Manuka Honey is one of the miracles of nature.
As the Europeans began colonizing the world during the Age of Discovery, they inadvertently gave the world the gift of Manuka honey. The European settlers who colonized New Zealand introduced the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) on New Zealand’s South Island after the New Zealand coast line was mapped by James Cook.
It is no surprise that these honey bees quickly found a friend in the manuka flower (Leptospermum scoparium) due to the diverse nature of the flower and its ability to thrive in most any geographic variants of the South Island. The flower is commonly found in wetland areas, on dry hillsides, sandy coastal woodlands, and the alpine forests. The manuka flower has five petals that are somewhat prickly to the touch. The petals are primarily white, but sometimes they can be pink. The color of the petals do not change the flavor profile or composition of the Manuka honey as the nectar is uniform throughout all flowers, however, the bees are more attracted to the pink flower due to their unique vision which allows them to view ultraviolet light.
The manuka flower blooms for about six-weeks in January, and over that six-week period the South Island honey bees gather up the sweet manuka nectar and begin the process of converting the nectar into honey.
The nectar is brought back to the hive where it is broken down into simple sugars. Excess moisture is evaporated through a combination of the unique hexagonal shape of the honeycomb and the bees’ wings as they flap. The end result is the liquid delicacy we know as honey.
Beekeepers then collect the honeycomb frames, known as supers by beekeepers, and remove the wax layer that keeps the honey safe within the honeycomb in a delicate process known as uncapping. Once the frames are removed and uncapped they are placed in what is known as an extractor. The extractor spins the frames forcing the honey out where it sticks to the sides of the extractor. Gravity then draws the honey down into a collection basin. The honey is allowed to sit in an airtight container for a few days — this allows the wax in the honey to rise to the top so it can be removed. Once the excess wax has been removed the honey is bottled for the world to enjoy!