“Look out, it’s a bee!” No, it’s a cog in the intricate machinery of honey-making. Where would teatime be for many of us without honey?
Honey can sweeten your tea and add a delicious sticky sweetness to your toast, scones, crackers or other teatime treat. Of course, it can also get all over your fingers, teacups, spoons, knives, plates, tablecloth, napkin, lap, and just about everything you touch before washing it off your hands with hot water. But that unique taste is well worth it, don’t you think?
Honey is such an amazing substance, created from the nectar of various flowers. Which flowers the bees frequent make quite a difference in the flavor. An exotic kind is guajillo (gwa-hee-yoh) from the nectar of flowers of the guajillo plant in Texas. It blooms for about a couple of weeks a year. Beekeepers bring in their bees to soak up that nectar and turn it into one of the purest, sweetest honeys on the market. Clover blossoms, orange blossoms, wildflowers, and wild heather are others used.
Note: A misconception about honey is that it is made from pollen. Actually, the pollen sticks to the bee’s legs and is then carried to another blossom where some of it rubs off there, thus pollinating that blossom. All the while the bee is sucking up nectar to take back to the hive, where it is mixed with enzymes and stored in a beehive cell.
Such an amazing substance, honey has been collected by humans for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence that Egyptians in the days of the Pharaohs used honey as a sweetener and for embalming their dead. These days we have other options for the latter use but still apply honey for the former purpose.
Getting honey from the hive to your table is where humans take over from bees. It’s pretty easy, sort of. First, don a beekeeper suit (unless you like getting stung, that is). Then, pull out a cell panel from the hive box, scrape off the top crud, and let the raw honey drip into a container. Finally, hand the container over to someone who knows what to do with it and go to the store and buy yourself some honey. I’m a great believer in the division of labor, where those with specialized skills, such as honey making, are supported by people like me who buy their honey with money earned by our own skills.
Save yourself the sticky mess (or at least lessen it) by purchasing honey in a squeeze bottle, a cruet to pour from, or a honey “stick” (more like a straw) that you can snip off one end of and add the honey to your tea or suck the honey out for a true “main line” experience. If you’re a serious honey indulger, try a honey pot, complete with a dipper (what I call a “drizzle stick”). Just hold the dipper over your teacup, scone, pancakes, or whatever, to let the honey succumb to gravity and break free, landing on its target. Honey pots are actually a great opportunity to add a “bit of cute” to your teatime. Some are beehive shaped. Others are emblazoned with cute sayings like “Meant to Bee” and “Sweet as Can Bee”.
A good tip about using honey to sweeten your tea is to add it in when the tea is piping hot. That helps dissolve the sugars (fructose and glucose) in the honey more evenly. But then, you might like big globs of honey at the bottom of your teacup. Personal preferences. Who am I to judge?
Now that you know about honey and tea, have a cuppa with a good book. How about The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King? The Beekeeper is super sleuth Sherlock Holmes, and his apprentice is… uh oh, that would be telling. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Make sure to check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!
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