Food & Drink

California Bee Company’s raw honey tastes like it’s ‘right from the hive’

Jars of California Bee Company honey are sold at the Atascadero farmers market.
Jars of California Bee Company honey are sold at the Atascadero farmers market. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

These days, Jeremy Rose is as busy as his bees. In addition to collecting the raw honey his customers love, the owner of California Bee Company has a myriad tasks as the buzzing pollinators take full advantage of the Central Coast’s seasonal blooming period.

“With the coastal Mediterranean climate we have here, most of the flowering is in late winter and early spring when we’re getting our rain,” Rose explained. In other areas, peak bloom times arrive during wetter summer months.

Rose co-founded California Bee Company in 2005 after graduating from Cal Poly with a fruit science degree. He’d specifically chosen the school because “at the time, it was the only one with a bee program,” he said.

His bee business partner, Daniel Nelson, ultimately left to pursue other interests, but Rose had found his calling.

“I love it,” he said. “The bees really keep me entertained, and the honey is my passion.”

Rose patiently hand-harvests and jars all of California Bee Company’s honey. The process would flow faster if he were willing to heat the honey, but that’s not his goal.

LEDE 1 Bee hives
California Bee Company owner Jeremy Rose tends his hives. Jeremy Rose

“I make sure it doesn’t get overheated beyond the temperature of the hive,” approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he said. When you heat honey, he explained, it usually produces off flavors in the final product.

“My honey tastes just like it would if you tasted it right from the hive,” Rose said, adding that each season brings different nuances to the honey, depending on what’s in bloom. “It’s always a bit random — I’m never sure what I’m going to get.”

So far, varieties this year have included toyon — a darker honey with hints of fruit and spice — and the more familiar, lighter and sweeter sage. Another customer favorite, when it’s available, is raspberry blossom.

California Bee Company is based in San Luis Obispo, but Rose has more than 800 hives in about 15 locations between Santa Barbara and Santa Clara counties.

“I’ll probably get up to almost 1,200 hives this season,” he said, “but I’ll still get around to visiting all of them every two to three weeks.” During those maintenance visits, Rose does repairs, divides the bee colonies when necessary and collects raw honey and beeswax honeycombs.

Rose noted you don’t need to be a commercial beekeeper to care for bees. There are a lot of ways backyard gardeners and property owners can help keep the pollinators buzzing.

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Pieces of honeycomb are among the offerings from California Bee Company at the Atascadero farmers market. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

“Let some of the weeds bloom,” he said. Dandelions and clover are important food sources for bees.

He also recommends planting California native plants — such as sage, which is drought tolerant and fire resistant — and diverse plants that have different blooming times.

Gardeners should avoid using pesticides and herbicides, and seeds and seedlings that have been treated with pesticides. (Especially avoid neonicotinoids; recent studies have shown that these toxins are a major cause of worldwide bee colony collapse disorder.)

“A lot of people get upset seeing bees around water, but let the bees have a drink,” Rose said. (Shallower water sources are better so the bees can drink easily without threat of drowning, and so the water won’t be an attractive breeding spot for mosquitos.)

If you see a swarm of bees, don’t panic, Rose said. They’re just looking for a place to establish a new hive.

“Call a local beekeeper,” he advised. “Most will come capture the swarm for free.”

A little extra effort is worth it to protect these industrious creatures. Though other pollinators contribute to the food supply, it’s been estimated that one of every three bites of our food is attributable to the work of honeybees.

An earlier version of this story gave the wrong first name for California Bee Co. co-founder Daniel Nelson. It has been corrected.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

California Bee Company

California Bee Co. honey is available at select retail locations, listed at californiabeecompany.com. Jeremy Rose sells seasonal honey varieties, honeycombs in honey and beeswax at several local farmers markets: Wednesdays in Arroyo Grande and Atascadero; Thursdays in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo; and Saturdays in Arroyo Grande.

To learn more about beekeeping, check out Rose’s book, “Beekeeping in Coastal California.” Rose also sells hives and bees, including queens, that he raises himself.

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