Photo: my own stock photo of Richard Spiegel's (Volcano Island Honey) homeybees - Hamakua Alive! 2008.
Last Friday, November 2nd, and for the third year in a row I was honored to participate as judge in the Big Island Beekeepers Association Honey Challenge. There were 52 total entries in three different categories; 37 liquid, 10 solid and 7 honey/comb in this year's Honey Challenge!
The judging took 7 hours, with an hour break for lunch, and was held on a gloriously beautiful day in the Lehua Room at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) within the Hawai'i National Volcanoes Park. Our lunch was catered and served at the Crater Rim Cafe at KMC.
The morning started promptly with welcoming notes by Val Kimbrough, current BIBA president and an orientation by H. Allen Sylvester, who before retirement used to work for the Louisiana Bee Lab as a bee geneticist and is the author of a couple of books about honeybees. Assisting were Heather O'Connell, BIBA secretary and Allen's wife, Juanipa Sylvester. Both Heather and Juanipa made sure the judges had everything we needed and plenty of fresh water to sip in between tastes.
To judge a honey tasting contest is a true challenge. Although as a judge, a discriminating taste is desired, tastes are subjective and what a consumer who is shopping for honey might be looking for might not necessarily be what any of the judges might consider a requirement.
The judging is conducted as a blind test in which all entries are only marked by a number on each jar. Points are awarded to each honey sample from 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest using the following criteria: Appearance (following the rules as set by the committee as to type jar, type lid, cleanliness of container and the honey itself, bubble speed when jar is turned over or thickness, drip test, uniformity of color, separation and fullness of jar); Aroma (distintive, pleasing); Texture (smoothness, creamy vs grainy [in the solids], thickness, drip test) and Taste (distintive, pleasing). In the category where the wax and honey were tasted, we judged on the fullness of the honey combs, the flow, the 'mouth feel' of the wax (smooth and chewey or crumbly).
Photo: Each judge had a gridded piece of paper where each "flight" of tasting was recorded vertically with the number of the jar. We could then go back to each tiny tasting cup to taste and retaste until satified with our scores. There were 10 'flights' altogether, most with 5 different honeys to taste except for two which had 6 each and one that had 7 (comb) - each judge also had a corresponding score sheet in which each 'flight' was listed along with the corresponding numbers on the jars.
Judges: Lauren Rusert from the Hawai'i State Apiary Program; Lauren is originally from Northern California, attended Penn State and has lived in Brazil where she worked with Africanized honey bees testing supplemental nutritional diets at the University of São Paulo.
Lorie Obra, who with her late husband worked tirelessly to promote Ka'u as a coffee growing region, is the owner of award winning Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee Farm where she grows, mills and roasts coffee to artisanal quality with the help of her daughter and son-in-law.
Joan Obra, daughter of Lorie, is a former food writer for the Fresno Bee newspaper in Fresno, California. She moved to Hawai'i to help her mother run the coffee farm. She is also a partner in Isla Custom Coffee with her husband. Joan leads sales and marketing for both companies.
Ralph Gaston had a career in sports journalism as a broadcaster before coming to Hawai'i. He met his wife Joan Obra while both were attending the School of Journalism of the University of California, Berkley. He and Joan decided to trade their journalistic careers for that of farmers and moved to the Big Island to help Lorie with operations at Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee, where he does 'anything that needs to be done'. He is also a partner in Isla Custom Coffees.
....and you already know me...Sonia R. Martinez, monthly columnist for the Hamakua Times, Farmers Market produce writer for Ke Ola Magazine and Farmers Market and farmers feature writer for the Hawai'i HomeGrown Food Network.
Photo: Gift baskets as mahalo gifts for the judgest contained an assortment of honey and macadamia nuts!
I'm very sorry but at this time I am not at liberty to mention the winning entries. I will post a follow-up blog post after the winners are announced at the Hilo Harvest Festival.
For more information about bees, honey production, membership and BIBA activities, visit the association's website
You can also find BIBA on Facebook
The Hawaiian Honey Challenge People's Tasting Event is being held in conjunction with the Hilo Harvest Festival sponsored by the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association and the efforts of Let's Grow Hilo next Saturday, November 10th from 1 - 5 pm at the Mo'oheau Park and Bandstand in Hilo.
Please remember that this is a market day and the Hilo Farmers Market will be open and also the same morning as this year's Veteran's Day Parade. Come early to find a place to park and watch the parade and later attend the festival!
2011 - Honey Challenge -