Bees and teas just naturally go together. Whether it’s honey in your cuppa or the fact that without bees pollination doesn’t happen and crops don’t grow, bees are a very important part of tea time!
Honey, a wonder of nature, takes a lot of hard work — not by us, but by bees. The worker bees, to be specific. (The queen, her attendants, and the drones hang around the hive creating more bees.)
These worker bees fly around everywhere, their wings beating so fast that they create a buzzing sound. You’ll hear this as you are out mowing the lawn, weeding the flower beds, enjoying a tea time on your deck or patio, or chatting over the back fence with a neighbor.
The bees are attracted to bright colors so that they find flowers, sources of pollen, with ease. (If you wear bright colors outdoors, you could find bees attracted to you.) They land on the blossom, crawl around getting the nectar inside, and pick up pollen on their hairy back leg pair. Then they fly to another blossom, crawl around, get some nectar, brush off some of the pollen they picked up and pick up some new pollen, and repeat until they are full up with nectar. Then, it’s back to the hive (usually one constructed by humans for this purpose), deposit the nectar in a comb cell, diluting and adding enzymes to the nectar which thickens it, and then waxing over the cell to seal in the nectar. Time to head out again to repeat the process. Out. Back. Out. Back. Phew! No wonder people talk about being as busy as a bee!
Honey is usually collected by trained beekeepers, who lift honeycomb plates (called “supers”) out of the specially constructed hives. (They are separated from the queen bee’s area by a special screen, so no eggs have been laid in these honey-filled cells.) Some beekeepers scrape the plates and others use special machines that spin the plates so that centrifugal forces extracts the honey. Either way, the honey has to be “cleaned” so that wax and pieces of cell are removed. Some floats to the top and is skimmed off. Some sits at the bottom so that the honey can be poured off. The honey is either simply heated, strained, and jarred (raw honey) or filtered to remove pollen.
Honey at Tea Time
The role of honey at tea time is varied. It’s a sweetener, an ingredient, and a treat topper. You can add honey into your tea to sweeten it (honey as a sweetener is very distinctive in flavor, but stir well to dissolve). You can bake with it. You can top your scones, toast, English muffins, or other tea time treats with it.
You can add a certain flavor to your tea with depending on which honey you choose. Honey flavors will vary by the type of flowers the bees go to (each hive group seems to focus on a particular flower type), the time of year, and how processed after collected. I tend to like Tupelo honey, with its rich, smoothly sweet flavor. You might want to try orange blossom honey to give your tea a citrusy quality or some raspberry or cranberry honey for a fruity quality. Go floral with clover, apple blossom, pear blossom, and other honeys.
Celebrate those hard-working bees and have a sweet tea time with one simple thing — honey! Now, that’s multi-tasking. Enjoy!
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