12 Aug 2016

A Sweet Job

From Country Life, 9:27 pm on 12 August 2016


After tasting 200 half teaspoons of honey in one day, international honey judge, Maureen Conquer doesn't fancy pudding.

Maureen has been a honey judge for ten years and recently was chief judge at the National Honey Show in Rotorua.

She samples each honey entered in the competition using a glass tasting rod, tasting about half a teaspoon at a time.

The rods ensure only the pure taste of the honey comes through. Wooden iceblock sticks are out of the question.

Water and slices of crisp apple are used to clear the palate between samples. Maureen says unfortunately, there is no spitting involved.

"We actually have to taste the honey...which is a lovely job but I do fear I will end up with diabetes or something at the end of the day."

The honey is tasted at room temperature to reveal subtleties of flavour.

"You look, you smell, you taste. You're getting the sweetness on the front, the bitterness at the back. You're rolling it around and you've got the texture of the honey which can be smooth or sandy...Honey is not just honey."

Maureen says mono-floral honeys, made from one flower type, vary hugely in their taste and sweetness.  Some, she says, like thyme, honey dew and manuka lend themselves to cooking with garlic and herbs. "Whereas at the other end of the tasting spectrum with honey we've got things like tawiri and pohutukawa and rata and they are sort of really sweet. They're your sticky dessert wines . They're floral,  they're luscious and they blend really well with things like white chocolate."

In tasting competitions honeys are grouped by colour type, not by flower type. Creamed honeys, liquid honeys and granulated honeys are judged separately.  

Maureen says one of the most difficult things about being a honey judge is getting to sleep after a day's tasting.

"Because you are on quite a high, but what a wonderful natural high to have,".


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