Bees & Trees Journal

Articles, News, and Resources about Manuka Honey

Did you know that Manuka honey is similar to a fine wine? It takes months for Manuka honey to develop its full bioactivity strength. While all honey possesses antibacterial properties, the natural organic enzyme of dietary methylglyoxal (or MG) in Manuka honey makes it significantly stronger than “regular” honeys. The MG levels increase over the ensuing months following harvest, making a honey that is more effective from a wellness and healing standpoint. We age our honey one to two years to achieve the highest potency.

We are currently selling from batch 35 of our summer 2013 harvest. Most Manuka honey you see on the market does not have the extraction batch and the harvest year printed on the label because most Manuka producers blend many different honeys from various production sources into a “production batch” prior to packing. Producers do this so they can achieve a certain targeted activity number that they want to sell (e.g., 250, 400, 550MG). 

We prefer a more straightforward approach, and our honey goes from the hive to the jar from a single small batch. We think our approach is more wholesome, and preserves the great taste and uniqueness of the magic that the climate, the bees and the flowers collaborated on that season. Batch 35_2013 is the finest honey we’ve put in a jar to date. The texture is creamy, the taste is smooth and sweet, not overly sugary but complex, again like a fine wine. I can eat a spoonful, close my eyes and be back among the Manuka trees in flower on a hot February afternoon in a secluded valley in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. Try a jar today and see why we refer to Bees & Trees Manuka honey as the finest honey on the planet. www.beesandtrees.com

 

This image is taken from the heart of our Manuka cropping region, showing a mix of Manuka and native bush in the foreground, and Mt. Taranaki in that background, with a fresh covering of snow.

I just returned from a 4-week trip to New Zealand where we are preparing for the upcoming honey season in the Taranaki region. We had a very wet and eventful winter, with a record rainstorm in June which caused flooding and small landslides in the hilly back-country where the Manuka trees grow. However, spring has been drier with a good mix of sunny days, which are perfect conditions for the bees to begin their annual cycle.

At this time of the year, as the weather warms and various plants begin to flower, the queen starts to significantly increase her egg-laying to create more worker bees. Our beekeepers are especially busy now, checking on all of the hives to see how well they did over the winter months. We take particularly good care of our hives during this time to minimize the number of swarms. Swarming is a natural process which happens when food is abundant and a colony splits. This leaves behind a newly created queen while the old queen and a majority of the worker bees seek a new home in the surrounding area. We manage this natural tendency by creating ‘splits’ from stronger hives to balance any losses that may have been suffered by a weaker hive during the winter.

I spent a lot of time in and around our Manuka cropping sites on this visit. While the Manuka trees won’t start flowering until late December, there is a lot of flowering activity starting to come on in the surrounding native forest, or as New Zealanders call it, “the native”. Two native flowering trees that are especially attractive as nectar sources are the Rewarewa and the Kamahi.

                                      

Many of our hives that are in good proximity to the native will do especially well building up on these beautiful flowers prior to the Manuka starting to flower.

Due to the El Nino pattern happening this year in the Pacific Ocean, the longer-range weather forecast is calling for a hot dry summer. NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is predicting that this year's El Nino may be the strongest since a record year back in 1997-98, setting us up for a good long Manuka harvest in Taranaki. Bees & Trees is diligently at work to position our hives in the best locations and conditions during January – early March. We will have more news as the season progresses so check back in with us on our FaceBook page and here on our website.

We've updated our labeling to comply with recently released guidelines from the NZ government, Ministry for Primary Industries.  The new guidelines require only displaying the Methylglyoxal results vs. the old system where producers could either use the MG numbers or the various bio-active ratings (UMF for Unique Manuka Factor, NPA for Non-peroxide activity, etc.).  For years, the labs in New Zealand have been using the MG test as the means for determining the activity level of Manuka Honey.  All that has changed for us is how we display this information on the label.  On our web site, we'll continue to include the old ratings, while our customer's get used to the new system.  Post or e-mail sales@beesandtrees.com if you have questions about this change, or anything more you'd like to know about Manuka honey in general or Bees & Trees Manuka Honey.

We have just started shipping from our batch 35, of our March 2013 harvest.  If you have read earlier posts, you know that Manuka honey is aged before it is sold, not unlike a fine wine.  We hand selected and carefully taste tested all of the 2013 harvest, and settled on this batch to put our label on.  This batch has lab tested at 480+ Methylglyoxal (MG), which equates to 14+ on the bio-activity scale.  Recent changes in New Zealand labeling requirements will have all honey switching over to the MG scale soon for consistency and higher fidelity in how Manuka Honey is represented.  This honey is the best tasting, smoothest / creamiest honey we have every put in a jar.  If you have liked our honey in the past, you will love the 2013 harvest.  If you already love our honey, you will want to buy a bunch of this year's harvest.  

Best honey on the planet - bold statement, we can back it up.  Manuka honey is in a class by itself and valued the world over for its special properties.  If it were coffee, it would be Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, but that analogy does not do justice to how special Manuka is within the world of honey.  Within the world of Manuka Honey no one can match our quality.  We are producing from the Taranaki Region, which produces the best tasting Manuka Honey in New Zealand.  Taranaki is to Manuka Honey as Bordeaux is to French wine.  And you don't have to take our word for it, just go to www.oritain.com and type in our product code 32DK47 for an independent, scientifically defendable certificate of authenticity as to the location within New Zealand where this honey comes from.  Most other marketers of Manuka Honey buy in bulk from around the country, and blend the honey to achieve a desired activity level.  Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but then some people drink wine out of a cardboard box.  

The only way to get your Manuka Honey to be more raw, more natural, unblended, and unprocessed than buying it from us is to go to New Zealand and eat it out of the hive.  I'll be doing that in a couple of weeks as I head over to oversee the 2015 harvesting process.  Oh yeah, we also put our honey in a glass jar.  Why, well everything tastes better coming out of glass, and if you produced the best honey in the world, would you hide it in a brown plastic container?  

Honey Harvest 1 from Mike Everly on Vimeo.

 

We completed our harvest in New Zealand during March. I get a lot of questions about how we know we are getting Manuka honey in our hives. There are 3 or 4 parts to the answer (see FAQ page for more), one of which is depicted here as we separate Manuka honey from any native "bush" or other mixed floral types at harvest.

 Last May, I posted information on honey granulation.  At that time, we had a batch of honey that was a bit more coarsely granulated than our earlier batches.  Through further research and testing we have found the packing process can be a significant factor in how the honey "sets up" after packing.  The good news is the current batch that we are shipping has a much nicer finish, and is more consistent with our earlier batches.  We welcome customer feedback and hope you enjoy our honey in its natural raw state.  We want to provide it as close to the way the bees make it as possible.

I've posted a chart that provides the correlation between our honey's bioactivity rating, which we test as NPA or Non-Peroxide Activity to the other predominant scale of MGO or Methylglyoxal, which is stated in parts per million or ppm.

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Bee health, a worldwide problem, but much less of an issue in New Zealand due to a number of factors.

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  Why honey naturally granulates and how this might affect how you enjoy it.

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