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Frequently Asked Questions

The management team at Wendell Estate and Wendell Honey Farm has 200+ years of combined honey and beekeeping experience, also including an MD degree among other science and health backgrounds. Send us your questions on honey, beekeeping and health and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Every drop of the original WEH is harvested from our honey farm, Wendell Honey, by us and then packaged fresh on location immediately after extracting the honey from the honeycomb. Nothing is added and nothing is removed from the honey. It naturally micro-crystallizes (granulates) in the jar. No honey from any other farm is used for WEH.

In 2018 we partnered with friends of ours that have their own honey farm in a remote area of Saskatchewan to offer Wendell Estate Organic Honey. Every drop of WEH organic comes from their farm. We coordinate closely with them to pick up their organic honey from their farm and package it fresh on our farm. We never mix the honey from the two farms.

The obvious difference between the original and the organic honey, aside from the farm it comes from, is the Canadian Organic Regime (COR) certification. There are strict regulations about organic beekeeping. However, meeting these conditions does not alone qualify the honey as organic. Bees forage where they will, flying up to several kilometers to find nectar. COR regulations state that no prohibited substances can be present within a 3 km radius of the beehives. On the flat prairies, a 3km radius could include all or part of 56 or more quarter-section fields! The crops and farming practices on any one of these fields can exclude the honey from organic certification, whether the bees actually gathered nectar from that field or not. The largest qualification for organic certification of honey – the agricultural practices in the surrounding area – are completely out of the beekeeper’s control. This is one main reason why authentic COR-certified organic honey is so rare.

In Canada, not all organic honeys are equal. Closer scrutiny reveals that many Canadian brands of organic honey import their organic honey, with Brazil being a common supplier of organic honey. Without getting into differences of organic certification and rigour between different countries, it is worth noting that organic honey from Brazil fetches a lower price on the global market than non-organic Canadian honey. Unfortunately, like almost any certification, there are also Canadian organic certifying companies that sacrifice rigour and validity for profit: some “organic” honey producers in Canada certainly don’t meet the COR criteria. For Wendell Estate Organic Honey, both the producing farm and our packaging facilities are certified by Procert, one of the most rigorous and reliable organic certification companies in Canada.

Another factor worth paying attention to is whether the honey is raw and unfiltered or processed. Real, raw, unfiltered, unprocessed non-COR-certified honey will confer more health benefits than organic-certified honey that has been pasteurized and ultra-filtered.

As for the honey itself, WEH and WEH Organic are very similar. Both have a similar white colors, silky-smooth textures and delicate fresh flavors. Both are pure, entirely natural, additive- and antibiotic-free, completely raw, unheated and unfiltered prairie-blossom honey: Sweet healthy goodness! We invite you to try both of our honeys and choose for yourself.

Note: due to limited availability, we do not offer WEH Organic honey for sale directly from our website. If you would like to order WEH Organic honey, please email us at info@wendellestate.ca.

We recommend that you keep an amount of honey that you will use within 2-3 months at room temperature so that the honey is soft and spreadable. Honey that you expect to keep for more than 2-3 months should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator (good), or freezer (best).

We package our honey fresh on our farm, and then allow the honey to naturally crystallize in the jar over several weeks, just as it would in a Canadian prairie beehive. After it sets up, the honey is transferred to frozen storage where it will maintain its freshness indefinitely. When Wendell Estate Honey leaves our storage facility it is as fresh as the day it was harvested.

Raw honey does not have a “best before” date. How long the honey stays fresh is entirely dependent on storage conditions. Our soft-set raw honey will remain delicious at room temperature (20-25°C) for a few months. However, the honey will very slowly darken over time (2-3 months or more) at room temperature.  The colour change itself does not affect the taste or texture of the honey. However, raw honey often contains natural yeasts that can cause honey to ferment with continued exposure to warmth and humidity. The rate that this happens depends on temperature and humidity and varies from as rapidly as several weeks at 30°C to a few months for an open jar at temperatures of 20-25°C to many months to years in the refrigerator (~2°C – 5°C) to indefinitely for a sealed jar in a freezer (<0°C).

The process is slower if the jar is unopened as we ensure that any honey we package under the Wendell Estate Honey brand has a moisture content that does not permit fermentation to take place. However, honey readily absorbs moisture from the air and, unless you live in a desert, the moisture content of the honey does go up honey exposed to normal household air. Honey can even absorb moisture very slowly through the PET plastic or through the seal of the glass jars. Therefore, we recommend storing unopened jars in a refrigerator or freezer: the cold, dry conditions will prevent colour changes, absorption of moisture and possible fermentation.

Fermented honey can be identified by a darker colour, foamy bubbles on the surface, a “yeasty” odour and a sour taste. Note that eating fermented honey poses absolutely no health risk, but many people find the sour taste unpleasant.

If you find that your honey is too hard, you can stir (knead or “disturb”) it with a strong spoon or butter knife for a moment and it will become much softer (click here for demonstration). Or you can warm it gently by placing the jar in a warm (~ 30°C) water bath for about 30-60 minutes.

Warming our raw honey above 30 – 35°C will cause it to melt (liquefy) into a translucent liquid (liquefying depends on both temperature and exposure time: the honey will likely liquefy if exposed to 35°C for an hour or more, much more quickly at 40°C). If the liquid honey cools to room temperature, it can gradually re-crystallize into a harder, courser, granular form, losing the WEH signature smooth texture and becoming inconvenient to use. This honey can be re-warmed to a liquid if desired.

Finally, as honey is heated above 40°C, the natural enzymes that give honey many of its health benefits will begin to breakdown. How much the health benefits are decreased depends on the maximum temperature the honey has reached. This is one reason raw, unheated honey is healthier (and tastes better) than pasteurized honey. Keep in mind that even though the health benefits of raw honey are at their maximum if the honey has never exceeded 40°C, any real, natural honey is always a much healthier choice than processed sugars.

If your honey is at room temperature and seems a little too hard, disturb or stir it with a spoon or a knife and it should become more spreadable. Here’s a quick demonstration (click). You can also warm the honey gently in warm water (25-30°C: 77-86°F). Unless you will use all the honey as liquid, be careful not to melt the honey into a liquid, which occurs at around 35°C (95°F) depending how long the honey is exposed to the heat (details here).

How long your raw honey will keep fresh and delicious depends entirely on how you store it. The Canadian government does not require either a “Best Before” date or an “expiry” date on honey and we do not label our domestic honey with either of these dates. Raw honey can keep indefinitely if stored properly. However under sub-optimal conditions (warm/hot and humid), raw honey can ferment within weeks. Please see our storage instructions (here) for a detailed discussion on raw honey storage. See here for a discussion on how raw honey can ferment or “go bad”.

Many people have the opinion that raw honey will naturally last forever. This appears to be true if it’s stored in an Egyptian pyramid. If you’re not storing your raw honey in a pyramid, we urge you to pay attention to the storage conditions.

The quality of our creamy, white honey will change over time with exposure light and heat. Please care for your honey.  It is an unprocessed food and naturally contains yeast. If improperly stored, the yeast may gradually cause the honey to ferment. Think mead here.

Raw honey “goes bad” due to fermentation by yeasts naturally present in honey. When we package the honey, the moisture content is too low for the yeasts to grow and ferment. However, honey is strongly hydroscopic and readily absorbs water vapor from the air. This occurs even in unopened jars, but at a much slower rate. In a warm and humid environment raw honey will gradually ferment, first turning dark yellow in colour and then yellow-brown and developing bubbles and froth on the surface accompanied by a “yeasty” odor and sour taste. Eating fermented honey poses no health risk whatsoever, but many people find the sour taste unpleasant. Fermented foods and drinks are currently enjoying popularity among health-conscious consumers for their health benefits.

Storage instructions can be found here, with a detailed discussion here.

The short answer: soft-set honey is honey that has crystallized into a semi-solid form, as opposed to the initial liquid form of natural honey.

The long answer:

Most people think of honey as a viscous liquid, and this is indeed the initial form of newly made natural honey. Over time, most (but not all) natural honeys will gradually crystallize into a harder, semi-solid form. The rate at which natural honeys undergo crystallization depends on many factors, with the most important being the floral source and the ambient temperature. Most honey harvested on the Canadian prairies tends to crystallize relatively quickly, becoming quite hard over weeks if stored at room temperature, and even quicker if exposed to colder temperatures (not uncommon in Canada). For this reason, it is common for Canadian honey producers to allow (or encourage) the honey to crystallize in a controlled fashion before selling the honey. The objective of controlled crystallization is to obtain a softer, smoother crystallized honey than may occur if the honey is simply allowed to crystallize on its own. A common method to achieve this is to add a small amount of finely crystallized “seed honey” to liquid honey and then place the honey in cool storage. In Canada the resultant smooth, semi-solid honey is often called “creamed honey”. I should be clear that the “seed honey” is usually also purely natural honey, so honey properly “creamed” by this method is still pure, natural honey. Other common methods include mechanically whipping or grinding the honey.

While many Canadians are familiar with the term “creamed honey”, we think “soft-set honey” better describes Wendell Estate Honey for several reasons:

  1. It avoids confusion. People unfamiliar with Canadian honey (Wendell Estate Honey is sold in countries outside of Canada, and also purchased by new Canadians and visitors) often read the word “creamed” and wonder if we’ve added milk or cream to the honey, especially given the white, “creamy” colour and butter-like texture of our honey. We promise you there is no milk, cream or butter (or anything else not found in natural honey) in Wendell Estate Honey.
  2. “Soft-set honey” is the international standard industry term, as demonstrated by the category of “Soft-Set Honey” at the World Beekeeping Awards, in which our honey with the gold medal obviously belongs.
  3. We do not employ any of the common methods (adding seed honey or using mechanical methods) of “creaming” honey. We choose honey with the right properties such that it naturally crystallizes into our signature silky-smooth texture in the jar. We have heard that some beekeepers actually use Wendell Estate Honey as their seed honey.

If you do have liquid honey that crystallizes into an inconveniently hard form, you can always melt it by gently heating it to return it to a liquid form. Please read our detailed storage instructions (here) before melting your Wendell Estate Honey, as it will not likely return to its original smooth form once cooled.

A great question! I got this from a podcast interview with UK Honey Sommelier, Sarah Wyndham Lewis (I want to post a link to the content but haven’t been able to find it online. The above and below quotes are from Hive Talkin podcast episode 2). Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question and many “honeys” out there contain little to no real honey.

Big brand honey packaging companies buy honey in bulk from producers, like us. This honey is blended, often with cheaper, inferior imported honeys that may or may not contain contamination and/or adulteration and processed to get a uniform, clear, amber liquid. To get honey from the drum into the jar it almost always needs to be heated.

There is currently a big honey industry shake-up involving multiple lawsuits in the USA that is bringing widespread honey fraud and adulteration to light. One interesting spin-off is this new product, Be Sweet, a “honey spread” that doesn’t contain honey. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see a supermarket “honey” showing a little more honesty in marketing. On the other hand, a non-honey “honey” marketing itself as “bee friendly” seems a little much.

While we’re not local beekeepers for many of our customers, we hope Wendell Estate Honey can be the next best thing. We always encourage people to support their local food producers (including beekeepers, of course). We recommend sampling different honeys to find the ones that you like most. One thing to be aware of is that many, especially newer, packaging companies market themselves as if they are beekeepers, while in fact they purchase bulk honey from various sources and package it, similar to the big brands. This is does not mean that they don’t often offer quality honey, but we hope that their customers realize that they are purchasing blended honey from a packaging and marketing company.

In the words of Sarah Wyndham Lewis, “What I’m asking people to do is to cross taste  [unblended, natural] incredible honeys with supermarket honey and try and understand that supermarket honey isn’t honey…it’s a blend, and anything that says ‘blend’ you just don’t touch: you put it straight down back on the shelf. There’s no reason to blend honey, ever. [Supermarket honey] is an anonymized global product that’s been very highly processed…Supermarket honey has taste, while real honey has flavours. We want to make people into honey snobs.”

We agree. Eat honey like a beekeeper.

This is an important question for the health-conscious consumer as the health benefits of raw honey are superior to honey that has been heated or pasteurized. Heating honey beyond about 40°C (the internal temperature of a healthy bee colony’s brood chamber in summer is 32-36°C, so 40°C is commonly used as an upper limit of temperature exposure at which honey may be considered “raw”) causes many of the natural enzymes conferring honey’s healthy properties and health benefits to break down. Most honey will crystallize/granulate over time, so honey packagers usually need to heat the honey to some degree to get it from the bulk drums into the retail jars. The warmer the honey, the less viscous it is, and the easier it flows into the jars, providing an incentive for packers to heat the honey beyond the 40°C usually considered the maximum temperature at which the honey can be claimed to be “raw”. It can be difficult for a consumer to tell if honey labelled as “raw” is actually raw. A google search can turn up several methods, but none of these are reliable for all kinds of honey. A honey connoisseur may detect a “burnt” flavour in pasteurized or heated honey. This burnt taste usually indicates higher levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a compound formed when honey or sugars are exposed to heat. The level of HMF in honey can be measured by a laboratory and used as an indicator of the total history of heat exposure of that sample of honey. A common upper limit for HMF level for honey to be considered as raw is 15 mg/kg.

In addition to being an indicator of heat exposure, HMF may be unhealthy if consumed at very high levels.

Because we package Wendell Estate Honey fresh on our farm, it never goes through a bulk drum, and no heating is required to package it directly into the jar. The HMF levels of Wendell Estate Honey are very low, of course, proving that it has never been heated. Our HMF levels have been between 0.5 and 0.7 mg/kg when measured by independent laboratories, much lower than the 15 mg/kg limit for raw honey. We challenge any honey anywhere to beat these HMF levels! Our honey is proven FRESH!

Yes! People use honey on their skin for a wide range of reasons, from treating skin conditions like sebhorrea, dandruff and acne to preventing wound infections to keeping skin young and wrinkle free. Honey exerts emollient, humectant, soothing, and hair conditioning effects, keeps the skin juvenile and retards wrinkle formation and regulates pH. You will want to mix the honey with some oil or water at a minimum to help with skin application. More to come on this in our health section and recipe section.

Only Manuka honey has a UMF rating as only Manuka is known to contain methyl glyoxal (MGO), an organic compound which has anti-bacterial properties. Specifically MGO in Manuka honey means that Manuka honey can be sterilized and still retain strong antibiotic properties, making it the ideal honey for sterile wound dressings. It is worth noting that ALL RAW HONEY has anti-bacterial properties similar to Manuka honey antibiotic properties.

OK, in some studies Manuka honey has somewhat stronger antibacterial effects than “regular” or “pasture” honey. But if those effects were important, it would be like your doctor prescribing you 1.2 antibiotic tablet pills each time rather than a single pill. And do you really want to be ingesting a bunch of antibiotic constantly? The importance of the antibiotic properties of honey are:

1) it means honey doesn’t spoil and that you can’t get sick from eating rotten honey,

2) see #1, and

3) honey has been used as a natural wound dressing throughout history prior to the invention of antibiotics to prevent wound infection.

The difference between Manuka and most other honeys is that when most types of honey are heated for pasteurization or sterilization, the enzymes break down and the honey loses much of its anti-bacterial properties. In addition to the anti-bacterial properties, raw honey contains a whole bunch of different enzymes that help confer its anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, pro-digestive, pro-sleep, anti-weight-gain, and pro-athletic-performance properties (with studies ongoing to investigate possible anti-cancer properties). These properties are lost or greatly diminished in pasteurized or sterilized honeys, including sterilized/pasteurized Manuka honey.

So, if you’re looking for a sterilized wound dressing, Manuka is the best choice. If you need a systemic antibiotic to cure an infection, we would urge you to consult a physician and get a prescription for an antibiotic. If you want to eat a delicious food with many great health properties, choose your favourite raw honey! Eating any real, raw honey will have a superior health-benefit profile to sterilized or pasteurized Manuka honey (not to mention the fact that up to 80% of Manuka honey may not be Manuka honey).

When it comes to honey that you will eat, we think choosing real and raw honey is much more important than any specific floral source. If you choose honey that you like to eat, you will probably eat more of it, and less unhealthy processed sweeteners. For honey to eat, we think HMF is much more important that UMF.

Yes!

I’m not sure where this idea that raw honey should not be eaten by pregnant women comes from, but it’s not based in fact.

Perhaps some people, knowing that infants less than a year of age should not eat honey, have extrapolated that to mean that pregnant women also should not eat honey. This is not the case.

The reason that raw honey can, in very rare cases, cause illness in young infants has to due with the lack of bacterial colonization in infants’ intestines and the small possibility of developing infant botulism after eating honey. Adults’ intestines have been colonized by bacteria since before their first birthday and therefore adults cannot develop infant botulism (hence the “infant” in the name). Raw honey poses no special risk for pregnant women. Of note, pasteurizing honey has no effect on the bacterial spores that can cause infant botulism: pasteurized honey is not safer in any way than raw honey, it simply doesn’t ferment as the natural yeasts have been killed during pasteurization.

Like any topics, we welcome any comments or questions on this topic to info@wendellestate.ca.

The only reason we can think of is that the haters aren’t bothering to post reviews. Well, that and the fact that we only sell world-class honey.

That’s a tough question! We like to think that our honey can hold it’s own against other excellent honeys from around the world. Wendell Estate Honey is the only honey from North America to have won both a gold medal at the World Beekeeping Awards and a Platinum at the London International Honey Awards. That being said, “best honey” is a matter of personal preference, and we wouldn’t be so bold as to claim that our honey is the best. We often enjoy different honeys from across Canada and around the world, and encourage you to do the same. Like teas, wines, cheeses, coffees, whiskeys, and even potatoes (there are over 4000 varieties of potatoes!), we think there isn’t a single best honey for all occasions. We only encourage you to purchase real, pure, raw honey. Buying from a trusted producer is always a good choice.

One of the hallmarks of Wendell Estate Honey is its brilliant white colour. Some customers have asked us what we add to the honey to make it so white. We can’t emphasize enough that we add NOTHING AT ALL to our honey: the white colour is entirely natural.

Fresh water-white honey

Freshly extracted “water white” Wendell Estate Honey filling jars during harvest

Many people are familiar with either big brand processed honey found on supermarket shelves, or liquid honey fresh from a beekeeper, both of which are usually a yellow-amber to dark brown colour for slightly different reasons. Our honey is indeed a more familiar yellowish amber colour in its liquid form when we extract it from the honeycomb. Even in the liquid form, our honey is considered “extra white” or even “water white” on the industry standard honey colour scale, usually expressed in mm on the Pfund scale. The curious can read this post describing Pfund honey colour ratings, and here is a NYT article discussing honey colours.

We select our most subtle and delicately flavoured honey for our Wendell Estate jars. This usually corresponds to a colour of “water white”. Many factors influence the colour of the honey, the largest being the floral source. Other factors that can darken the honey include local climate during honey collection and maturation, old, dark honeycombs in the beehive, storage after honey extraction and probably even the health of the hive and the local soil composition.

Also note that as honey naturally crystallizes (granulates) from its liquid form the colour naturally changes, analogous to the colour of water changing as it crystallizes into ice. We allow our honey to naturally crystallize in the jar before selling it. Most liquid honeys naturally crystallize over time, with the rate depending on many factors, again with the largest being the floral source.

You shouldn’t give honey to any infant or baby less than 1 year of age. Below about 9 months of age, infants intestines are not fully colonized by normal beneficial bacteria and there is a risk of infant botulism if these babies and young infants consume honey. Bacteria cannot survive in honey, but C. botulinum spores, which occur almost everywhere in nature, can survive in honey. There is a possibility that these spores could grow in an infant’s intestines and cause infant botulism. Note that C. botulinum spores are equally present in pasteurized and raw honey – the pasteurization process does not kill the spores. Note that infant botulism is different from (adult) botulism (food poisoning). You cannot catch infant botulism if you are older than one year old (this includes pregnant women). Adult botulism (food poisoning) results from consuming foods containing botulinum toxin (the same toxin used in botox injections) that are made by growing C. botulinum bacteria (Not spores!) thriving in spoiled food. You cannot get botulinum toxin food poisoning from pure honey.

 

We don’t batch or blend our honey, so the color depends on many factors, the biggest being the exact blend of flowers that contributed to the honey in your jar. All of our Wendell Estate Honey is naturally a very light, almost white color, with small variations. However, if stored in a warm environment, over time (weeks to months depending on the temperature) the color will darken. The honey will retain its white color for many months in the refrigerator and years (to indefinitely) in the freezer. Note that the color change itself does not affect the flavor or texture of the honey – if it’s not fermenting it should be perfectly enjoyable to eat.

 

If you are ordering from our website, shipping is included. The price you see is the price you pay to receive your gourmet raw honey to your address.

For wholesale orders we will provide a shipping quote for you.  All upcharges by the freight company are the responsibility of the customer.

With all the fake and adulterated honey in the market (honey is the 3rd most adulterated food in the world!), it’s no wonder some customers are vigilant!

Fortunately, while our website materials (brand name, pictures and text) do pop up all over the place online connected with a wide range of honey brands and other products (including toothpaste! – no, that toothpaste has nothing to do with us), we have not yet seen a WEH-branded jar of knock-off honey. But please get in touch with us if you think you have a fake jar of WEH.

While we do occasionally have major changes to our packaging, for example we switched to round jars for our 250g jars after we used the last of our hexagonal jars, more often we have minor tweaks, intentional and unintentional. Recently some customers have received 1 kg jars that are missing the familiar Wendell Estate honey bee logo on the lid of the jar and have worried they may have purchased fake or copy-cat Wendell Estate Honey. Here’s the detailed answer to this issue that can hopefully re-assure you if you happen to have one of those jars:

We did receive a large shipment of lids for the 1 kg jar in which a fraction of the lids were missing the regular gold Wendell Estate Honey Logo (“bee logo”) on the lid. This was not an intentional design change, but rather an unexpected printing issue. Rather than return the un-printed lids thousands of kilometers to have the logo printed on, we made the decision to use the lids “as-is”. We can re-assure our customers that if you did happen to purchase a 1 kg jar of Wendell Estate Honey that is only lacking a bee logo on the top of the lid, that the honey inside the jar is the same as the rest of our jars that received normally-printed lids. Likewise, the lid quality is not affected: this is purely a lid logo printing issue.

If in doubt, please do get in touch with us. A receipt and a photo of the jar front and jar bottom with the lot number are useful.

We, at Wendell Estate honey, offer you prairie honey, as it is, straight from the beehive to you.

We do not mix or batch our honey. We take the honey from the beehive, extract it from the honey comb, spin and strain off the wax, and get it into jars.  It is a living, straight-from-the-farm food so will have some variance from lot to lot and from year to year. If your honey is at room temperature and seems a little firm, disturb or stir it with a spoon or a knife and it should become more spreadable. Here’s a quick demonstration. You can also warm the honey gently in warm water (25-30°C: 77-86°F). Unless you will use all the honey as liquid, be careful not to melt the honey into a liquid, which occurs at around 35°C (95°F) depending how long the honey is exposed to the heat (details here).

 

As explained above, we generally do not put best before dates on our jars, especially the jars intended for sale in Canada or the United States. However, some North American have occasionally received a jar that does have a best before date on the jar and ask why.

In the Canadian market, honey is not required to have a best before date.  When we export our honey to some countries we are required to put a best before date on the jar.  Sometimes we over-print for a particular order and those jars may be shipped to domestic customers.  The best before date is only valid if storage conditions are strictly adhered to.  We send a copy of our storage instructions to any customer who buys more than one case of honey from us and they are available right here on this website.

 

 

Wendell Estate Honey is strained to organic standards so may have small pieces of beeswax, clumps of bee pollen or propolis. Bee pollen is healthy: it is collected from flowers and contains natural vitamins, proteins and minerals. Bee propolis is made by bees from tree and plant resins (black poplar in our area) and used as a glue by bees to strengthen their hives and plug drafty holes. Propolis is commonly collected, sold and eaten as a health supplement.  Beeswax simply passes harmlessly through your body without being digested. 

 

 

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