Buzzing with joy

Blue Hills Honey managing director Nicola Charles with some of the gold medal winning varieties produced locally. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

Accolade. In the heart of the Tarkine grows the leatherwood blossom, an essential element in creating illustrious honey.

Catching onto the secret early was Blue Hills Honey, which recently collected a troop of medals at the 2017 Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards.

Adding nine gold medals, three silver and one bronze to their distinguished excellence status, winning categories included manuka, leatherwood, wilderness, blackberry, creamed and raw varieties.

Blue Hills Honey managing director Nicola Charles says the pristine environment and natural processes associated with its honey production create the distinctive taste.

“It is the area that the honey comes from, that is what makes it so good,” she says.

“We assist nature, we don’t try to manipulate nature. We coarse filter only, we don’t fine filter or ultra heat, and this preserves the natural qualities of the honey.

“That’s why we have fuller flavours and aroma.”

Established in 1955, Rueben Charles began beekeeping as a hobby before he and wife Beryl expanded production in the 1960s. His grandfather, Bernard had also kept bees as a hobby.

Now, the third generation family owned business has solidified its place in the niche market with notable accolades to their name.

Exporting 70 per cent of their product to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, Russia, Vietnam and the United Kingdom, the winning varieties will now display their respective award sticker on the jar, giving the product an advantage over fellow producers.

While the harvest season takes place between January and March, Mrs Charles says the winter months are crucial to the outcome of the summer harvest.

“The work behind the scenes occurs well before the honey harvest,” she said on Monday.

“The bees are starting to come out of winter hibernation now and the queen bee will start reproducing.”

There are 1800 hives spread throughout the region, and the queen bee can lay up to 2000 eggs per day allowing hives to reach between 60,000 and 100,000 bees at their peak.

When honey begins to flow, apiarists collect the product to be graded, tested and packed at the Mawbanna processing facility. Blue Hills Honey produces up to 1000 tonnes of honey annually. Bi-product, such as wax, is also used to create various products.

Blue Hills Honey is now looking to further diversify the business and will expand into the tourism industry in the coming years.

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