Learn the secrets to buying honey that's the bee's knees from an expert

Attending one of chef Germain Lehodey's informative tastings will give you a new appreciation for everyday ingredients

12 May 2021 - 15:17 By hilary biller
Honey comes in a range of hues from light, almost clear varieties, to those that are the colour of strong tea. Stock photo.
Honey comes in a range of hues from light, almost clear varieties, to those that are the colour of strong tea. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Petr Goskov

What is honey? It’s a sweet, yellow, viscous liquid produced by bees, and as we become more aware of our health and of finding ways to boost our immunity, so honey has become a valuable commodity.

Yet because bees are under extreme threat from growing urbanisation, over-population and the use of pesticides it’s become trickier to produce enough honey to meet the growing demand.

This means that golden coloured liquid in the bottle you bought may not always be as sweet as you think. As beekeeper Glen James told the Sunday Times, “As with any shortage, people try to stretch a limited resource with all kinds of added stuff. Some not too serious: they mix their honey with commercial honey. Yet others add sugar water or other liquids to make the honey go further.”

How to make sure what you’re buying is the real deal? Become a more informed consumer. A good place to start is to attend a honey tasting that will outline the benchmarks you need to look for to source a quality product.

Tshwane chef Germain Lehodey, a wine and food expert who has worked in the industry for many years, offers a honey tasting course. He’s well known for his inquisitiveness and superior knowledge about many of the ingredients we take for granted – I’ve attended a salt and soya sauce tasting he’s offered in the past. What I enjoy about the chef’s tastings is that he equips you with sufficient information to make an informed decision.

Chef Germain Lehodey.
Chef Germain Lehodey.
Image: Supplied

In his honey tastings, Lehodey kicks off by sharing the background on honey the history, insight into the work of bees, as well as the products from their hives, which reminds one of the incredible work these creatures do in the world. They may have a sting in their tale but the sweetness they’ve brought to our lives is immeasurable.

Next, you get to taste eight honeys from different parts of the country. The differences between them is remarkable. They range in colour from very light, almost clear honeys, to dark ones the colour of very strong tea. The flavours span from sickly sweet to those that sit comfortably on the palate; there are even some that have an unpleasant bitterness and viscosity.

These variations are impactful and afterwards, when Lehodey shares the make and origins of each type, it’s the nuances you picked up during the tasting that offer incredible insight into the quality of a product.

I came away from the tasting feeling empowered: I’ll never be duped into buying bad honey again.


Date: Saturday May 22

Time: 11am

Venue: Smack Pizza Co, 329 Rivonia Boulevard, Edenburg, Johannesburg.

Cost: R275. Payment in advance secures your place. The price includes the tasting, a booklet on honey and a pizza lunch, but excludes beverages.

Bookings: E-mail germainlehodey8@gmail.com or call 072-476-8161.