Cape Town – When 19-year-old Sana Khan walked away with the platinum prize at the 2021 London International Honey Awards (LIHA), she attributed her success to her hereditary enthusiasm for organic honey.
Based in Athlone, the family-owned business, Beelal Honey, competed among global brands in a prestigious competition that aimed to encourage honey producers to sustain and improve the quality of their products in every element of honey’s usage and consumption.
As the standard quality of Beelal Honey was handed down from grandmother to granddaughter, Khan took these recipes with her to the world to demonstrate the authenticity of honey gathered from the Cape Floral Region.
“I always wanted to see Beelal Honey be graded against global brands because it was important to me that our honey was acknowledged. When I was looking at websites of other big honey companies in the world, I noticed that they had something in common: They had all participated in different competitions, the London International Honey Awards being the most prominent. Then I checked previous award winners, it made me realise that South African honey was not on the international stage.”
“By winning the LIHA award, we feel the efforts we’ve put in in the last five years have been acknowledged. Winning this award is beneficial not only in growing the business but in setting standards in the honey industry,” said Khan.
Western Cape Bee Industry Association member Helena van der Westhuizen said honey is characterised as a natural and raw food product that can be consumed as a sweetener but also as medicine, due to its therapeutic impact on human health; however if adulterated, it could have adverse health complications for humans.
“According to nutritionist Cynthia Sass, honey can make you healthier. Studies have shown that honey may help fight metabolic syndrome; honey and cinnamon taken together may assist with lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
“Honey’s anti-oxidative properties also help to reduce oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to counter their harmful effects. For these reasons, researchers conclude that there’s strong potential for honey to be integrated into the management of stress, preventively and therapeutically.”
“Also, it helps prevent artery hardening. Researchers conclude that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in honey, in addition to its ability to counter oxidative stress, are the key factors responsible for its protective benefits. Older research shows that consuming high antioxidant honey raises blood antioxidant levels, and that replacing processed sugar with raw honey may help boost antioxidant defences in healthy adults,” said Van der Westhuizen.
Upholding the legacy of quality honey, Khan said sharing centre stage with other big brands will forever remain a proud moment for the small family business.
“We are very proud of bringing South Africa to the world stage of honey in spite of being the custodians of the Cape Floral Kingdom, and yet there has never been any mention or representation of this great biodiversity and its products like honey on a world stage. You always hear about fine honey from South America, New Zealand etc, but never about the rare honey such as fynbos honey,” said Khan.
Operating out of farms in Tulbagh and Napier in the Overberg, commercial bee keeper Chris Nicklin said one of the key sources of forage for the indigenous Cape honeybee is the fynbos that makes up the Cape floral kingdom.
“We have a unique situation in that the Cape honeybee co-evolved with the fynbos biome. In many parts of the world, honeybees have been imported, as are the plants they forage on. Unlike New Zealand’s famed Manuka honey, which supposedly has certain medicinal properties, the particular health benefits of fynbos honey are still unknown – if they have any at all. But fynbos honey can be especially complex and delicious as the bees are able to forage on a whole biome, not just one flower type.
“If you’re a honey consumer, aim to source your honey from reputable South African bee keepers and honey suppliers. The purchasing of cheap foreign honey does nothing to support South African bee keepers and the insects that play such a crucial role in shoring up our biodiversity.”
“Understanding the difference between ’raw’ local honey and the mass-blended stuff we get from abroad is crucial. By purchasing local honey, you are helping our bee keepers to maintain a sustainable industry, which in turn helps safeguard our bee population,” said Nicklin.
He added that undertaking studies of bees and bee keeping will help people understand how to conserve the bee population and the honey.
“It can be a fascinating and absorbing hobby, and your knowledge of the central role that bees play in our lives will contribute to efforts to preserve them by educating yourself about it and spreading the word,” said Nicklin.