Shatin Honey: a spoonful of pure liquid gold

February 17th, 2012 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

It’s right next to the 10’000 Budah’s Temple in Shatin that resides one of Hong Kong best honey maker: Mr. Yip from Wing Wo Bee Farm.

The sign at the bottom of the staircase

Before I even start to describe the honey, I believe important to bust one myth that is usually people’s first reaction when you talk about honey produced in a large [polluted] city. How does air pollution affects honey?

Check out this monitoring experience that was carried right next to Munich airport where bee hives were setup in the vicinity of the airport. You can’t get any closer to air pollution than that, including from the much feared heavy metals. The results were a surprise. All the honey was clean and free of any pollution. I guess nature makes all things great (until human decides to destroy it…)

However, other studies show that pollution actually confuse the honey bees ‘senses’. Apparently, bees have a very bad eye sight and they navigate using their senses. And with all the air pollution in certain areas, the bees are getting lost and the production rate of honey decreases.

Greeted by dozens of bee hives

Across the board, Mr Yip honeys are nice.

I brought back 2 jars of honey at home to use in tea and spread on toasted sourdough. One day, I brought back the winter honey at work to use it in a recipe and sampled it with my colleagues. We also compared it to other honeys we had. Yes, Hong Kong doesn’t have Manuka forest, chestnut trees or wild borage fields in its territory. Thus, the honey is indeed not as fragrant as the other kinds we’ve tried. Honey’s flavor comes from the flora were bees are harvesting their pollen.

While the honey is not ranking number one in terms of flavor, it remains a very good one and certainly suitable for baking and sweetening. Beside the flavor, the properties of the honey were perfect. But most importantly, it’s a good quality honey made locally and I find it very important to support the efforts of Mr. Yip and Mrs. Chan.

Bees coming and going with their load of pollen

The grid at the entrance of the hive is carefully cut to let the bees in and out, but the space are too small to allow their fatal enemies the hornets or the wasps to get inside. If you’ve seen an Asian Giant Hornet at work before, you will understand the precautions measure taken here. This is absolute madness! This BBC movie is super impressive!

The open beehive

What was also impressive was the little pollen lumps collected, dried and made available for sale. I asked Mr Yip where these were coming from and he said from the bees legs! I was really impressed and later found out that trays are placed on the base of the hive and the pollen lumps who happen to fall are then collected and dried.

Taking out the honeycomb

When Mr. Yip takes out the honeycomb he tells us to stay calm at all time and don’t get excited or else the bees will become excited. Despite the low temperature, I was starting to sweat!

Showing us the queen

Mr. Yip explained to us that there is only one queen per hive… I kind of knew that, but I was really surprised to learn that the Queen’s breed defines the kind of honey the bees will produce. Also, you will notice that Mr. Yip doesn’t use any protective gear nor did he smoke the bees beforehand. I was literally seating next to the hive and the bees were very peaceful. Bees are cool after all!

Can you spot the Queen? She is the larger one with a black body.

My new friends, the honey bees

Blowing to see the comb

Once you blow on the bees, they step aside...

The bees seal the comb when it's full of honey

Stay calm and try to smile was a hard thing holding the honeycomb!

Deserted comb - such a perfect architectural work from the bees!

Frame washed and drying

All the different products from the bees

Mr Yip produces a wide range of products and all the honeys are raw and aren’t heat treated, all natural! Amongst the most interesting product was that black color “honey” which consist of the unused hive blended with honey. Apparently good for flu treatment. My favorite was the creamy winter honey. Perfect on my sourdough bread!!

Buying local will help everyone for a better living. Keep the air clean and help local farmers. Visit Wing Wo honey website here for more information and the HK honey association website here.

Wax for candle making

Lovely and happy Mr. Yip and Mrs. Chan

Wasps, hornets, bees in very strong Chinese liquor

I haven’t tried that one, but I was assured by the honey makers that it was very good for rheumatism! :)

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