I just returned from the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to in Europe: Valencia, Spain. I don’t say that lightly.
When I used to think about Spain, I thought about sangria, football, paella… but I had never pictured it as the heart of the beekeeping and honey world in Europe. Valencia in particular has a major port that brings in honey from all over the world, as well as sends it out. A perfect place for me to learn about honey!
1. Honey is a staple for consumers
Honey in Spain takes up a whole wall in supermarkets and there is plenty to choose from. This is contrasted in Canada where, if you’re lucky, you can find two different sizes of pasteurized honey in a bear shaped jar in your local store (read more about why I’m not a fan of pasteurization here).
Customers even have a choice of what type of flowers their honey primarily comes from (think Rosemary, Eucalyptus, etc), and this choice is available in even the most budget-friendly honey. Overall, this speaks to how much the consumer values honey, values choice, and values transparency.
They also consume a large amount of honey, making it a staple in their Mediterranean diet. See my recipe here for a Valencia-inspired Spicy Chorizo with a Wine and Honey Glaze! Or, more simply, add a drizzle of raw honey to your unsweetened yogurt or fruits.
2. The natural is prized above all
I took a bus out to Montroy, Spain (an hour outside of Valencia) to talk with my friends at Apisol about what they are looking for when purchasing honey, both from local honey producers and importing worldwide. They have extraordinarily strict standards about how pure the honey must be, how the crops must be treated within flying distance of the bees, and how to carefully process the honey. The standards at this bottling facility really spoke to how much love and care the Spanish have for the natural goodness of honey.
Some of the things that surprised me most were the rigorous safety health and safety standards. Before entering the facility, I had to don a hairnet, apron, and disposable shoe coverings. Also, I had to be quickly sprayed down with a disinfectant (which was the most surprising to me!). There wasn’t a speck of wax or honey out of place. Not to say that Canada has relaxed standards by any means, but this was next level!
3. Honey is big business
My next stop in Valencia was with a large honey importing company. I was blown away by the sophisticated of the traders at this operation: handsome men in suits, spotless floor-to-ceiling windows, and a Range Rover parked outside. This is tremendously different than the beekeeping and honey selling culture in Canada, which I would call more down-to-Earth and family-oriented. In Spain, honey is big business!
I felt so grateful to have learned so much about honey (particularly the business side) in Valencia and can’t wait until the day I return. Seriously, if you’re looking for a slightly more off-the-beaten-tourist-track city in Europe, I couldn’t recommend this stunning and nature-filled city more highly.