Marie Antoinette's pastry slave (mark356) wrote,
Marie Antoinette's pastry slave


I was with a friend the other day and I mentioned that pine honey is really good. I bought some Greek fir honey from Follow the Honey, a honey store in Cambridge, a few years ago, and even though I only ever used it for normal things, I enjoyed its rich sweetness and piney scent every time I had it. The friend said that he'd never had pine honey, but there was a honey store nearby, so we went over to check it out.

Like Follow the Honey, this honey store sold mostly only honey, and a variety of them from across the country and across the world. There wasn't nearly as much selection-- I think there were only about 20 types of honey, as opposed to the hundreds in Follow the Honey. But I could still try all of the ones I was interested in.

I tried sakura honey, made from the nectar of the famous Japanese cherry blossoms-- very sweet, light, and with a faint floral hint. I liked it well enough, but would not pay the 3,000 yen (right now about $25) for 250 mL of it. The shopkeeper explained that since there are no very large collections of cherry trees, in order to make the honey, they bring the bees to one grove, then another, then another. And since being trucked places a lot of stress on the bees, many of them die on each trip. So making sakura honey is hugely labor-intensive and inefficient, but worth it for a small number of rich gourmets. He said that the same was true for almost all of the Japanese honeys made from a single plant: they're all made by driving bees from one grove to another, so even apple blossom honey is the same price.

I also tried shina tree honey. The man explained that the shina tree, also known as the Japanese lime, forms the basis for the old name of Nagano (Shinano) as well as place names like Tateshina. It was very dark, almost bitter, and somewhat caramelly. Finally, I tried haze honey, which he explained is relatively well-known in the Kansai region. The haze tree, also known as the Japanese wax tree, produces a lot of nectar, so it is somewhat easier to get honey from it. It is also caramelly and funky. He said that most Japanese people prefer the mildest and sweetest honeys, such as acacia honey, or wildflower honey. When I visited a Tokyo honey boutique, all of the honeys I tried there were all very sweet and plain, with maybe just a bit of a floral or fruity note-- nothing as strong as pine honey, or as deeply rich as dandelion honey (which I tasted here), and certainly nothing as peculiar as shina honey. I was interested in getting the shina honey, but I didn't have the cash on me.

When I got back home, I called up Follow the Honey again and asked them if $30 for 250 mL is a reasonable price. The lady there said that most of their honeys were about half of that, but some of them were more. Manuka honey from New Zealand is $38 for that amount. Also, the honey production in Japan is considerably less industrialized than it is in many other countries, so it'll be more labor-intensive to make, with high Japanese labor costs. Then factor in the costs of having a shop (and also, IMO, the fact that Japanese people generally don't like bizarre honeys), and that's about what it's going to cost. She also told me that they don't have any Japanese honeys, so any of the Japanese honeys I like would be a nice souvenir for friends or family, and she also asked me to give me the card of any of the Japanese honey shops when I get back to Boston. I promised I would.
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