Coating. In Food Packaging and Preservation (pp. 177-212). Academic Press. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/beeswax 

Connor, L. (2015). Beeswax. American Bee Journal. https://americanbeejournal.com/beeswax/

Why & How Bees Make Honey 🐝

The phrase “busy as a bee,” is one we hear plenty of times throughout our lives, but upon further researching about how and why honey is made, I have discovered how truly remarkable and hard-working these creatures are. The western honey bee, Apis mellifera, is a eusocial, or true social insect in the order Hymenoptera. This means that their colonies, or hives, include overlapping generations, a division of labor, and they partake in cooperative care of young, or larvae. Honey bees have developed these little worlds and high-functioning societies within their hives to make sure the collective needs of survival are met. 

There are about 20,000 known species of bees in the world, including bumblebees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, and carpenter bees. Out of these, a smaller percent produce honey. While not the only species that produce honey, Apis mellifera is the species that has been globally recognized as the honey bee. Honey bees are not native to North America, but were brought over by the European settlers in the 1600s (1). The act of beekeeping and consuming honey can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt. Since then, the domestication of bees has grown and developed, and they are currently an important aspect of agriculture in North America, not just for the honey they produce, but because they are also responsible for pollinating crops we rely on.

Bee on Flowers

Within honey bee colonies, different bees have different important roles. The queen is responsible for mating and laying eggs, ensuring the colony has enough members to keep surviving. Worker bees are female bees that are unable to mate. Their primary roles include gathering pollen and nectar. When worker bees are young, within the first few weeks of their lifespan, they are considered house bees, and spend their time maintaining the hive by defending it, tending to larvae and pupae (brood), producing wax and royal jelly, and clearing debris and dead bees from the hive. Worker bees make up the largest percent of the population within a colony. Drones are male honey bees, who develop from unfertilized eggs. Their only role is to fly to Drone Congregating Areas and mate with queens from other hives. Together, these different castes work together to ensure a colony is successful. 

So why do bees make honey? These active insects feed off of nectar and pollen. However, in order to successfully metabolize them and fulfill their dietary needs of vitamins, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and minerals, they need to change the chemical compositions of nectar and pollen into honey and bee bread (2). Honey is then stored long-term for colder months, or times when there is a lack of vegetation. Hives have high reproductive rates, and a healthy queen might lay up to 2,000 eggs each day. Therefore, there are many mouths to feed in a hive, averaging at about 40,000 bees.

Worker bees create wax, which they secrete through special glands. This wax is then chewed, softened and molded into honeycomb in order to store honey and house the brood. To create 1 pound of wax, bees must consume 8 pounds of honey (3). The bee brood consumes royal jelly, a substance secreted by worker bees and fed to the brood and potential queens. Worker bees consume a combination of pollen, nectar, digestive fluids, and honey called bee bread (4). To create all of these food and shelter sources, and feed a whole hive, honey bees need a lot of energy. They can fly up to 15 miles per hour, and visit millions of flowers in order to gather the nectar and pollen they need. They carry a high percentage of their own body weight when they gather nectar and pollen. After all of this tiring work, bees need high energy food sources. This is why they make and store honey. Having honey as a food source they can stockpile and overproduce in case of low pollen weather conditions creates a healthy hive prepared with a food and energy source for long-term survival. 

Bees need honey for survival. But how do they make it? The first step is gathering nectar and pollen from nearby flowers. honey bees will forage in about a five mile radius of their hive (5). Karl Von Frisch studied the ways in which honey bees communicate, and discovered that bees perform dances denoting how far and in what direction surrounding food sources are to other worker bees (6). They gather nectar with their proboscis, or a long tongue, and store it in a specially designed honey stomach, or crop. They gather pollen and store it in a specially designed basket on the back of their legs called a corbicula. 

Nectar starts out at about 80% water, and is thin, clear, and not very sweet. Once back at the hive, the worker bee will transfer it to a house bee, who chews it and transfers it to another house bee, who then chews it and transfers it. This process is repeated for up to about twenty minutes, once the nectar reaches only about 20% water (7). During the chewing process, the chemical compounds of the nectar are changed, and the enzyme invertase, found in a bees saliva, helps break down water content and change sugars into glucose and fructose (8). The transformed nectar substance is then deposited into honeycomb, where bees continue to remove water content by fanning it with their wings. Once it has reached the desired consistency it is covered with wax and stored until it is needed. Pollen is also stored until needed.

Due to selective breeding by beekeepers, and the bees' tendency to overproduce, it is not a threat to bees to harvest honey in moderation. Most beekeepers harvest honey twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Since bees stay within about five miles of their hive to collect pollen and nectar, beekeepers position their hives within that range of the desired plants they want the bees to pollinate. This is how monofloral honey is produced. For example, our Orange Blossom Honey is not infused with orange flavor from the fruit, but has an essence of orange flavor notes from the nectar and pollen gathered from the blossoms of orange trees and other nearby citrus plants flowering at the same time. 

Clearly, honey bees stay very busy to ensure a hive is working together in unison. We are so thankful for our ability to enjoy the sweet result of all their efforts. The next time you reach for your favorite honey, you may find yourself with a new appreciation for the bees that made it possible. 

 

Endnotes:

1.   https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/BeeBasics.pdf
2. Taylor, Michelle A., Alastair W. Robertson, Patrick J. Biggs, Kate K. Richards, Daniel F. Jones, and Shanthi G. Parkar. "The effect of carbohydrate sources: Sucrose, invert sugar and components of manuka honey, on core bacteria in the digestive tract of adult honey bees (Apis mellifera)." PLoS ONE 14, no. 12 (2019): e0225845. Gale Academic OneFile (accessed March 27, 2020). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A607540213/AONE?u=nysl_ca_she&sid=AONE&xid=54e4a537
3.  https://www.uaex.edu/farm-ranch/special-programs/beekeeping/about-honey-bees.aspx
4. http://nordicfoodlab.org/blog/2015/9/4/bee-bread
5.  https://www.perfectbee.com/learn-about-bees/the-life-of-bees/bees-make-honey
6.  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Karl-von-Frisch
7.  https://www.beeculture.com/the-chemistry-of-honey/
8.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h4uVVFCvVg

Catch Some Seriously Sweet Sleep with this Honey Hack! 😴

 

Lucky are those who sleep well for 8 hours straight. For some, getting a proper night’s sleep is near impossible and for many this involves midnight trips to the fridge. Dealing with insomnia can be really frustrating and being unable to sleep well for several nights in a row affects everyday life and performance. Fortunately there is an easy (and tasty!) remedy that can help you get a smooth and sound night’s sleep. And it works like magic!

This trick, backed by science will help you fall asleep almost instantly, dramatically improve the quality and length of your sleep and wake up refreshed and energetic everyday!

Thirty minutes before going to bed, take a teaspoon of your favorite raw honey with a sprinkle of sea salt and let it dissolve under your tongue. These two ingredients help prepare the body to rest throughout the whole night. The sugar contained in honey elevates the levels of insulin in the blood slightly, which then releases serotonin. When we are in a dark room, serotonin converts to melatonin which promotes restorative sleep. Honey also contains an adequate amount of glucose which the liver converts to glycogen for the brain. If there isn’t enough glycogen to provide fuel for the brain, the adrenal glands dump more stress hormones, namely, adrenaline and cortisol. And high amounts of these hormones contribute to disrupted sleep and consequently low energy in your hours awake.

The other ingredient in this magic mixture is sea salt. Sea salt can also help lower stress hormones, such as cortisol. Low levels of sodium can cause blood volume to decrease. The sympathetic nervous system responds by activating adrenaline and triggering the fight or flight response that then makes it difficult to get to sleep, and also remain asleep. Salt also helps in the production of energy so it will be sustained throughout the night. This, in addition to raw honey, reduces the impact of spikes in stress hormones, like cortisol that make you wake up in the middle of the night.

So tonight, grab your favorite jar of Saratoga Tea & Honey mono-floral or infused honey, get a nice spoonful and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and look forward to bedtime knowing that within moments you will be quickly drifting off into (and remaining in) a deep, restorative sleep!


For extra help, try our Field of Dreams herbal tisane! We also sell a sweet Field of Dreams Gift Basket with our Spanish Lavender Honey and a Moonspoon cherry wood tea infuser and honey dipper!

Surprisingly Sweet Side Effects of Raw Honey! 🍯

It’s no surprise that here at Saratoga Tea & Honey Company, we are BIG fans of honey! From sweetening our tea to livening up our breakfast, we all know how absolutely delicious honey is. However, many people are not aware of the array of health benefits raw honey has to offer! It is important to note that not all honey is created equal, the benefits we will be discussing today are found only in raw honey, like the varieties we proudly sell!

So what is raw honey? Well, raw honey is honey “as it exists in the beehive” -- unprocessed, unpasteurized, and straight from the hive! Raw honey is scraped from the honeycomb, filtered lightly to remove any wax debris, and drained into jars.

Unfortunately most of the honey found at grocery stores and consumed today is pasteurized, meaning its been heated and filtered many times which removes and destroys the pollen, propolis, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that naturally occur in raw honey. The pasteurization process robs the honey of its incredible nutritional value and health benefits! Sadly, many commercial honeys are also deceitfully cut with brown rice syrup, which is undetectable to testing! Pure, raw honey is the only way to ensure you’re getting the real deal!
But enough about that counterfeit honey, let’s get on to discussing raw honey and all of its glorious benefits! 

Seasonal Allergy Relief

Probably the most well known health benefit of raw, specifically local, honey is its ability to alleviate seasonal allergies! Raw Honey contains small amounts of bee pollen, which is known to provide natural allergy relief and boost your immune system. This process of using small doses of the “allergen” to prevent allergies is referred to as immunotherapy. When people are treated for allergies generally one of two methods is used, antihistamines or immunotherapy. Antihistamines rarely treat the cause of the problems, they merely lessen the effects. Immunotherapy on the other hand, allows your body to slowly adapt and build up a self-resistance by introducing small and controlled amounts of the allergen into your system. This method of using bee pollen as an effective allergy treatment has become very popular. Likewise, local honey can be used in a similar and effective way!

Natural & Effective Cough Suppressant!

Most people already know this one, but did you know that studies show that raw honey is just as effective, if not more, than over-the-counter cough medicines that contain dextromethorphan? Just a single dose of honey can reduce mucus secretion and coughs! 

Promising studies have also shown that raw honey, specifically the dark varieties which tend to be richer in antioxidants, can help inhibit the growth of the Streptococcus mutans, which in some forms causes strep throat, sometimes pneumonia, and also is responsible for dental plaque build-up and cavities! Impressed yet? Hold on, we have many more benefits to discuss!

 * Note, it is important that children under the age of 18 months not consume raw honey because it can sometimes contain small amounts of a bacteria that while harmless to older kids and adults, can be harmful to infants' digestive systems that are not mature enough to process it. 

Manage Weight

A study conducted by the University of Wyoming concluded that the consumption of raw honey with breakfast can activate hormones that help suppress the appetite. Meanwhile, the San Diego State University found that replacing sugar with honey can lower overall sugar consumption, which helps with weight control and lower blood sugar. A study on people with type 2 diabetes found that when compared to sugar, honey didn’t raise glucose levels as much but did increase insulin levels! This would indicate that honey can trigger the secretion of insulin which helps in keeping the blood sugar levels in check.

Rich in Antioxidants

Studies have shown that honey increases the antioxidant value of your blood. Honey contains varying concentrations of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are essentially molecules that are out of balance, and high levels of them are believed to make us more susceptible to many diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. One particular antioxidant called pinocembrin is only found in honey, is particularly associated with improved cognitive function and may be protective against Alzheimer’s disease! 

Improves Cholesterol Levels

In addition to honey’s other heart-healthy properties, studies have shown that consuming raw honey lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol by 6–11% and triglyceride levels by as much as 11%. It also may also increase "good" HDL cholesterol by about 2%! Combined with the antioxidant level and anti-inflammatory properties make honey an excellent choice to give you an extra edge in fighting cardiovascular disease!

Excellent Source of Energy

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel our bodies like to use for energy. Honey is carbohydrate rich due to its glucose and fructose content, making it a high-powered, natural energy food! Refined sugar provides empty calories, but raw honey contains small amounts of enzymes, amino acids, minerals and trace elements. And because it contains glucose it provides an easily absorbed supply of energy in the form of liver glycogen, which makes it an ideal choice for pre-workout energy fuel and post-workout recovery!

Promotes Restorative Sleep

Seems counterintuitive following the previous benefit, doesn't it? I guess you could say that raw honey is adaptogenic in that it provides equilibrium when and where you need it most! Consuming a spoonful of honey before bed also promotes the production of melatonin in the brain by creating a small spike in insulin levels which stimulates the release of tryptophan in the brain which then converts to serotonin, which then converts to melatonin. Wow, just thinking about all of the work our bodies do is making me tired! Long story short, eat honey before bed so your brain and your body can get to work rebuilding tissue and boosting your immune system while you get some shut-eye!

Topical Benefits: First Aid & Beauty

If you’re not already blown away by the plethora of health benefits from consuming honey, perhaps you will find these benefits from topical applications of honey impressive! Honey is anti-everything nasty, it is antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. This makes it tremendously beneficial for any skin issues you may be battling; whether you have acne, psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, dull skin, scarring, mild irritations, burns, and wounds, honey can help with healing and calming down irritation. Multiple studies have shown that honey is a natural antibacterial with wound-healing effects. It does some magic when it reacts with the body’s fluids and it creates hydrogen peroxide, making it an inhospitable environment for bacteria! Incredible! These same effects combined with it’s nourishing and moisturizing properties are what also makes honey effective against acne and some types of dermatitis such as psoriasis, eczema and dandruff. Honey can be used as a spot treatment, a mask, or added to face washes and moisturizers; a few drops emulsifies surprisingly easily with water, with no stickiness!

So there you have it folks! Honey not only tastes delicious, it has an impressive profile of health benefits, many of them well documented by science! It is recorded that the average person consumes more than 150 pounds of sweetener per year! Why not, swap your sugar and other sweeteners for raw honey and take advantage of all this golden nectar has to offer! 

5 Ways to Use Bee's Wrap

Bee's Wrap is a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap for food storage! So keep that leftover lemon half, a wedge of cheese, or bowl of salad fresh. Simply mold the reusable sheets, made from cotton muslin coated in beeswax, with the heat of your hands.  

Here are our top 5 ways to use Bee's Wrap

1. Specifically sized wraps make it easy to take your lunch on the go! We love wrapping peanut butter & honey sandwich for school lunches, picnics or a day out in the Adirondacks. Bee's Wrap Sandwich Wrap

 

2. Rolling out the dough, Bee's Wrap makes for a great counter cover while making your favorite pie crust.

 Bee's Wrap for Baking

3. Nothing is worse than having a half eaten fruit or vegetable that you know shouldn't go to waste. The variety pack allows for different size items to be covered such as a lemon, squash, or avocado! 

 

 Bee's Wrap for Storage

4. Summer get-togethers call for BBQ's filled with pasta salads and fruit bowls. We love keeping them fresh by molding the Bee's Wrap tightly over the edges. Just make sure you remember to bring it home! 

 

Bee's Wrap for Parties

5. Bee's Wrap is reusable and washable! So any way you can think to use it, you can multiple times! We are proud to carry this composable product in our honey room.

 

Shop it in-store or online!