February 2, 2021 Ralitsa Dyuziyan
In today’s article, I`m going to introduce you to the founders of the “Bulgarian Honey Company” – Jen and Mitko. As they like to present themselves – the beekeeper allergic to bees and Jen, just bee-ing herself. Can`t wait to tell you their story about their journey from California to Plovdiv, what brought them here, what they believe in, and why they choose Bulgaria for their business.
First, let me introduce you to the topic of beekeeping in Bulgaria. Bulgaria is known as one of the best producers of honey from the Thracian period due to its rich biodiversity, mountain topography, and temperate climate. More than 4,000 species of herbs have been registered in Bulgaria, which makes Bulgarian honey one of the highest quality kinds of honey in Europe.
Honey is one of the purest natural foods for general strengthening. It has many applications – antimicrobial and antiviral action and is a powerful natural antioxidant. It is also used in many beauty products.
But what does it cost bees and where does the expression “hardworking like a bee” come from?
I share with you some interesting facts:
1. Bees are the only insects whose body is 100% sterile. On its surface, there are substances with antibiotic action. They completely kill all microbes and bacteria and prevent their spread. This is vital for the existence of the hive and its cleanliness.
2. Honey bees must collect pollen of two million flowers to make 1 kilogram of honey. And that means a bee has to fly about 90,000 miles (or about 144,841 km) to make a pound of honey. This means orbiting the Earth three times.
3. The brain of bees is oval in shape and the size of a sesame seed, but it still has a remarkable capacity to learn and remember things. For example, he is able to make complex calculations for distance traveled and traffic efficiency.
4. The honey bee visits between 50 and 100 flowers during a group flight.
5. A colony of bees consists of 20,000 to 60,000 honey bees and one queen. The worker bees are female, living about 6 weeks.
6. The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is busiest during the summer months when the hive must work with maximum force. Then the mother lays up to 2,500 eggs a day.
7. The life of drones is short – only 3 months. They have no sting. The worker bees feed them bee pollen and honey because they cannot supply themselves. After performing their “marital” duty, the drones die or are thrown out of the hive.
8. Honey bees have been producing honey in the same way for 150 million years.
9. Honey lasts an incredibly long time. Researchers who found a 2,000-year-old pot of honey in an Egyptian tomb say it still retains its flavor.
10. The buzzing of bees is the sound emitted by their wings, which flutter 11,400 times a minute.
11. Honey bees communicate with each other by dancing. When the bee finds a good source of nectar, it returns to the hive and shows its whereabouts where the source of nectar is, performing a dance that positions the flower relative to the sun and the hive. This is known as the “wave dance”.
12. The vision and smell of bees are extremely developed. They have 5 eyes – 1 pair located on the side of the head (complex eyes) and three pieces positioned on top of the head in the form of a triangle (simple eyes). It is believed that their complex eyes are used to focus on objects at close range, distinguish colors, orient in time and space, and their simple eyes have an auxiliary function. With them, they do not see images. It is known that bees do not recognize the color red, but clearly distinguish between blue and yellow. Due to this fact, the hives are painted mainly in these colors
13. In winter, bees manage to survive thanks to their organization and dedication to the bee family. They form a sphere, inside which the air temperature is about 28 to 32 ° C, and on its periphery, it is about 8 ° C. They periodically change their places so that the bees from the outer wall can keep warm. If a bee separates from the orb, it dies.
14. Honey is the only food that contains “pinocembrin” – an antioxidant associated with improved brain function.
15. Honey should not be heated above 60 degrees, because at this temperature all its useful properties are destroyed.
I had the good fortune to talk to these two young, positive and enterprising people to rediscover another Bulgarian business with a global mission and philosophy of social and environmental sustainability.
Jen and Mitko are turning the inherited apiary into their business and mission to promote Bulgarian honey around the world. Assessing the favorable territory in Bulgaria, and realizing the importance of the life of bees, they created the “Bulgarian Honey Company” during the difficult year for all 2020.
What do honey and beekeeping mean to Jen and Mitko?
For Jen and Mitko, honey and beekeeping are the epitome of a strong family connection, the experience of positive emotions, environmental sustainability, and a transparent business model. As a gift for their wedding, they receive the family apiary and this marks the beginning of a new passion.
At the heart of their branding is happiness and love of nature. They have the ambition to stimulate the development of beekeeping worldwide and the promotion of this type of profession. For them, beekeeping is a way to express themselves – Jen her creativity, and Mitko his engineering skills.
The “Bulgarian Honey Company” is a family business. For a total of four families in their family, beekeeping is a profession and a way of life. The apiaries are located in different areas – around Karlovo, Stara Zagora, and Haskovo regions. They also partner with high integrity beekeepers in Bulgaria, adding to their collection honeydew (manna), linden, and acacia honey. For them, quality comes first and everything produced passes third party quality control.
The main goal they have set is to support and support local businesses and stimulate the local economy. Mitko and Jen often collaborate with Bulgarian manufacturers of cosmetics, textiles, and food products. On the other hand, they share information, experience, and skills with other beekeepers for their integration into the online environment and the development of business projects for European subsidies. They are also ambitiously expanding into foreign markets, including for their friends and family in America. They are already distributing their honey all across Europe.
Favorite product and greatest pride
Devotion and passion are evident from afar as I talk to Jen and Mitko. So I asked them the logical question which of all the products is their favorite and which they are most proud of.
They unanimously pointed to the spicy honey – “HOT N` NUMB”. Yes exactly! Hot honey! This is the result of their bold experiment to combine their family history in one – Bulgarian honey with hot Sichuan pepper, also known as Chinese coriander. This type of honey has an extremely interesting taste and is suitable for flavoring meat, vegetables, or as an additive in black tea and cocktails.
Their other favorite product, inspired by the citrus fruits of California, the place where they met, is honey infused with orange and mandarin.
Environmental, social and business sustainability
Last but not least, I was curious about what sustainable practices they apply in the production process, contributing to the ecological balance.
In the first place for them is the reuse of packaging materials for delivery. Secondly, they recycle waste materials and invest in the purchase of recyclable ones for their production activities. On the other hand, they are also thinking about how to reduce their footprint on Earth, and even the tasting spoons they use are biodegradable.
Jen and Mitko are also taking steps in sustainability in the social environment. Jen is passionate about bringing people together and building communities and is currently the leader of the Expats in Plovdiv community. In this way, she provides an opportunity for them to powerfully navigate emotionally and mentally during the pandemic situation. The community creates a place for these people to find support, empathy, and communication.
Apart from environmental and social sustainability, they seek and offer business sustainability. The collaborations they carry out are with companies that have similar beliefs and support sustainable practices in their production environment. Also, according to Jen and Mitko, the wholesale price of honey is artificially low and this demotivates beekeepers. They offer a solution to this problem by buying honey at a validating price and believe that this will motivate beekeepers to continue honest and high-quality production.
How to distinguish real honey from that with impurities?
Mitko advises us to pay attention to consistency. If the honey is very liquid, this is usually a bad sign. A popular method of checking the quality of honey is to drop a drop of honey on a sheet of newspaper. If the honey turns black after ignition, it means that there is added sugar. If the flame goes out, it’s real honey. To check the honey in a store, it would be easiest to pay attention to the expiration date and crystallization. Although the honey does not spoil, it is mandatory to put a label with a shelf life of 3 years. Comparing the current year and the expiration date, it is normal for crystallization to form for the time difference. The crystallization time varies depending on the honey varietal, so this method of verification may not be universal, but it is a good point of reference.
In their business, Jen and Mitko rely on laboratory testing.
Now online, available to all of us organic honey
They also offer innovative infused “super-honeys” in combination with natural superfood ingredients like lemon, lavender, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. The aforementioned honey with orange and mandarin oils as well as hot honey are also available. All products are available in 250ml jars. and 450ml. Only the spicy honey is in a 250ml jar.
In the product categories, we also find mead with ginger and mead with cinnamon, orange, and vanilla. Mead is called the “drink of the gods” and is the most ancient alcoholic beverage. It contains only honey, water, and yeast, which ferment to perfection at 8% alcohol content.
If you, like them, love bees, honey, and nature, you can delight yourself or a loved one with a branded T-shirt from their merch on the website.
They are also active in all social networks
Jen and Mitko have their own YouTube channel, where they share their experiences and production methods. They share all the news on their Facebook page, and they fit in perfectly with Instagram with fresh branding and friendly communication. They personally respond to all messages, so feel free to reach out to say hi or with any questions!
My personal opinion about their products
From their collection, so far I have tried the traditional wildflower honey, honey, with orange and mandarin, and the spicy honey “HOT`n`NUMB”. The wildflower honey is delicious and I gladly add it to a cup of tea or coffee. The one that sincerely impressed and won me immediately was the honey with orange and mandarin. I added it to my breakfast with Bulgarian yogurt with some fruits on top. The taste is stunningly fresh and sweet. I was looking forward to the launch of their site to order for myself and as a gift.
The hot honey is definitely an innovative and extremely interesting product! I tried it by adding it to the flavoring of meat and vegetables. It became incredibly juicy and tasty. Slightly spicy, with a sweet-salty, appetizing taste. I ordered it too!
I have told you more than once that I am very pleased to support young enterprising people. And again I stand by my word! Their products are amazing! Next time I will try honey with lavender. I’m so curious! And they are so creative!