Although I’ve had my fair share of wine, beer, and cider tastings, a guided honey tasting is something that I hadn’t heard of before. So you can imagine how intrigued I was when I came across the “Talk, Tour and Honey Tastings” workshop at Red Bee Apiary just in time for Valentine’s Day. Red Bee Apiary is an apiary in Weston, Connecticut. This is where beekeeper and author Carla Marina Marchese and her Red Bee team look after thousands of honeybees. Early on a Sunday afternoon, a handful of other attendees (mostly couples for Valentine’s Day) and I gathered at the Honey House Barn where Marina welcomed us and introduced herself.
Red Bee Apiary Honey House Barn
The main floor of the Honey House Barn had a large wooden dining table, sofas and a grandiose chandelier. Candles, green plants, and paintings decorated the room. There were many items on sale including Marina’s books, soaps, honeycombs, beeswax lip balm, pure honey, homemade skin care products and much more. All of these products are handmade on the premises.
Since it was raining, we couldn’t visit the bees in the apiary garden but Marina did an incredible job walking us through her 18-year journey as a honey connoisseur.
Marina became a beekeeper after her neighbor invited her to taste fresh honey from the beehive. What started out as an accidental hobby has led her to become a full-time beekeeper. She has since written two books and trained in Italy where she became passionate about identifying honey profiles.
Talking Honeybees & Honey
Throughout the talking segment, we learned how honeybees are docile insects that pollinate a lot of foods like blueberries, strawberries, avocados, almonds, chocolate chips, and oranges. We also learned how honeybees make honey and how the nectar source ultimately determines the color, smell, and taste of the honey produced.
Similar to how different regions affect the taste of wine, the same applies to honey.
Different types of honey will have different flavors depending on its origin. This is one of my biggest takeaways from the workshop!
In Connecticut, honeybees feed on wildflower, blueberries and orange blossom.
Honeybees have an incredible sense of smell and travel up to four miles.
Honeybee Colony Members
We also learned about the roles and responsibilities of different types of bees in the hive. Each beehive has a queen who is the only fertile bee. As queen bee, she stays in the hive and lays eggs. Drone bees are male bees that mate with the queen. Once they mate, they die shortly after. There are also infertile female worker bees in the hive who clean, feed the young, remove waste and make wax.
Throughout this segment, I appreciated the smooth jazz playing in the background.
Fun Fact: Honey provides lots of health benefits like building up your immune system and helping alleviate allergies.
Honey Tasting & Culinary Pairing
For the honey tasting, we were invited to dine upstairs.
The barn’s second floor had high ceilings which created a bright an airy space. The large window in the back let in a lot of natural light and looked out to the garden.
Our tables were neatly set with plates that had a variety of cheeses, fruits and vegetables. We were also offered water, a small serving of mead from Nordic Mood Meadery and four types of American honey.
Starting from left to right, we tasted the honey with the lightest color first.
Before drizzling the honey on our goat cheese, Marina invited us to note its aroma as she discussed how it was harvested and extracted from the hive. After a delicious bite, we talked about the differences in the pronounced and subtle honey flavors.
The Fall season Goldenrod honey had a rich amber color almost as dark as maple syrup. It smelled funky but paired well with the crunchy green snaps, Tahiti sauce, and black sesame seeds. Honey is sweet but can also be savory.
As a bonus, we were gifted chocolate beeswax lip balm for Valentine’s Day which I use often. Brown in color, I love how silky and hydrated the Red Bee Apiary lip balm makes my lips feel. It also lasts a considerable amount of time which is equally important.
The 90-minute “Talk, Tour and Honey Tastings” workshop at Red Bee Apiary was a great introduction to honeybees and local Connecticut beekeeping.
Marina answered all of our questions and enthusiastically shared her culinary passions with us. On the tour I learned so many interesting things about honeybees like how they aren’t native to the United States. Most honeybees are actually from Italy!
Before this honey tasting at Red Bee, I never thought about honey flavors but now I’ve learned a new skill that transcends honey! Red Bee Apiary has changed my perspective on nature, gardening, and food. I’ll never look at or taste honey the same way again!
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