Previously I shared with you the wonderful honey tasting activity with kids experience we had at home last week. As I mentioned, I got the idea (and tasting kit!) from Marina our our day trip to Red Bee Honey in Weston, Connecticut when we took a tour this past July.
A Tour of Red Bee Honey
You might just drive right by Red Bee Honey, nestled off the beaten path on a small road rolling through the town of Weston, Connecticut. We did!
Thankfully, GPS can help you find your way back to the little red sign by a wooden fence. Behind that fence is an idyllic wonderland of natural beauty you really shouldn’t miss out on!
The Red Bee honey house, still getting it’s final touches when we toured, houses a tasting room, store, honey packaging operation, and loft classroom.
The backyard of Red Bee Honey could be any homesteader’s backyard, complete with chickens, a garden tumbling with summer bounty, a frog pond surrounded by cat tails, and the “murmuring of innumerable bees” (Thanks, Tennyson).
Far in the back of the yard, red and yellow beehives range themselves in orderly meditation, as drones dutifully glide in and out, striped monks in service to their Queen.
Our boys delighted themselves watching for frogs in the pond, peering at bees sipping water from a lilypad. Stalking chickens in the grass.
I was fascinated by the soft hum of bees, the steady running of the drones. Marina let me don a real beekeeper’s uniform and go up close to the hives. Let me tell you, those uniforms are hot! We looked at an old hive, and the boys wondered at the smoker tool!
The kids also played endlessly with a honeybee puppet and read children’s bee books, thankfully provided by Red Bee assistant Kristine, who bless her heart, enthralled our two boys so I could have a chance to chat with Connecticut beekeeper Mariana.
More than just a beekeeper
Lots of people bee keep in Connecticut. I’m always seeing local honey for sale at farmers markets and country stores. So what makes Red Bee the place to stop? Beyond the beauty of the apiary, I found a deep well of bee, honey, and food tasting knowledge in owner and founder C. Marina Marchese!
You see, you might think all honey tastes the same. That honey is honey is honey. But after our family honey tasting experience with Marina, my tastebuds have been awakened to the nuances of honey flavor! And who better to learn from than Marina! From her bio:
Marina Marchese is the designer and beekeeper behind the beloved brand Red Bee Honey, and the author of Honeybee: Lessons from An Accidental Beekeeper and co-author of The Honey Connoisseur: Selecting, Tasting, and Pairing Honey. She is a Member of the Italian National Registry of Experts in the Sensory Analysis of Honey and founder of The American Honey Tasting Society.
Marina told us a few key honey facts I think everyone should know:
- Honey is the only raw, unprocessed sweetener found in nature.
- Honey is the only sweetener with flavor – all the other sweeteners are just “sweet,” but honey has innumerable flavor varieties depending on the flora in the area of the bees!
- The United States only produces about 1/3 of the honey we consume. Most honey is imported from Brazil!
The taste of honey…
With those facts in mind, after watching the bees, we headed inside for a decadent, gourmet honey tasting. The table was set beautifully, and side dishes of breads, mangos and more awaited. Five wine glasses with honey pooled in the their globes strung the middle of the table like amber gems on a necklace.Marina showed us her honey aroma and tasting wheel, a delightful creation that assisted us as we determined the various flavor notes of each honey variety. As we tasted each honey varietal, we checked out the wheel to find words for the sudden new flavors on our tongues! We sampled:
- Red Currant
It’s unbelievable the range of adjectives one can use to describe the flavor of honey: Fresh, Warm, Woody, Fruit, Animal, Vegetal… and deeper into Spicy, Earthy, Berry, Nut, Caramel… I feel like I never had so many words to describe flavors before! And I’m an English teacher!?
If these tasting words sound familiar to you, it’s probably because perhaps you have experience with wine tastings. Well, a honey tasting is similar, and Marina’s training in honey tasting does stem from the same concept as training the tongue for wine tasting.
Truly, once you’ve learned all these words for tasting flavor… you think about food differently. And that’s just Marina’s point. Oh I could have spent several more hours talking about food and flavor with Marina, both she and the topic are so interesting!
Shop and Learn at Red Bee Honey
But then… there was the lovely store to shop at… not just honey, but bee pollen, honeycomb, and skincare products, mugs, bags, and more! Did you know, Williams-Sonoma has even carried the Red Bee Honey Tasting Kit in their online collection!? I purchased one of these kits so I could have a honey tasting activity with kids at home – and we had a blast recreating our time at Red Bee!
Plus, Marina is also an author, so her honey books are also available. I’ve got her Honeybee memoir book and will let you know how it is (believe it or not, I am backlogged about three books deep right now for blog reviews!).
You could also take a tour (next summer!) or a class with Marina! Upstairs in the honey house is a loft room Marina has shaped up into a honey tasting area for larger classes and events. Keep an eye out on her website, Facebook page, and subscribe to her newsletter to get news on openings!
More Honey Posts!
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