Bee-hive the scenes: How Travelling Bee Company creates their unique award-winning honey
The family-run business has created a real buzz in the North East.
‘Happy bees make the best honey’ is Travelling Bee Company’s ethos and that may be the secret ingredient to their award-winning honey.
The family-run, ethical business has created a real buzz in the North East bringing the best of British honey but also working with international beekeepers who share the same values to make honey made from across the world accessible to us.
But what makes Travelling Bee Company unique is that they travel around the region and Scotland with their hives pollinating crops and producing unique honey produce. (More about that later)
With over 18 million bees in their care, we go bee-hive the scenes with the owners, Mark, his son Callum and daughter Heather, to find out what makes their honey so special.
What makes your honey stand out?
Heather: Our diverse range of honey is eye-catching and starts conversations.
When customers are sampling our honey, they discover that there is a whole spectrum of flavours, colours and personalities unique to every honey. The world is vast and so is its honey, we try to supply our customers with honey from beekeepers that share our values. We feel that our products are recognised and pride ourselves on our beautiful branding, many of which now carry ‘Great Taste Award’ stars on both local and guest honey.
How is your honey different to what we buy in the supermarket?
Callum: ‘Raw’ honey is simply 100% pure honey, with no flavourings or syrups added. Unprocessed honey is honey that has not been pasteurised. Pasteurisation can destroy the honey’s natural properties.
Unfortunately, a lot of supermarket honey is a mix of several different kinds of honey and is known to be ‘bulked’ out with cheaper alternatives such as rice and corn syrup. They often overheat their honey too, killing off all the antioxidants, nutrients, and enzymes. Their honey is cheap but at the cost of cutting a lot of corners. Our honey is spun out of the comb, filtered once to take out any debris and poured straight into the jar ready to go. No heating, nothing added, with all the nutrients, minerals and natural flavours preserved just as the bees make it.
What makes Travelling Bee Company’s honey ‘high quality’?
Mark: Honey is taken from our bees when they have excess and can spare it. We usually remove the honey and within two days it has been extracted and stored in containers until ready to jar. We assess our own honey for taste, moisture content and filter but make sure all the pollen isn’t removed. We have won many awards for taste including several 3-star Great Taste Awards which is often seen as a benchmark of excellence.
Why do you move your bees around and does this affect the taste and type of honey?
Mark: One of our mottos is ‘following the flower’. Trees and plants come into flower at different times during the year and farmers plant different crops in their fields from year to year. To pollinate and make honey from food crops such as rape, beans and apples. Our bees are packed up early in the morning and transported to a new destination just as the crop is about to flower. When the bees wake up, they are in a new location with masses of flowers to fly to. Each time we move the bees we give them the opportunity to collect nectar from different plants and this is why the honey always tastes slightly different, but always delightful.
Why is being ethical important to you?
Heather: We employ only ethical beekeeping practices. We know that people care about traceability when it comes to their food, and rightly so. They want to know where their dairy, meat and vegetables are from, and we find that honey customers are no different.
What’s the most fulfilling part of a beekeeper’s job?
Callum: Nurturing a weak colony back to full strength is always very rewarding. It takes time and patience but once you see them going crazy in the summer sun bringing in pollen it’s great to see. The most consistently fulfilling part must be the opportunity we have to work within nature almost every day, especially in the summer months. I see a lot of wildlife going about their business wherever I go, I’m not much of a hippie, but you can learn a lot from taking a moment to just watch nature do its thing, whether it’s beautiful or cruel.
What’s the most challenging part of being a beekeeper?
Mark: The weather plays a huge part in beekeeping. Especially in the North East and into Scotland. If the weather is under 10 degrees and/or is lashing down with rain, then the bees don’t produce honey. They actually shut the front door and eat honey. So, they can be in the best location possible but after one or two weeks of bad weather and that honey crop has gone.
You will have probably noticed the mass of building projects, houses and factories popping up all over the region including on farmland. This and the use of pesticides seems to be a worrying trend. With our inner-city hives, we do have the added challenge of vandalism and so security is a major factor in selecting a location.
Talk to us about some of the guest honey suppliers you work with.
Heather: We work with like-minded beekeepers across the world. Some of these family-run businesses are amazingly similar to how we operate. During the season we are always in communication with each other about how the bees are, what the weather is like and asking for samples of the new harvest.
It is very important to us and our customers to know that the bees are looked after and that the honey is pure. One such supplier and friend is Adolfo (as seen in the corresponding image). He runs a family business, located in Aragon, Spain, that has been in operation for generations. They take their bees to the foot of Mount Moncayo in the vast forests of the National Park to produce blackberry honey. Quickly becoming a firm favourite with all our customers. Some of the other friends and suppliers are Hana from Czech, Andrei from Transylvania, Emil from Bulgaria and Nikos from Greece.
Where can we find your honey?
- On our website you’ll find numerous award-winning honeys and other honey-infused and bee-inspired products, such as organic lip balms, soaps and honey hampers which make perfect gifts.
- Jesmond Food Market on every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, located on the Armstrong Bridge. We alternate our guest honeys so that there is always something different each week, offering samples so you can try them before you buy.
- Cafes, delis, garden centres, food halls and restaurants based in Gateshead, Newcastle, Washington, Durham, Sunderland and Scotland including Inver restaurant situated on the west coast of Scotland where the owners, Pam and Rob, use our honey in some of their dishes and have been recognised as one of the top 100 restaurants in the UK – No.23, and in June 2022 were voted the best restaurant in Scotland.
- Fenwick Food Hall – Coming from a retail background and working in Fenwick Newcastle for many years, seeing a vast range of our honey stocked in their food hall makes me proud of how far we have come as a business.