My son and I recently participated as judges in the 2016 7th Annual Natural Honey Challenge...his second and my 6th time to participate in this 'sweet' event sponsored by the Big Island Beekeepers Association (BIBA).
There were 13 judges and 72 different honey entries from the State to taste; 50 liquids, 14 solids and 7 combs. The breakdown of honey entries by island was Maui 4, Oahu 5, Kauai 8, and Big Island 55. Besides prizes in each category, this year there will also be ribbons for Best Of (each) Island.
The collage below shows the organizers and helpers who furnished each table of judges with the tastes. Center photo is an assortment of comb honey and right hand photo shows 12 judges (I'm missing, since I took the photos) and Janet, who helped our table of 4 judges.
The public tasting/people's choice tasting will be held in mid October in Oahu when the Hawai'i Beekeepers host the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference at the Ala Moana Hotel in Waikiki.
All winners will be announced then.
Natural honey is honey in it's purest form; honey just as it is found in the hives and has not been heated or tampered with. There are three categories of honey to be tasted and judged: Liquid, Solid and Comb
Honey in Hawai'i commonly derives from single varietals, such as Kiawe, Ohia, Macadamia, Christmasberry or Eucalyptus, any other is usually considered a Tropical Multiflora and can derive from at least three different flower sources. Entry forms must list the varietals.
The judges use a scoring system of 0 to 10 points for Appearance, Aroma, Texture and Taste.
Appearance: cleanliness of container, no excessive foam or debris, bubble speed when jar is turned over, drip test, and moisture content.
Aroma: should be distinctive, pleasing, fresh with no degree of fermentation
Texture: Smoothness, mouth feel, drip test, and either creamy vs grainy (degree of crystallization, if any)
Taste: should be distinctive and pleasing. Judges usually try to find a comparison taste, such as does it remind you of the taste of coffee, or a particular flower, fruit or herb.
We use a grid pattern where we place each sample tasted in a small square, on a straight line (Flight) with the corresponding honey number in each square. A 'flight' of honey means a selection of anywhere from two or more different honeys presented at each segment of a tasting. We had 5 flights to taste.
The collage shows our starting grid, showing a Honey Flavor Wheel, which helps in zeroing in on aroma and flavor...except one of the judges at our table commented the Fruity & Floral parts of the wheel could include more tropical fruits and floral varieties.
The center photo of me was taken by fellow judge and foodie Luisa Castro and the grid photo on right shows my grid at the end of the day! Of the 72 total honey entries, our table tasted 24.
Lunch was provided and the delicious food was prepared by Dean Shigeoka and his crew from AJ & Sons Caterers of Hilo. Pasta salad, a greens, tomato, cucumber and carrot salad with a creamy liliko'i (passionfruit) dressing, rice, chicken, and delicious vanilla cupcakes!
Above is how our table looked at the end of the tasting!
Each judge was given a wonderful gift bag filled with goodness... a bottle of honey mead, two types of honey, a honey wax candle shaped like a skep, a square of 'bee wrap' (a piece of fabric covered with beeswax that can be used as a food/sandwich wrap or cover for a casserole. Can be used up to 50-100 times, depending on how it is used), a small jar of body butter made with Big Island beeswax, coconut oil, essential oils and natural fragrances (mine was sandalwood Vanilla and Anthony's was Maile Lavender)...there were also booklets with honey recipes and a couple of brochures about honey and "The Honey Story".
If interested in joining the Big Island Beekeepers Association (BIBA) check their website:
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