Talk of the declining bee populations is all over the news. This is troubling because bees are vital to our food system. While the global situation is still quite dire, a recent Vancity report showed that B.C. is actually bucking the trend on the global bee shortage. The Main Street Honey Shoppe is a local business at the forefront of beekeeping, honey production and bee products retail in Metro Vancouver. We sat down with owner Tony Lovse to talk about local honey and supporting local bees.
How did you get started in the honey business?
TL: Twenty years ago, I would have laughed and said there’s no way I would be in this business. I always liked honey more than sugar and was interested in health products but had no interest beyond that. I’m an engineer by training, but was introduced to a business opportunity in beekeeping and honey and became an early investor in the Honey Bee Centre. I’m now proud to be in this business because it’s green and produces great health products.
Has interest in local honey & bee products grown in B.C.?
TL: Yes. People are looking for healthy, local and environmentally friendly products. Interest is growing but we still do lots of education about honey as well. Many people are used to eating the pasteurized stuff you find at the store which is often bland and sweeter.
Are people surprised to learn that there is more than 1 type or flavour of honey?
TL: Oh yes! The variety’s available is surprising. The nectar sources are what make the varieties, not the bees. For example, our bees pollinate blueberry crops for growers in the region. Bees collect nectar from the blueberry plants and then make honey from that nectar. This produces our Blueberry Blossom Honey. All the flavor, colour and aromas come from the nectar source and are 100% natural.
We carry about 30 varieties of honey in the store, of which 4-8 at any one time are local.
How local is your honey?
TL: Most is from the Fraser Valley. Our shop is located in Vancouver, so our honey wasn’t local enough for some of customers! They wanted honey from Vancouver so we brought our bees into Vancouver last year to make urban honey. The bee hives are located a couple of kilometres away from our shop.
You also offer honey tastings. What kind of an experience is this?
TL: We do tastings to provide more information on local honeys so people can taste some of the 30 varieties offered. We usually do a sampling of 4-8 types. Just like wine tasting, it’s a great experience but also a chance for us to educate people.
Which honey is your personal favourite?
TL: That’s tough! I have a few that I love. The Fireweed Honey is a floral one that is silky smooth. It’s also known as the “Champagne of Honeys.” For my tea, I love the Raspberry Blossom Honey. It is a very nice and mild variety from the Fraser Valley.
You have quite the selection of honey, but do you carry other products?
TL: Half of our business is honey and the other half is health products such as bee pollen, which is like nature’s multivitamin and a source of protein. We also carry bee propolis which is an immune system booster. Honey has been used for skin care and for wounds for thousands of years, so we have high quality skin care products, too.
How does Main Street Honey Shoppe make a community impact?
TL: Apart from supplying quality, local products, we also educate our customers about the health benefits of different products. From an environmental perspective, we’re happy about bringing bees into Vancouver to help pollinate parks and gardens.