Interested in Manuka but maybe worried about whether it is genuine?
From Tim, Founder of The Raw Honey Shop (Raw Honey Man) on what makes Paul's Manuka a cut above the rest.
Are you worried about buying Manuka because you've read that there is a lot of fake Manuka?
Do you wonder what all this +10 etc is?
And how would you know if the Manuka is good quality?Back in April I got the chance to check out a man whose bees produce a lesser known type of Manuka, called Jelly Bush - which is Australian. But with the same antibacterial qualities as New Zealand Manuka - and with a much better flavour. (You can buy some here, if you want to get straight to the honey.)
Let me take you back to 23rd April, the day I got to meet Paul. I'd just driven 300 miles to meet Paul. Just a short ride in Australia! But although it was autumn the temperature had been at least 25 degrees and the air conditioning in my hire car wasn’t working.
So, I was hot and tired, and I’d been warned that the person I was about to meet can be a bit plain speaking.
Which was making me a little anxious. But then Australians are known for their plain speaking.
Anyway, I saw a friendly face outside the petrol station, where we’d arranged to meet. Yes, It was Paul.
Turns out there was no need to worry.
Soon I’m in his station wagon and Paul is talking ten to the dozen and we're heading out into the wilderness.
I’m here to get the low down on the Manuka he’s just started sending to the UK – known as Jelly Bush in Australia.
And I’ve heard about some other really interesting honeys he has – like a kind of connoisseurs Eucalyptus that only flowers every 20 years or so. And Tea Tree honey (which isn’t Manuka honey, whatever people might tell you).
Soon, we are bumping down a back road and I’m telling Paul about the concerns people have about Manuka.
‘You must get the stories here about fake Manuka’ I say to Paul.
Which is why I’ve been very wary of Manuka although we have sold a bit in the past from a biodynamic beekeeper called Bernard in New Zealand. But that source dried up.
More recently about 18 months ago I’d been sent some of Paul’s Manuka and liked it.
Not so medicinal tasting as New Zealand Manuka.
It has a smooth, floral flavour with a good bit of fragrant wild lavender, sweet and fruity with a slightly malty aftertaste and fairly clean finish, leaving just a hint of sweetness at the back of the mouth.
And there was a person behind it, someone who can vouch for it. Not just an anonymous trading company.
True, Manuka is very expensive, but there’s no doubt about the antibacterial qualities and the demand is much greater than the supply (which is why a lot of people sell fake Manuka)..
I’m happy that I’ve found an honest and ethical source.
Paul’s credentials are good.
Paul is signed up to B-Qual, a certification scheme that enables each jar to be traced back to its source, and sets strict quality standards. You can get a visit from inspectors at any time – so no room for funny business.Also Paul’s Manuka sample came with a test certificate for the rating - and when we did our test it matched up.
One of our principles here at The Raw Honey Shop is that we will only sell honey from beekeepers who meet our standards and who are prepared to put aside some time to show us how they go about things.
Beekeepers who treat their bees with the respect they deserve, who avoid antibiotics and other harsh treatments – and follow the principles of proper raw honey.
Paul’s given his (frank) views on some of the games that go on with Manuka and now we’ve pulled off the road and we are standing in a forest clearing with his hives in front of us.
I’m listening to Paul, he is in full flow and there’s a hum in the background. The bees are gathered on the outside of the hives, cooling off in the late afternoon.
Paul’s explaining about the antibacterial quality of Manuka.
All raw honey has some sort of antibacterial quality. It’s mainly due to the hydrogen peroxide that bee enzymes release into the honey. However, this tends to get weaker over time.
But the substance in Manuka that gives it its antibacterial quality increases for about 18 months after the honey has been extracted from the hive. And it’s not affected by light or heat, like the hydrogen peroxide that gives all raw honey an antibacterial quality.
The main substance that gives Manuka its antibacterial quality is called Methylglyoxal (MGO). Sometimes you will see a rating on Manuka, called UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) or sometimes it might be called NPA (Non Peroxide Activity). or it might give the rating in MGO.
The rating is related to the amount of Methylglyoxal in the honey, the equivalent of 10+ is reckoned to be pretty good. (There are online calculators.which will show exactly what an MGO rating is in the UMF scale.)
Paul doesn’t do anything to his Manuka apart from filter it, which is exactly what I was looking for.
A lot of Manuka is heated to concentrate the UMF further but Paul doesn't do this - because it could affect other qualities the honey has.
Paul talks quickly and he moves on to sharing his philosophy for creating good quality honey.
Basically, it is about keeping the bees healthy and happy.
Paul says other beekeepers use antibiotics and chemicals when the bees get sick but his philosophy is based on keeping the bees strong.
Good quality pollen is the key to everything says Paul. (Pollen is rich in amino acids, B vitamins and protein, giving bees the nutrition they need to remain fighting fit.)
‘Strong bees are able to fight off illness.
‘We don’t give our bees anything.
What this means for you is that the honey is pure. Antibiotics and chemical treatments given to bees can get into the honey.’
Paul starts talking about the soil and telling me that if the soil is white then the honey is poor. I marvel at his knowledge of the plants and trees - and total environment that is necessary for making good honey.
(A bit like the French concept of Terroir – which is about how the soil, the climate and the whole environment affects the flavour and goodness of produce from the land.)
This is important - the quality of the honey is directly related to the nutrients that the plant pulls up from the soil.
The essence of the honey is in the soil.
Paul knows every plant and tree in the bush and forest. Some trees will flower when there has been a drought, others when there’s been a cyclone. You’ve got to have an incredible knowledge to ‘read’ the forest and the bush so you know where you will get the very best honey..
Now here’s the big thing about Paul’s honey. It really is the cream of the crop because his bees will only make honey where the soil is right and where there is a good source of rich pollen to keep them strong and healthy.
My visit to Paul went all too quickly, as he had to head off very early the next day.
But before I left I got to meet his son Daniel, who is gradually taking over the whole operation as Paul is going to retire in a few years.
I get to see the extraction and packing process and get a couple of photos with the family.
You can also get some of the Manuka here, if you are interested.
You can get it in 250g, 500g and 7kg sizes. A jar can be in your hands within 48 hours.
If you want to speak to us call +44 (0) 1273 682109 or email email@example.com
All the best, Tim
PS: Here are the whole family. You can Daniel his son at the back along with Denille, Daniel's wife. And the grandchildren are at the front. Paul's business is a family business. He says they could expand but then he wouldn't have the control that they do over every little detail, which is key to the high quality of the honey they produce with the help of their bees.
PS: This is what the Raw Honey Shop is about
• Seeking out the best and most unusual and rare types of connoisseurs’ honey
• Honey as it was in the hive. Raw, cold pressed and unpasteurised
• Avoid antibiotics and other harsh treatments
• From small scale artisan beekeepers
• Only buy honey from beekeepers we have met and seen in action
• Monofloral and award-winning honeys like Oak, Wild Lavender and Mountain