The sweet (green) taste of Hawaii

Royal Hawaiian HoneysWith these cool mornings and longer days, steaming hot coffee or tea helps start the day. For sweetness, instead of sugar, stevia or the pink-or-blue stuff, my favorite is honey.

I recently came across rich Royal Hawaiian Honey, from Tropical Traders Specialty Foods. This artisan product originates from Hawaii’s Big Island. One of only a handful of family-run apiaries in the U.S., these 100 percent raw honeys are certified organic by the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association.

Most commercial honey is heated, blended and filtered, losing its nutritional properties, unique flavor and characteristics. But heat’s never applied to Royal Hawaiian Honey’s raw product – in harvesting or production – and it’s never blended. To preserve its natural enzymes and nutritional values, the unfiltered honey’s harvested by using gravity and centrifugal force, strained, then bottled immediately.

“It’s a simple process, honoring the characteristics and flavors of the honey,” said Rebeca Krones, Tropical Traders’s co-founder.

In Hawaii, Krones’ father, Michael, breeds queen bees. He used to sell the honey by-product to honey packers until 2005, when Rebeca and her partner decided the product was too high quality to waste.

A centuries-old natural remedy, studies show raw honey helps with weight reduction, boosts immunity, and helps burns and wounds heal more quickly, due to presence of hydrogen peroxide. It’s a good antiseptic and anti-bacterial.

I’ve personally experienced honey’s ability to help balance blood sugar. A teaspoon helps me prevent a blood sugar drop, and tastes great!

Royal Hawaiian Honey comes in three varieties – the 3 main blooms on the Big Island. Only one of these isn’t organic – the Macadamia Nut Blossom honey – because no macadamia nut orchards are certified organic. This dark amber-colored honey has a rich, caramel-like flavor I loved.

The Christmas Berry – a pink peppercorn plant with white flowers that bloom in the Fall – is a light amber-colored, slightly grainy honey rich in antioxidants. Its flavor hints at brown sugar and molasses.

The third variety is the Lehua honey, from the lehua flower.

“The Lehua flower is one of the last surviving native species in Hawaii,” said Krones. Known as a “pioneer species”, the lehua’s one of the first plants to put roots down into lava after a lava flow, a regular occurrence in the Hawaiian islands.

Light golden Lehua Honey tastes of a creamy butterscotch with a floral scent.

Hawaii’s the only state to produce certified organic honey, due to being an isolated landmass. But the handwriting may be on the wall.

An aggressive Asian mite was found in 2008 on Oahu. Eradicating it through chemicals would eliminate Hawaii’s organic certification. There are some plant-based remedies, Krones said, but they’d affect both the mites and the bees, and the national organic program won’t allow these yet.

As a queen bee breeder, Krones’ father has been working on genetics and hopes his selective breeding will give him a leg up with this situation.

Tropical Traders is the first U.S. food company to be certified CarbonFree, offsetting their carbon footprint. They pay Carbonfund.org for their carbon emissions – from harvest through production, shipping and distribution. Carbonfund then invests in reforestation, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects around the world.

These delicious honeys range from $12 to $15 and are available at natural food stores in Hawaii and California and Whole Foods in Florida. Costco wholesale will offer them soon in the Bay area. They’re also available online.

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