Bees forage in a three mile radius from the hive and as we travelled further from London to try different honeys, we realised that the variety in honey comes from what the bees have been foraging on. This lead to an understanding of the importance and role that bees play in pollinating over 30% of the food that we eat. As the recipe for Hiver started to develop, we were looking for another honey to complement the more citrusy and menthol flavours of London honey.
Then along came David Stott of Tomlow Bees in Warwickshire, and with him the chance for a fantastic day out at Fourayes Bramley Apple Orchard, Kent.
To ensure a good harvest for the Orchard, Fourayes farmer Ian Withernden is reliant on the bees that David brings to the farm to pollinate his crop - much of it destined for the nation's favourite apple pies. This happens during the bloom in April and the honey that the Tomlow bees produce during that period is called English Blossom honey.
As well as playing an important role in the taste and flavour of Hiver, we're proud that it is part of a bigger food cycle and means that we enjoy apple pies that little bit more.
Fourayes Bramley Apple Orchard
It was during Urban Food fortnight that we first discovered London Honey and the concept of Urban Beekeeping, but what does it mean?
Even within the city, we're surrounded by flora that Bees can forage on. Lime trees, acacia trees, lavender from people's window and herb boxes and even wild honeysuckle in railway arches, all pesticide-free. Beekeepers might set up a Hive in their allotment, on the roof of their apartment block or even look after Hives on behalf of businesses with a sustainable and ethical ethos - like the Tate Modern where you can buy honey that has been harvested from the Hives on their roofs and even enjoy a hop and honey cocktail that showcases what they've been up to behind the scenes.
Many of these Beekeepers have learnt the Art while already living in London and it was 'An Introduction to Bees and Beekeeping' one Saturday in Bermondsey at the London Honey Company where we first became hooked and had the chance to get hands on.
Most of the Urban Beekeepers are individuals with a passion for Bees, who enjoy the peace and quiet that the time inspecting the Hive will bring and sometimes even the view.
During the summer months you might find an urban beekeeper at a city Farmers Market but the stuff is in high demand as London Honey is award-winning and as unique in texture and flavour as Heather honey is.
Dale Gibson of Bermondsey Bees has given us his unique take on what it is to be an Urban Beekeeper.
My beekeeping journey started making frames for Barnaby Shaw at Walworth Garden Farm, as we waited for the other beekeeping novices to turn up.
They drifted in over the next 60 minutes, as I continued to bang out shallow National frames for Barnaby's hives.
“It can't get any more mind-numbingly boring than this”, I recall thinking. But that was before I encountered record-keeping: not just the hive data, but also the strict notation of any varroacides or other medicines introduced to the hive (batch number, expiry date, preferred sock colour etc). Oh boy, did I have a lot to learn!
I think every beekeeping course should include a module on how to stop your head falling off with boredom. Come to think of it, we're always aiming to avoid excitement like uncontrolled swarming, disease, aggressive bees, equipment failure and getting stung. Take away all that lot and beekeeping is, done well, a fundamentally monotonous activity. We beekeepers should seek out boredom in our beekeeping tasks. The reward is in the bees themselves – and the sheer delight of a happy, healthy hive exuding wafts of honey on a lazy summer evening.
They live outside. Generally.
Record-keeping. See my latest blog: Bureaucracy
Quantities of this consistently award-winning honey are limited and it sells out fast. Subscribers to my blog receive an invitation to place orders before it goes on sale to the general public. Also, look out for our stall at the Bermondsey Street Festival on 20th September 2014.
Join us at Bee Urban to get hands on for the full Hiver
Experience. Choose a date and session that suits you and be
sure to contact us if you'd like more information or something
bespoke arranging, we'll do our very best.
The session starts with a short introduction to Bees and Beekeeping in the city, the equipment and tools commonly used by Beekeepers as well as a first glimpse inside the hive. We'll then get suited and booted ready for a Hive inspection and the chance to help Hiver's Beekeeper, Barnaby Shaw in handling the frames and checking the health of the brood. After the fun of getting up close and personal with the 'Ladies', we'll relax over a tutored beer and food matching session before leaving you to explore the rest of Bee Urban and answer any questions. There's a small shop on site and Bee Urban is about a ten minute walk from Kennington Tube station.
Groups are of no more than ten people per session and in the case of really wet weather, we'll focus on inspecting the exhibition hive, working with the Beekeeping tools to build frames and harvesting honey. We'll provide a Beekeeping suit (including face protection) along with gloves on the day but please wear sensible flat shoes and bring socks. Feet should be fully covered.
We're available on email@example.com or 0203 198 9972 and we'll keep adding more dates all the time so if you're looking for something later in the summer, just drop us a line.
Honey is the only food containing all the substances necessary to sustain
life - enzymes, vitamins, minerals and water.
An incredible one third of all the food we eat is pollinated by bees.
Bees have five eyes, see 300 frames per second, and can see ultraviolet.
Honey never spoils - vats found in Tutankhamun's tomb were still edible 3000 years later.