Tropical Forest Products honey and beeswax suppliers

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Organic Forest honey or Wainwright's?

Same honey, same forest, same beekeepers, same us.

We have made a big decision to completely change the packaging of our Organic Forest Honey which has been a unique and popular variety on the honey shelves for the last 28 years. All this time we have actually been producing lots of other varieties of honey but under different sorts of labels; what we wanted to do was to unite all these various honeys into one recognisable range: Wainwright's . The Wainwright's range includes honey from our own hives in Wiltshire and Wales side by side with honey from the forest villages in Zambia and from other beekeepers around the world. The only thing that has changed is the label, it's the same honey from the same forest and the same beekeepers, packed by the same team at The Honey Factory in Aberystwyth.

When we work with the beekeepers in Africa we are not trying to teach them anything or get them to change their traditional methods, they are experts in the gentle art of forest beekeeping, our comrades in nurturing a strong and healthy bee population. Along the way we have met other kindred beekeeping spirits in Spain and France producing wonderful honeys from the landscape around their apiaries and we have added these honeys to our range.

There might be many reasons why a customer will buy a jar of honey, appearance, price, organic etc., but for them to come back and buy it time after time they have to love the flavour. This is the reason for the success of our Organic Forest Honey over the years, recognised with 3 Great Taste stars. So all the honeys in our range have been selected to live up to this standard of distinctive and individual taste.

Wainwright's jar, label (and price)

Wainwright's unites our honeys into one recognisable range; we chose a simple Italian-designed jar to showcase the honeys inside. For many customers this means a slightly larger jar and more delicious honey on the table. For our Waitrose customers this means a smaller jar - 380g instead of 454g. We wanted the new Wainwright's label to be bold and visually quite different to other honeys on the shelves, to show off (a little) about the honeys and beekeepers we've been proud to work with for many years as well as introduce new exciting varieties. We hope you like it!

And then there is the gnarly question of price. The Pound has had a tough time with exchange rates in recent years but we will not compromise on supporting our forest beekeepers. So while we commit to supporting them with a fairly traded price (we buy the African honeys in US Dollars) we have seen our own margins become slimmer and slimmer, combined with the ever-increasing cost of jars, lids and, well, pretty much everything that goes towards bringing honey from the hive to the table. (We also commit to paying our staff the Living Wage as set by the Living Wage Foundation as a minimum, our own crew are just as important to us.) We want to be here for many years to come, supplying top quality and interesting honey varieties but to do this we needed to increase prices. It's never easy to do but the time came when it was necessary. We hope you'll love the new Wainwright's as much as the past jar and design. Same honey, same forest, same beekeepers, same us.

Do we sell by Mail Order?

We concentrate on supplying bulk and wholesale customers and so aren’t able to offer a personal mail order service, but there are plenty of ways to buy and enjoy our table honeys. There are several online companies offering our products such as Suma, Essential and Amazon.

Our honey can be found in many wholesalers, independent health food shops and supermarkets.

Look on our Where to Buy page to see where our honey is sold.

Is the honey ‘raw’?

This is a very commonly asked question! The true answer is: it depends.

The term ‘raw’ originated in the USA where the vast majority of honey is pasteurised (heated to 70C plus) and highly filtered to 5 microns in order to keep the honey very clear and stop crystallisation. The fine filtering is designed to remove pollen from the honey. ‘Raw’ honey, by contrast, does not get heated or filtered to this extent and still has all of the natural pollen content.

Crystalisation of honey is a natural process. All honeys, without heat treatment, will crystalise, or set, over time. The speed at which this happens depends on the forage available to the bees and, as such, the particular ratios of natural plant sugars in the honey, as well as the temperature at which it is stored. Honey from oilseed rape, for example, crystalises very fast. We have to work quickly to extract this honey before it sets solid in the frames, but it does produce a classic set spring honey, floral and sweet. On the other hand, our Welsh summer honey comes from blackberry and willowherb and takes a long time to set.

We don’t pasteurise our honey but warm it gently, for as little time as possible, to around 40-45C, similar to the temperature of a hive. This is simply to enable us to move it from storage containers, through a filter, and then into jars or tubs for sale. We use minimal filtration, using a coarse 200 microns sieve. This leaves the pollen grains in the honey, one reason that our honey tastes so good.

In its true sense ‘raw’ means the honey is not heated or filtered in any way: the beekeeper takes a frame of comb honey, spins it to extract the honey under centrifugal force, and pours the resulting liquid, bits and all, into a jar. Trading Standards would not be too keen on this process, indeed they do not recommend using the term ‘raw’ since it is too ambiguous (and which is why it no longer appears on our rebranded Wainwright’s label). However we take huge care to look after our honey. After all, we’ve spent most of the year tending the bees and making sure that we have honey to harvest, so every drop is important to us.

The organic forest honey is pressed from the combs so it retains a lot of the natural pollen content as compared with conventional centrifugally extracted honey. The pollen gives the honey a lot of flavour and also some of the beneficial properties of forest trees. Pollen grains are high in protein and enzymes. The honey comes from a very diverse forest with hundreds of different tree species producing nectar and pollen that the bees feed on, each plant producing a range of compounds as well as sugars in its nectar.

Is your African honey FairTrade?

Our African honey does not carry the Fairtrade mark but is fairly traded. We describe our honey as Fair Trade as it is produced by individual smallholders, we pay a fair price which is revised each year (currently 30% higher than the Fairtrade price) and we have a long term, stable relationship with our suppliers. Judge for yourself by following the stories of where our honey (and beeswax) comes from, here.

Our labels have described the honey as ‘Fair Trade’ for a long time, since before the ‘Fairtrade’ mark was registered. At one time we did have the honey production certified and used the Fairtrade mark. After some years Fairtrade rules required the beekeepers to change the way they were organised. Since we did not want to force the beekeepers to make any changes we stopped using the Fairtrade mark and have not found that this made any impact on our sales.

Do you supply bees and queens?

We do not supply bees and queens since we use all the ones we produce in our own bee farming operations. In any case, we have found that bees prosper when they are bred from locally adapted stock and would recommend beekeepers to do this whenever possible. The most important factor when breeding bees is to avoid inbreeding, which can easily happen if you select your breeder queens from too small a population.

We have 8 lines and select the best from 4 to breed from each year. This seems to be a minimum gene pool as indicated by research from Bangor University.

Are bees in danger of dying out?

There has been a lot of talk in the press about ‘colony collapse disorder’ and the decline of bee populations, both honeybees and bumblebees. Honeybees face a lot of challenges in today’s rural environment: loss of forage habitat, toxic agricultural sprays, lack of a varied diet etc. But in my opinion the biggest factor is the decline in bee farming; we have lost 60% of our managed bee colonies in the last 30 years, far more than in other EU countries. On my own bee farm I have found that I am able to maintain the health and number of my beehives through careful husbandry. The most important aspects are careful selection of queens and bringing on a large proportion of new stock each year in the form of small nucleus hives. We need to increase efforts to encourage more young people to make a career in bee farming, for example with the Bee Farmers Association apprentice scheme.

How do you produce different varieties of honey?

People often ask how we ensure that the bees forage only on one plant species. After all, we cannot tell a bee where it is allowed to go or constrain it with a fence. In some cases we move our hives into a place where there is a massive nectar crop to be gathered, such as a field of borage or a heather moor. In this case, the bees will keep to the crop as it is by far the best source of nectar available to them, so the honey produced will be typical of this crop. In other cases, the bees are foraging in a mixed environment with many different potential nectar sources. However, they don’t gather nectar steadily throughout the summer, it comes in bursts when the weather is favourable. The bees might gather all of their crop in a 10-day heatwave period. When this happens the honey will have the typical flavour and appearance of the nectar available at the time. Limetree honey is an example of this. We don’t usually produce it but if we get a few days of hot, humid weather at the right time then we can taste the distinctive flavour of lime in the honey.

Bee hives in Africa: traditional, frame and topbar

In my experience modern hives, both frame hives and top bar hives, have not usually been a great success in Africa. All of the honey and beeswax I have imported has come from traditional hives. The main reason is that ‘modern’ hives cost far more than traditional ones and are therefore less profitable. Bees in Africa seem to prosper better in a traditional hive. After all, these hives have been perfected by trial and error over hundreds of years to work in the local environment whereas the modern hives were developed in Europe and USA. Good quality honey can be produced in the traditional hives so long as the beekeeper is instructed in how to grade the honey and there is rigorous quality control at the point of buying the honey from the beekeeper. The amount of honey produced is the same in each case, it merely depends on the season and the size of the space available for the bees to fill with honeycombs. Traditional hives are good for maintaining a large, healthy population of bees since they can be made in great numbers and hung up throughout the forest. They are cropped every two years or so which means that the bees are not kept on combs older than two years, avoiding the build up of diseases. This was something known in the UK in the 19th century but unfortunately forgotten in recent years. Now European beekeepers are having to learn this the hard way as they loose a lot of colonies from preventable diseases, something that does not happen in Africa. This healthy population of bees is maintained by the process of survival of the fittest, there is no use of chemicals and veterinary medicines as in the West. Consequently, the African bees quickly achieved a stable equilibrium with varroa mites whereas in the rest of the world these need to be controlled with chemicals.

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