The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Review: Honey trip and bounty

sam's picture

Review: Honey trip and bounty


Until today, my only experience in life with honey has been whatever was on the shelf at the retail supermarkets.  Never really paid much attention.  Seemed decent enough on a piece of toast or something.   Over the past few months, I've used the supermarket-honey in various quantities in my own breads.   In smaller quantities, I can't detect it at all, and in larger quantities, there is an off-smell (to me), and not very appetizing.

There was a recent discussion here about how a lot of the honey we get at those supermarkets are from suspect origins, etc.  Yes, there is definitely something to it -- it's no conspiracy theory.

So, being curious, I got online and found a local honeybee farm here in the bay area, CA.   Marshall's Honey, run by Helene and Spencer, a husband and wife operation.   It is located in the Napa Valley, about a 45 minute drive for me.   I called ahead to make sure they were available, and they were, so today I took a drive up.

I found Helene working in the primary "processing" building (a small cottage style building).  Helene was super-friendly and warmly invited me in.  This wasn't a retail storefront, but their actual work-room.  It consisted of a press, a bunch of tanks, and some bees buzzing around (the bees were docile), and various glass jars, lids, and other work-items on shelves.   There were no filtration devices of any kind.  They just simply press the honeycombs, extract the honey, and keep the honey in tanks with a small spigot at the bottom.  There are little bits of pollen in this honey.  Each tank is a different strain of honey, and some are blends of various strains.  They maintain hives all throughout the SF bay area, and harvest new honey weekly.

I didn't know what to get, so Helene got me a tasting spoon, and she led me around to all the tanks, opened up the spigots, and I got to taste most of everything.   

Oh.   My.   Gosh.

I am not kidding around.  From the very first taste of the SF Bay Area Blend, it was like I'd been living in a black-and-white world, and Helene turned on the Technicolor for the first time.   This honey is absolutely incredible.  I've never tasted anything like it before.   The SF Bay Area blend is deeply rich, bold, and intoxicating.   Other strains like the Wild Blackberry and Orange Blossom are fruity.   It's amazing to taste a honey that is fruity.   Star Thistle tastes almost like candy.  We spent about 30 minutes tasting honeys, talking about honey, bees, and bread.   A very nice visit.   She doesn't need a marketing dept, the product sells itself.

I wanted to buy all of it, the tanks and everything.  :-)   But I decided upon 4 jars, which in itself is going overboard...   and I also got a few sampler-packs I plan to give out for holiday gifts.   Helene brought out new, empty glass jars and filled them up for me, straight from the spigots.  :-)

Do yourself a favor.   Try locating a local honey farmer in your area and get some natural unfiltered honey.  If there are none, call up the Marshalls and get some from them.

I wanted to take pictures of the place, but I didn't because since they didn't know me at all, they might have thought it weird if I pulled out a camera and started taking pictures.   This wasn't like some big industrial facility..   just a local farm...  in their personal work-room...

But here's the bounty.   From left to right:   Wild Blackberry, SF Bay Blend, Orange Blossom, and Star Thistle.  

All from bee hives around the bay area, CA.


BakerBen's picture

Great words on honey and the people involved with it that you met today.  I am a honey enthusiast too - I actually have a hive in my backyard.  Just started them this past Spring so I have not harvested any honey yet - the bees need about 40/50 pounds of honey for their own use to make it through the winter.  I can't wait till next summer when we should be having some of our own honey.  If you read about honey bees - and there is a tremendous amount of information on-line - they are truly very interesting insects.  Everything they do is so logical and strategic to both their existance and survival - it is hard to believe an organism can be so perfect.  Anyway it is great to hear someone else get so excited about honey - it truly is a wonderful and natural food if produced in a good and non-poluted environment.


sam's picture


Awesome you are raising your own bees.   Even if I had enough land and flowers around, I'm not sure I would be brave enough!  :-)   But oddly, even with some random bees flying around me today in the workshop, it didn't bother me at all.   (I am normally bee-averse for no apparent reason).

Also I met another customer who was buying honey that was harvested in his specific region of the SF bay area, and he was buying it for his allergies.   Not to say this is a replacement for any severe medical condition, but this guy swore by it.   The honey made from the local pollen he was allergic to, solved his allergies to the same pollen.   I guess it is like an inoculation.

When I initially arrived today, they showed me the main press they use to squash the honeycombs.   It was used recently.   There was still a mash of honeycomb and a little puddle of honey in it.   Helene scooped out some with her finger, and said to me, "Go ahead!", so I followed her lead and scooped out a small fingerful of a mash of comb+honey.   The texture was amazing.   It was *delicious*.

You've probably seen those nature shows of bears that are so persistent in the wild.  They just ruthlessly attack a hive and eat everything, even while getting stung a million times.   

Now I know why.   Hehe.  :)

The best of luck for you on your hive.    I bet it will be well, well worth it.



Rocketcaver's picture

The best honey you can get comes from local beekeepers, as you have discovered!  It really is amazing the difference it makes.  I have bees myself, have had for years.  My favorite treat is honey still in the comb sliced thin and spread on fresh home made biscuits.  Oh yeah!  Many, but not all, beekeepers can sell you "comb honey".  It's simply the bee comb (natural bee's wax) with the honey still in, as in before they pressed it.  You might think "Ooh, ick, wax!", but try it sometime.


EvaB's picture

but its a treat that I have very little of, my diabetes has fits when I load up on bread and honey, bad combination. But I've used it to make bread with, and will try to eat a bit more of it. It might help with my allergies! who knows!

What a beautiful bounty and getting some to give for gifts is a very nice person indeed!