The Magic of Place: Terroir White Honey

Posted on May 17, 2011 in Monthly Newsletters, Our Honey, Terroir | Short Link
Sunset in the Puako forest, where our White Honey is gathered

Sunset in the Puako forest, where our White Honey is gathered

People often ask what makes our honey so special? Our short answer is that we use meticulous harvesting and handling techniques; however, there is an essential element that provides the platform for all our beekeeping activities.  This element is where the honey comes from, and can be described as a sense of place, or ‘terroir.’ This special place imparts an extraordinary quality to our honey, which is gathered exclusively from this one unique dryland forest.

Terroir comes from the Latin word for land, terre. It was originally a French term used to denote the special characteristics that geography, geology and climate give to the unique foods cultivated in different regions. Examples include Champagne (from Champagne, France), Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Italy), Columbian coffee, Camambert cheese (from Normandy), and Vidalia onions (from Vidalia, Georgia). Humans also affect the quality of these special foods – for instance, through their decisions about which crop varieties to cultivate and animal breeds to raise, and which specific farming practices to use.

Our Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey is a prime example of a terroir food.  All our White (kiawe) honeys come from a single grove of kiawe trees on the Big Island of Hawaii. Known as the Puako forest, this rare environment was created by converging natural and human forces.

The Puako forest is located on the island’s leeward coast, meaning that it is sheltered from the prevailing northeasterly trade winds by the nearly 14,000 foot Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.

Owner/Beekeeper, Richard Spiegel, walking through the Puako apiary

Owner/Beekeeper, Richard Spiegel, walking through the Puako apiary

So, the Puako forest does not receive much rain – only about 7 inches per year. The climate is warm and dry, but a perennial source of brackish (salty) groundwater provides subterranean irrigation year-round. While most plants cannot tolerate Puako’s saline, coastal soils, the kiawe tree (Prosopis pallida) — a salt-tolerant legume native to coastal South America — is perfectly adapted.  Kiawe was brought to Hawaii from Peru by humans in the late 1820s. It was later spread by cattle, who ate the nutrient-rich bean pods, literally planting the Puako forest that exists today.

Luckily for us (and our honey-loving friends), the forest in Puako happens to be a classic oasis — isolated in the middle of a ‘lava desert’, created by Mauna Loa’s 1859 eruption. Since no other flowers bloom in such high abundance in this area, we are able to collect a monofloral honey, made solely from kiawe nectar.  This also allows for the production of organic honey, as Puako’s more than 1000 forested acres are free from synthetics, pesticides and other toxins.

View of Puako

View of Puako

These unique ecological features (isolation, abundant sunshine, dry weather,and constant irrigation) and human influence (the introduction of kiawe), combined with the bees’ tireless work, create the essence of our Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey. Our intention, as beekeepers, is to change it as little as possible, bringing you as close to a taste of this magical Hawaiian forest as possible! That is why we are committed to a raw, unfiltered, all-natural product.

This May, Puako is bursting with Spring flowers. Thankfully, our bees’ health also appears to be improving, and right now the kiawe honey flow is strong. Since all of our honeys are seasonal and limited in supply, you will be glad to know that our White Honey, is available right now through our online store.

We know that shipping has gotten expensive with rising oil prices, and many of our customers have found that ordering larger shipments, especially our eco six pack, helps them save money.

Blooming Kiawe flowers

Blooming Kiawe flowers

Ordering larger quantities at a time also helps conserve our precious natural resources, like fossil fuels.

Taking care of the environment is a huge part of who we are and what we do here at Volcano Island Honey Co. We are grateful and honored to share the rare and wonderful environment of the Puako forest with customers like you, who will appreciate the terroir that makes our exceptional honey possible.

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