A product so popular that supply often runs short of worldwide demand, the world's best-tasting honey begins with the snowy blossoms of Leatherwood trees indigenous to Tasmania's isolated rainforests. What makes Leatherwood Honey unique? It's an interesting tale involving natural science, preservation initiatives, and a foodie movement that's recently discovered the unique taste of this Tassie treat. Here's a bit of the buzz - "This pure honey is produced from wilderness areas…the honey produced here is 100% pure and 100% organic," brags Leatherwoodhoney.com.
These trees can trace their ancestry back to Gondwanaland, the largest piece of continental crust of the Paleozoic Era (Wow, thanks Wiki) and one of two ancient super-continents (along with Pangaea) that predate the seven we know today. Named in part for the toughness of their wood, Leatherwood trees produce heaps of beautiful white flowers with a sweet scent and lots of nectar. Also, in autumn, its flowers mature into "leathery capsules." Growing up to 80ft high, they can live for centuries, but take about 70 years to reach maturity and start producing large amounts of nectar. They grow in some of the oldest, most isolated forests in the world, so valuable that over 2.5 million acres are protected as a World Heritage Site.
Not only is Leatherwood Tasmania's premier honey (accounting for 70-90% of product), but in 2015, an international agricultural authority named one brand of Leatherwood honey the best-tasting honey in the world. This mono-floral honey is also popular with the Slow Food movement. A global evolution toward tangier foods seems to have caught up with this product, once considered too much for most palettes. The Gastro Obscura section of the Atlas Obscura platform describes Leatherwood as "an unusually spiced honey…that catches tasters by surprise." Gastro Obscura adds, "The texture is creamy and smooth and it is not too sweet or acidic…Unlike many aromatic honeys that offer a feminine perfumed scent, Leatherwood honey is musky and spicy." Manly yes, but…
From foodies to skincare, the demand to increase production of Leatherwood-based products is at record levels; so protecting and preserving the source of this amazing honey is vital. This is especially challenging because logging, wildfires, and various forms of catastrophic weather have reduced the number of easy-to-access Leatherwood groves, which has left producers going to great lengths to optimize production in the groves that remain. To that end, some companies have their intrepid beekeepers camp in the forest during harvest season, while others use helicopters to chopper beehives into the hard-to-reach sections of the forests.
"A special helicopter rig, able to hold eight hives at a time, was custom-built in Queensland for the operation," reported ABC.net, with one industrious beekeeper moving 4,000 hives to Leatherwood sites in the Arthur River Forest Reserve each year, an amazing feat. Every season, thousands of hives travel by truck and helicopter to remote rain forest areas across Tasmania.
All this sounds like a lot of work, but based on critical response, definitely worth the extra effort it takes to cultivate and harvest this unique Tasmanian product and meet global demand.
5 FUN FACTS ABOUT LEATHERWOOD HONEY
- The Tassie Leatherwood Tree traces its ancestry Back to the Super-Continent of Gondwanaland!
- Trees live for Centuries and It Takes 70 Years for Them to Begin Producing Nectar.
- A mono-floral honey (that's right, produced from one type of flower), Leatherwood's flavor depends mostly on the blossoms, not the types of bees that produce it.
- Producers Transport Beehives by Helicopter to Obscure and remote Leatherwood Groves.
- One Brand of This Musky, Tangy Honey was named The Best Tasting in the world.