As we spread honey on our morning toast, are we aware of the hidden power lurking in this sweetness brought to us courtesy of the bee?
Words by Blake Wilkins. Photographs by Jeremy George
Ancient lore dating back to the fifth century places significant weight on the romantic imagery of honey and the more sanguine impacts of mead, recognised as the first alcoholic beverage known to man.
And that’s perhaps why I wasn’t taken totally by surprise when a mature couple ignored the displays of pure honey products on the shelves of the Overberg Honey Co. shop in Stanford and headed straight for the shelves holding golden bottles of mead.
Returning to the counter with two bottles of the potion, the male customer dug out his wallet to pay while his companion, a striking brunette, turned to me after spotting that I was eying the product they were buying.
“Are you aware of the origins of the word honeymoon?”
The bold question should have caught me by surprise, but the woman’s open smile put me at ease.
“I have to admit that I have no idea,” I said, a response I may have given even if I had known the answer.
“The word dates back to about the fifth century when the cycles of the moon were used as a calendar. A newly wed couple drank mead (known as the honey) during the first moon or month of their marriage. Mead was believed to have aphrodisiac properties.”
I questioned Danie Vorster, who owns Overberg Honey Co with his wife Nadia, about the source of the mead sold in the company’s retail outlets in Stanford and in Hermanus, about 25km away.
“As beekeepers, our focus is on the honey trade and on pollination of farmers’ orchards. We buy mead and other honey-based alcohol products from approved, registered suppliers,” he said. “The production of mead is a highly specialised process.”
I asked Nadia if she knew about the legend surrounding the word honeymoon.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’ll be sure to use that anecdote in our shops to sell more of the product.”
Overberg Honey Co. purchases mead from Allistair Keay in George, owner of Cape Mead and one of only two registered mead producers in South Africa.
“Mead is made by the fermentation of honey by adding water and wine yeast,” says Allistair. “Using different types of yeast and different types of honey ensures that we can offer a sweet, semi-sweet or dry mead.”
So if you’re going on your honeymoon shortly, or simply want to rekindle a romance, remember to pack the mead.