Toast and Honey

Macadamia honey is delicious on toast and in herbal tea. Photo by Vaskoni | IST. Product shots by Dhanraj Emanuel.



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ELIZABET TRAVIS is an Editorial Intern.


December 2007

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Honeys, Sugars & Syrups

Big Island Bees Honey

All Natural Honey From Hawaii: Macadamia Nut Blossom, ‘Ohi’a Lehua Blossom & Wilelaiki Blossom

CAPSULE REPORT: This unfiltered artisan honey, collected by fourth-generation beekeepers, will open your eyes to the wonders of varietal honey. The ‘Ohi’a Lehua and Wilelaiki honeys are certified organic honey. The Hawaiian varietals, including macadamia, lehua and the transplanted wilelaiki (from a Brazilian tree), are pure, all natural, gourmet honey at its best.


Most people enjoy honey for its sweet, delicate quality and complementary flavors in tea, on toast and pancakes, in baked goods, salad dressings, marinades and glazes. We don’t often think about the blossom the nectar came from or how the bees came to find such flowers in the first place. Yet, as Big Island Bees states on its website, “The flower is to honey as the grape is to wine.” Get beyond the bland supermarket honeys, and you’ll find that there are truly individual flavors that are produced by each flower, the distinctive notes of which range from subtle to sledgehammer (anyone who has ever had buckwheat honey, unidentified, will exclaim that it tastes just like buckwheat pancakes).

While supermarket honeys are blends of the honeys of many flavors, purposely Weilaki Honeyreduced to a consistent common denominator (i.e., a sweet, generic honey flavor), varietal honey—that which comes from a specific flower species, also known as monofloral honey—can change from year to year in flavor and color, like wine, chocolate or any other “single origin” product. As with wine, the environment, or terroir, makes a big difference in the honey. Spicy, fruity and earthy are characteristics most often associated with wine, but a taste of Big Island Bees honey, from the trees of Hawaii’s Big Island, will remind your palate why honey became such a delicacy in the first place. Each of their three honeys is different in color, taste and texture. They’re a wonderful gift for a honey lover, and can make a honey lover out of anybody who is underwhelmed by the characterless, sweet stuff served in most homes and restaurants.
Shown: Wilelaiki Blossom Honey.

The Honey Varieties

There are three varieties of honey made by Big Island Bees: Macadamia Nut, ‘Ohi’a Lehua (pronounced O·HE·Uh Lay·WHO·Uh) and Wilelaiki (pronounced Willie-LIE-Key). While macadamia nut honey is not that hard to find, the ‘Ohi’a Lehua flower grows only in Hawaii, and the Christmasberry tree, from which the Wilelaiki blossom honey is made, is difficult to find outside of Hawaii and South America. As the flower of each tree is unique in its fragrance and nectar, it bestows unique qualities upon each of the honeys.

The honeys are made by transporting the bees to different sites at different times of year, following the blossoms: macadamia from February to April, they forage in the ‘Ohi’a forest from May to July and Wilelaiki from August to November. When there are no blossoms, the bees are fed 100% nectar. The honey itself is organic, unheated and unfiltered, in order to preserve the natural sugars and enzymes necessary for peak flavor and nutrition.

Macadamia Nut Blossom is sweet and nutty like the nuts the trees produce. There is a big, complex aroma with hints of leather and barnyard, and a tang with lemon notes on the palate. As with any product, there are all levels of quality; this is top-notch macadamia honey. With a soft, velvety texture and rich amber color, it is the one to reach for when you want something sweet on fruit or fruit salad, on pancakes and waffles or in herbal tea. But the flavors here are so wonderful, eating it by the spoonful is a treat when you want something sweet. It’s so much more satisfying than a typical candy bar, or even (gasp!) a spoonful of ice cream. Yes, it’s that good.

‘Ohi’a Lehua Blossom (certified 100% organic) comes with a myth; the blossom is a symbol of love and fidelity. The gods turned Lehua into a blossom in order to reunite her with her lover ‘Ohi’a’, who had been turned into a tree by the jealous volcano goddess, Pele.

The trees grow high on the slopes of Mauna Loa. The honey is light golden in color and is creme-style (a natural thick, grainy, spreadable texture) that makes it seem even sweeter than it is. You’ll love it on toast, with pears and blue cheese, in green tea.

Myths notwithstanding, it’s the most accessible of the honeys, gentle in flavor, sweet but not cloying, distinctive. In its crystallized state, the honey is chewy. You can liquefy it in hot water or the microwave. You can also ask for it by it’s shorter name, Lehua honey.

Lehua Honey
‘Ohi’a Lehua is a creme-style honey.

Wilelaiki Blossom (certified 100% organic) is a robust honey, with subtle smokiness, and a peppery finish—a connoisseur’s delight. You won’t mistake this for anything from the honey bear squeeze bottle. After we tasted this honey, we read that the tree is a transplanted pepper tree from Brazil (where it is known as the Christmasberry Blossom)—hence the peppery notes. It was introduced to Hawaii at the turn of the 20th century. A light amber in color (see the differences in the photo below), Wilelaiki honey is best paired with roasted meats and vegetables and cheese—not with traditional sweets, unless you enjoy cutting-edge pairings. Having enjoyed pink peppercorn ice cream, we’d like to try making it into a sweet, peppery ice cream. This is a gift for a gourmet.

We don’t doubt the bees that make these fine honeys are inspired; they live in Hawaii, after all. Learn more about honey bees (they’re 40 million years old!) and you’ll appreciate these honeys even more.

Macadamia Nut Blossom, ‘Ohi’a
Lehua Blossom (organic),
Wilelaiki Blossom (organic)

  • 3 9-Ounce Jars (Same Flavor)
  • Honey Sampler
    1 Jar Each Flavor

Buy online at

Hawaiian Honey
Shown from left: Wilelaiki Blossom, ‘Ohi’a Lehua Blossom and Macadamia Nut Honeys.

Prices and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.  Shipping is additional.

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