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Carolina Oliveira
2 years ago
About Honey and its Epic Tale of Love

One of the oldest foods known to men, bees frequently featured in Egyptian hieroglyphs and symbolized royalty. Used as a sweetener, honey cakes were baked and used as offerings to the gods, not just by the Egyptians but by the Greeks, which also considered honey as medicine.


Honey and subproducts kept being important products for several decades until the 17th Century. That's when sugar arrived in Europe and became a luxury item, making honey less valuable. Nevertheless, bees kept being used as a symbol of power and force by the Catholic Church and some leaders. Napoleon's flag carried a single line of bees in flight, and his robe embroidered with golden bees.


With this epic and ancient history behind honey, it's even hard to imagine how this product, with so much intrinsic value, is now somehow undervalued. "There is a lot of fake honey produced around the world, and It's not easy for a consumer to know which honey is authentic. In Finland, the Finnish Beekeepers Association continually surveys domestic honey sold around the country, and they haven't yet found a single jar of fake honey, so buying Finnish honey is pretty safe. Still, the safest option is to buy your honey directly from the producer," says Tanja Oreto from Jyrkänpesän hunaja.


Adulterated honey is a problem, with misleading labels selling honey when it's made of syrup. There's not a single way to check adulteration, as there are many ways to falsify honey. In 2015, Chinese producers were responsible for 50% of honey exports to Europe, and as the adulteration bomb dropped, numbers have been lowering. In 2018, Chinese honey was 39% of the imports, followed by Ukraine, Argentina, and Mexico. As the largest consumers of honey in Europe are Germany, the United Kingdom (pre-Brexit), Belgium, Poland, and Spain, they receive most of the imported honey, which may be adulterated in several ways.


Finland's import value of honey in 2018 reached 10 million USD, mainly used in food industries, which is 0.5% of the world total — and only exporting 0.01% of the total production in the country. It means one amazing thing: Finland is consuming mostly local honey (and all of it). Vilma Jylkkä won in 2019 the award of best honey of the year by the Finnish Beekeepers' Association and has a very natural process "Honey from my orchard crystallizes freely into large crystals. This is why I have chosen to interfere as little as possible, so it retains all its enzymes as possible," says the award-winning producer.


Natural honey is a perfect sweetener with nutrients and antibacterial/antioxidant properties. Honey making is a modest activity in Finland with a production of 1,800 tons per year. As Antti Tarhuri from Ahontuvan Tarhat says, "beekeeping is relatively young, as is the honey culture and knowledge of bee products. Honey is used in tea but increasingly also in cooking, to which it belongs. Honey can cut strong aroma peaks and soften, bring out the taste of good raw material."


For us, consumers, it means perfect honey with different ranges of flavors and totally trustworthy. There are many articles and researches as studies say humanity possibly wouldn't survive without honeybees as they pollinate 70 of 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world, and climate change is a major threat. "Bees play a vital role in food production and food security. Honey has a smaller carbon footprint than sugar. When Finnish honey is produced nearby, emissions from transport are also lower. The undeniably important work of bees in pollination benefits nearby nature," affirms Aija Viitaniemi from Chef Bug.


But we can end this post with a better note, with writings from the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca, who dedicated to bees a poem that says "Honey is the epic of love, the materiality of the infinite. Soul and painful blood of flowers condensed through another spirit."


Photo by Santiago Esquivel on Unsplash

Edited 1 year ago
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