My love of good ingredients and raw unadulterated honey comes from a family of food lovers. I grew up with eight brothers and sisters and a mum and dad who provided delicious meals both from our cultural roots of Yemen and from the local neighbourhood living and growing up in Sheffield in the north of England. A favourite would be a roast dinner with meat and all the trimmings including potatoes, mashed, chipped and roasted! You can see from a previous post, me and my mum making bint al sahn
on a visit back to the family home.
Meal times as you can imagine were busy and loud. Food is a way of bringing people together and sharing good conversation and spending time around food I believe makes people happy. Who knew that food would become my business combining so much of what I love. Balqees came about out of necessity to indulge my insatiable desire and lust for the most deliciously tantalising honey on earth, when I couldn’t get the constant supply in the market place to feed myself with this liquid gold coupled with its inaccessibility as a retail concept in malls this was the impetus that compelled me to change my career and follow my passion. In the process I rediscovered my roots in Yemen and worked with tribal elders who helped me form my honey cooperatives that have secured my supply chain from the revered Sidr Tree and other wonderful honeys from Yemen. This beautiful, pure and raw honey and many more I have discovered since my journey to the UAE the company was born over 7 years ago and we are currently celebrating our 5th anniversary in retail across the UAE.
Along with me exploring the world for interesting raw honey to bring back and share. I also love meeting people especially over a good meal as it reminds me of my childhood growing up in Sheffield enjoying mealtimes with my family as I believe food and ingredients inspire conversation and initiates dialogue. When you have a connection to food and ingredients you also have an appreciation as to how your food has come to your plate and gratitude for the people who work hard to produce it. Yes, its a business but you don’t have a business without people.
I was drawn to South Africa and finding out about their honey after tasting a mango cream honey I liked very much. I also like the fact South Africa doesn’t allow the use of antibiotics in their beekeeping processes and the Cape has a unique bio-diversity and Floral Kingdom
the honey bees are foraging on.
Here are more stories from South Africa and the Cape Peninsula and the people passionate about their raw honey, they also share their reasons why they love working in the business of honey.
Lashings of delicious raw eucalyptus & fynbos honey from Brother Bees
Greg started Brother Bees in Cape Town with business partner and friend, Mick, back in 2011 (he describes him as a ‘brother from another mother’ hence the name of the company). Greg was looking for a new career after retiring from professional kite surfing. The plan was hatched over a braii with farmer friends to start working with bees. There seems to be a theme of ‘adrenaline junkie’ types going onto work with bees. Over the years they honed their business into packaging and distribution as well as developing concepts like honey out of a tube or sachets which seems to be a new trend. I got to taste some complex honey as pictured above which has been tested in New Zealand against the UMF system as used for Manuka and this honey comes out at a 6 so although not certified this honey is on its way to being up there showing some antibacterial properties. For more on testing and Manuka.
Propolis used in educational workshops at the Cape Honey Factory
Cape Honey Factory situated in Stellenbosch is run by Nelson and his wife, its a place for their beekeeping and also has a restaurant and workshop space to run educational workshops for children and tourists. Nelson is a second generation beekeeper and he runs Q Bee honey group with his brothers. The have honey bee pollinators that pollinate fruit trees like apples, plums and pears creating delicious tasting raw honey. They are also part of the West Cape Bee Association. Nelson says he finds his work rewarding, both him and his wide are ex police officers and he says its not just for the love of bees and being in nature but he enjoys making a difference. He enjoys working with the pollination process and helping provide food for the future and help protect the bee numbers from dwindling. ‘I like making a difference for the country and for the business of bees’. Nelson explains that South Africa is a small industry compared to the US, Europe and Australia producing around 2000 tons in the Western Cape with around 22 varieties of honey and 3.5 – 4.5 tons in the rest of the country. There are many challenges as a beekeeper with fires, drought and disease threatening their livelihoods. He thinks that mostly the older and tougher beekeepers are still in business.
He mentions Albert Einstein’s quote from a pamphlet distributed by the National Union of French Apiculture, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”