Q&A with Paul Webb, co-founder of Black Bee HoneyJuly 19th, 2021
Bee-ing the bee lovers and keepers that we are here at The Newt (take a look at our Bee Safari and beeswax lipbalm workshops taking place this summer), we’re always keeping our eyes and ears open for fellow apiarists.
While our hives are humming with honey-producing activity, we like to bolster our own Somerset supply with that from British beekeeping brand, Black Bee Honey. You’ll find varieties like their Orchard Honey currently being drizzled over our estate granola during breakfast in our Garden Café, Summer Honey churned into gelato at the Gelateria, and further seasonal varieties available in our online pantry for you to enjoy at home.
Here, we talk to one of Black Bee Honey’s founders, Paul Webb, to better introduce you to the boys and the bees behind the brand.
Bees – what brought you to them and what made you decide to start your own beekeeping brand?
Both myself and Black Bee Honey’s other founding force, Chris Barnes, were working as graphic designers in London and decided we’d have a go at a beekeeping course in the city. We absolutely loved it, so much so that Chris actually went and worked on a bee farm in New Zealand for a bit. He got back and we started conversations then – what if we started up some sort of bee business?
We began with hives that we’d rent out across London spending our spare time tending to them and turning the honey into postcode-specific jars. They became really popular and before we knew it, we had over a million bees under our care. We still have hives in East London to this day but they’re all housed in a walled garden nature reserve – it’s a beautiful spot.
We began to look further afield to join hands with other beekeepers, like Peter Little at Allerford on Exmoor. He sold us our first hives actually and we learnt buckets from him. He’s a bit of a bee wizard.
So you left London and took things to the countryside. What is it that you specifically look for in a hive site?
We’ll only head to spots where the pesticide and farming levels are low. Today, we’ve grown to a network of 12 or so beekeepers across the country and we preference sites that gives us consistency in quality but also variation in flavour. Plus, we have to factor in seasonality as some locations don’t produce huge yields all year long.
Whereabouts are your hives and how does the taste differ from site to site, hive to hive?
Our Exmoor honey for example requires the hives to be moved onto the moor so the bees can gather pollen and nectar from the ling heather which only blooms for a few weeks a year. Our hives over on the Yorkshire moors on the other hand, where there’s also a bee diet of ling heather, produces a very different honey. It’s dark, glossy and aromatic unlike Exmoor’s light and heady floral profile.
Bees like to forage in a one-mile radius and that’s what drastically alters the tasting notes. That’s why we purposefully put some hives close to orchards, some by the sea and some up on the moors.
What makes Black Bee Honey so special?
We like to think there are a few things. The first, that we sustainably support British bees – the Apis Mellifera Mellifera, or the Black Bee, hence our name. They were almost extinct so it matters hugely to us to support their welfare. None of our honeys are blended or pasteurised – we believe in safeguarding their nutritional benefits and unique flavour profile.
If you had to pick a favourite honey of yours, what would it be?
Probably our Summer Honey from Exmoor where the bees feast on white clover, chestnut and bramble. It’s delicious.
Tell us something that’ll surprise us about bees.
There’s a long list but I remember being impressed finding our that a honey bee can fly at 15mph. That’s pretty fast for a small fellow! Another impressive fact is that bees have to gather nectar from two million flowers to make a pound of honey. But, it’d only take one ounce of that honey to fuel a bee to fly around the world!
Would you say you’ve become a bit of a ‘bee wizard’ now?
I’d like to think so. I have a colony living in the wall of my home in Somerset – that probably says a lot…