Q. What makes Manuka honey unique, or where does it come from?
A. Manuka honey is produced when bees collect the nectar of the flowering Manuka tree, which is native to, and only grows in New Zealand.
Q. What does a Manuka tree look like, how big does it get?
A. Manuka trees when young resemble bushes or shrubs, and will grow thickly together covering hillsides often in a very dense pattern. Over time, as the tree matures, it will grow to about 15-20 feet, have a long slender trunk and a graceful canopy of foliage at the top.
Q. Does a special bee make Manuka honey?
A. No, there are two main honey bees used commercially the world over, the Italian and the Carniolan. We use both in our operations.
Q. How to you know your bees are collecting Manuka nectar, and not other floral types?
A. First we put the hives into areas that are dense with Manuka, and time the placement of the hives when the Manuka is starting to flower. There are very few other native species that flower while the Manuka is flowering, so there is little competition. Also, once the bees start working a floral type, the whole colony will work that nectar source until it is exhausted. At harvest, based on where the honey was stored in the hive, we can separate any pre-season or post season "bush" or mixed honey that they brought in. Lastly, we test our honey for pollen count, and activity level which gives us a final assurance as to what we are putting in the jar.
Q. Why do you use glass jars?
A. We think honey tastes better out of a glass jar, and we want the beautiful color of the honey to be visible. A lot of companies sell Manuka honey in opaque brown plastic jars so you can't see the product. They buy honey from different producers around NZ, and blend honey to hit a certain activity level. This results in a lot of variation in color from batch to batch, which would not look good on a store shelf.
Q. Does Manuka honey taste good?
A. Ours tastes great. Most Manuka has a bit of a strong taste or bite to it, and a bit of an after taste. We have had many New Zealanders tell us our Manuka honey is the best they have ever had. We attribute the great taste to the micro-climate in Taranaki, the only region we produce honey from. The Manuka in Taranaki flowers in Jan-Feb, which is later than the rest of New Zealand. We think the long hot summer days help the Manuka tree produce a sweeter nectar resulting in a much better tasting honey.
Q. What is "Active" Manuka honey?
A. Manuka honey contains a very unique anti-bacterial property that underpins the healing, wellness, and wound care applications of the honey. Manuka honey is tested for its concentration of Methylglyoxal, measured in parts per million (ppm). Methylglyoxal (aka, MGO, MG) has been found to correlate with the antibacterial property of the honey. The higher the MG level, the more effective the honey has been proven to be in the lab when exposed to bacterial agents.
Q. How is the "Activity" level labeled on the honey jar?
A. Using either the MG level directly, which ranges from 100-550 for most Manuka sold, or using an alternative scale termed either UMF (Unique Manuka Factor), or NPA (Non-Peroxide Activity). This scale ranges from 5-20 for most Manuka sold.
Q. What activity level should I buy?
A. For general health & wellness applications, anything greater than a 10+ NPA (250+ MG) will work great. If you have an exotic flesh eating infection that you are going to treat topically, we would suggest you look for a 20+ NPA (800+ MG).
Q. How is Bees & Trees Honey tested & labeled?
A. We use Hill Laboratories, the largest and best respected lab in New Zealand. We have the MG test done, with results reported to us on the NPA scale. We call it the "Bio-Activity Level" because we think NPA sounds a bit too clinical.
Q. How do you like to eat your Manuka honey?
A. I like mine in tea, or on toast. My wife prefers a big heaping teaspoon straight from the jar.