Honey As Hook

Honey Escazu

I held off on linking to this story below, by Jamie Tarabay. Seeing one of my favorite topics, honey, in the context of yet another international conflict, did not seem to fit with our platform; or perhaps I was just waiting for a way to connect that story to something closer to home. The hook came in the form of a visit last week to an apiary, set on a farm, during our time in Ithaca. The photo above is from our breakfast table yesterday, in Costa Rica, with a remarkably thick Greek-style yogurt complemented by a jar of honey from that apiary. Now the connection to that story is so close to home, it is in my home. The honey in the picture above is so different from commercial grade honey as to be inspirational — it made me seek out this article, after a month of waiting. Sometimes the hook needed to make a story make sense for sharing is gustatory…

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Adam Dean for The New York Times

What Could Come Between These Two Allies? A $100 Jar of Honey

New Zealand producers, in the face of protests by their Australian counterparts, want to trademark manuka honey, a costly nectar beloved by celebrities.

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A bee on a manuka bush at the visitor center in Paengaroa for Comvita, one of New Zealand’s largest producers of manuka honey. Adam Dean for The New York Times

PAENGAROA, New Zealand — Australia and New Zealand are at war.

Over honey.

Not just any honey, mind you — this stuff isn’t sold in plastic bear-shaped bottles. It’s manuka honey, a high-priced nectar ballyhooed by celebrities as a health and beauty elixir. (Scarlett Johansson smears it on her face; Laura Dern heals her children with it.)

Manuka-branded honey is so valuable that New Zealand producers have gone to court to argue that they alone should have the right to sell it, in much the same way that only France can claim Champagne with a capital C. They say they are the only source of guaranteed authentic manuka honey, from a single species of bush; their Australian counterparts have marshaled a point-by-point rebuttal that stretches all the way back to the Cretaceous Period.

That has left these two neighbors, so closely bound that Australia’s Constitution still welcomes New Zealand to become one of its states, locked in a bitter dispute encompassing science, culture, history and, yes, cold, hard commerce.

“For us, it’s a kick in the guts,” said Bert Seagrave, an Australian farmer with 4,200 beehives in the state of New South Wales. Losing the ability to brand his honey as manuka would cost him half a million dollars a year, he said.

Manuka honey sells for roughly $100 for 500 grams, or about 18 ounces, though higher grades can cost more. It has a nuttier taste than regular table honey, though at that price not many people are likely to be spreading it on their morning toast. Its promoters say it can soothe gastric inflammation and even help treat cuts and burns.

New Zealand makers of the honey have applied for trademarks in their own country as well as in Britain, the European Union, the United States and China — an especially lucrative market — among other places. Australian producers have filed papers in New Zealand and Britain opposing the applications…

Read the whole article here.

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