Oh, honey! Just like wine, coffee and olive oils, honey’s flavor depends on its source. In our region, there are hundreds of diverse flower compositions that are reflected in a variety of local honeys. At the Minnesota Honey Co. store in Minneapolis, tasting is believing. Think they all taste alike? Sidle up to the honey bar to experience the range of local honeys: light delicate basswood, fruity blueberry blossom, spicy goldenrod, dark buckwheat with a molasses finish.
Founded in 2013, the Minnesota Honey Co. space is small, lined with jars of golden nectar with labels identifying source and flavor profiles. You’ll find books, honey chocolates and confections, ice cream, lotions, potions, knickknacks and honey paraphernalia and pottery, some from the historic Round Barn near Red Wing, Minn.
It’s the brainchild of Kelley Flanders, a beekeeper who, through work at the Minnesota State Fair’s honey stand and engagement with other beekeepers, came to understand the challenges and opportunities of selling honey.
“For years, farmers markets, local festivals and the State Fair were the only outlets for specific varietals of local honey,” said Deb George, a business partner with Flanders. “So many customers want to be able to source specific honeys year-round. Beekeepers need a reliable retail outlet. It just made sense to open a store.”
George explained that it’s especially hard for small producers to sell to grocers and co-ops because their quantities are so small. Inevitably, they would sell to packers who mix, micro-filter and pasteurize much of the flavor and nutrition out of the honey.
But the Minnesota Honey Co. buys honey from smaller farms and markets the varietals under its own private label.
Many of our customers have sought us out for honey’s curative properties,” George said. “We have so many people tell us that our pollen-fortified wildflower honey and our honey propolis blend helps relieve their allergies.” [Propolis is tiny bits of resin from the hive.]
The Minnesota Honey Co. whips flavors into honey, too: amaretto, cinnamon, hazelnut and lemon honey. The chai honey, a blend of warm spices, is great in tea and perfect for drizzling over waffles. I’m partial to the vanilla honey, flecked with real vanilla bean; try it slathered on a warm rhubarb scone or drizzled over vanilla gelato topped with fresh raspberries.
Connecting small beekeepers to aficionados, the Minnesota Honey Co. offers a wide selection of local raw honey and hive-based products. More bees making honey means more plants are pollinating flowers and food for us all.
Minnesota Honey Co., 4956 Xerxes Av. S., Mpls., 612-920-3510. Open daily;mnhoney.net.