11 August 2023

How sweet it is: capital region to host its first honey masterclasses

| Sally Hopman
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Woman with wine glass and bee smoker

Honey Merchant’s Jessica Locarnini, an international sommelier, will host masterclasses in the capital region from 18 to 20 August. Photo: Simon Schluter.

Australia’s only working honey sommelier, Jessica Locarnini of Honey Merchant, has always had her eyes on Canberra when it comes to spreading the buzz about bees.

Honey produced in the nation’s capital, as well as neighbouring regions including Yass, Murrumbateman and Gundaroo, have appeared on her radar – as has the passion beekeepers have for their natural product.

Working with Yass apiarist and owner of Nemori Honey Bees, Cristian Gorton, Ms Locarnini will host the capital region’s first Canberra Region Honey Weekend from 18 to 20 August. The initial idea was to run a local honey tasting but early interest has seen it likely develop into a regular event “to raise awareness of the incredible local honey flavours and influences of the region”.

“But what really drew me in was Cormac Farrell. Like everyone else in Canberra, I adore Cormac,” Ms Locarnini said of the head beekeeper at Parliament House and environmental scientist.

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“We have been talking for a while about doing something together in Canberra,” she said. “Then Cristian reached out … so we came up with this great opportunity for people to stop for a moment and appreciate the diverse flavours coming, literally, from their own backyards in the Canberra region.

“Just like wine, terroir [ecosystem] plays an important part in honey’s flavour. As well as the floral source, the location where the bees have been foraging and environmental conditions also play a big role in what we taste.”

Cristian said drawing people’s attention to the premium quality and flavour of local honey would not only support local beekeepers, but highlight the diverse ecosystems surrounding the capital region.

“I’m excited to share an experience that will bring a focus to local bees and beekeeping to the wider community through the unique flavours of our honey,” he said. “The Canberra Region Honey Weekend is a perfect way for people to learn that honey is so much more than just delicious on your toast!”

Head beekeeper at Parliament House Cormac Farrell

Head beekeeper at Parliament House Cormac Farrell with the bees and their golden nectar that is producing a range of products, including honey vodka. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Locarnini said the capital region was the perfect location to host a honey tasting, with its unique cool climate flavours. “There are also a lot of backyard beekeepers here and, depending on where their hives are, they have some very interesting flavours coming through.”

She said if you looked through the window where a honey tasting was being held, you could be excused for thinking it was a wine tasting. The honey is sniffed as if it were wine and held in a wine glass – because it’s “the perfect size for a nose to fit in”.

Tasters can then assess the colour and the texture. And despite common thinking, crystals in the honey are a good thing. To cleanse the palate, Ms Locarnini recommends a green apple: “it’s tart but doesn’t have an overpowering taste so it helps reset your smell.”

People of all ages and interests are welcome to attend the honey tastings. “I always find it so much more enjoyable when there are lots of people around when you do a tasting. Children are so honest with what they like and don’t like.

“It’s also wonderful to see the expression on people’s faces if they’re only used to tasting honey from a squeeze bottle. There are so many different tastes honey can have – I once tried a sunflower honey that tasted like tinned tomatoes.”

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The inaugural Canberra Region Honey Weekend event will be held at three locations:

  • Friday, 18 August, from 5:30 pm at Grazing restaurant, Gundaroo.
  • Saturday, 19 August, 11 am and 2 pm, Canberra and Region Visitor Centre.
  • Sunday, 20 August, 11 am and 2 pm, Murrumbateman Winery.

All sessions run for two hours and will be complemented by a grazing board for guests to experience honey and food pairing. Tickets at Murrumbateman Winery and Grazing are $89 with a glass of wine included. Tickets are $85 at the Canberra and Region Visitor Centre.

Local producers collaborating and providing honey for the weekend include Isabella 1822, 8 Frame Honey, The Naked Beekeeper, Nemori Honey Bees and Grazing.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite

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