French honey gets another lease of life08-02-2018
Innovative creatives are using the huge diversity of honey to develop a product of high quality. And typically French. There are currently more than 800,000 hives in France, with production reaching the suburbs…
Creating a buzz about bees in Paris
For several years now, hives have been thriving in the capital, where the city council, together with representatives from local industry, are setting up various initiatives to promote urban beekeeping. In the 2015 census, Paris alone boasted 700 hives, together with a municipal collection of 143 hives spread across 23 apiaries, managed by associations or independent beekeepers taking advantage of temporary occupation schemes of public spaces. The beekeepers are committed to developing educational hives in order to raise awareness among the public about domestic bees and more widely, pollinating insects in general.
Honey produced on the rooftops of Place Vendome
Photo credits: Sébastien Béhotte
The next time you are in Paris and happen to be strolling through Place Vendome, raise your eyes and you may spot Audric de Campeau’s hives. This Parisian par excellence, with a passion for nature since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, set up his first hives in 2009. Each year ever since, he has increased production and sales of his honey, labelled quite simply “Miel de Paris” – Paris honey. In landmark sites in the heart of the city, including the Musee d’Orsay, Hotel des Invalides, the Ministry of the Interior and Ecole Militaire, this urban beekeeper has set up his hives in the most prestigious locations. His schedule also includes the odd detour underground in the city’s catacombs, where honey mead of his own creation quietly matures. Retailing at around 35 euros for a 200ml bottle, his mead made from fermented honey, yeast and water is aged in barrels previously home to fine Burgundy or Sherry. Success is sweet…
Alexandre Stern and the scent of honey
Making honey much in the same way as perfume, blending different types of honey with unique results, is the brainchild of Alexandre Stern, former strategist at McKinsey. He launched his honey brand in September 2015, rooted in a concept based on the art of honey tasting. An entirely new approach, it has rapidly gained recognition as a result of the high quality of his products, judicious honey blends of several varieties from different locations. As a result, Alexandre Stern is now purveyor to a prestigious circle of clients, including George V in Paris, and his products are also listed in London, New York, Lisbon and Geneva. On the back of this success, he has also opened a shop in Paris, Rue Vignonne in the 8th arondissement. His jars of honey, with wonderfully enchanting names such as Miel des Merveilles and Les Jardins d’Ispahan, have won over the luxury market and those in search of refinement. Honey chocolates also feature in the collection, with descriptions inspired directly from the world of wine: “Black Forest transports us to the dark forests of Central Europe where bees come to collect honey and nectar from centuries-old trees. Honey with an intense flavour, its oaky nuances balance harmoniously with lighter notes of caramel and liquorice. (Black Forest honey)”. It’s a risk that seems to have paid off for this honey devotee who has even taken the brave step of creating a name for the art of honey tasting: la melilogie.
Honly, the French honey that fits in your pocket
Honly is yet another tale of career change inspired by the sweet taste of honey. Alain Coutant was working in finance when he rebranded himself as a specialist honey merchant. He now sells more than 90 types of French honey, from different terroirs, crus, trees, herbs and plants, all under the “Honly” brand – the sweet marriage of the words “honey” and “only”. While quality has played a huge part in Alain Coutant’s success, so too has the ingenious packaging. “I designed a handy, on-the-go format quite simply because I wanted to enjoy my honey every day and also because my daughters wanted to take honey to school in their bags,” he relates on his website. And these cleverly designed pouches take up very little space, are pliant, and most importantly, since the surface area in contact with the honey is minimal, are the most effective packaging format for honey, the opposite in fact to a jar. “The flexible, squeezable format helps make the honey soft, even if it’s really solid, and easier to dispense and even to spread, with no need to heat.” The concept has evolved entirely from this simple, practical idea, which is particularly effective since Alain Coutant now works hand in hand with chefs and pastry chefs, mostly Michelin-starred no less, who promote his tiny gems from the honey kingdom. So successful in fact that the Honly brand has recently launched a series of honey-tasting workshops led by “honeylogue”, (honey expert), Marie Neveux, and none other than the master himself, Alain Coutant.