Ramya Sundaram and her husband, Mithun Stephen, were on a trek in Dandeli in 2014. There, amidst the pristine Western Ghats, the couple was introduced to tribal traditions and food from the Uttar Kannada district.
Among the many food items they tried, one product made a lasting impression on both of them.
A product that would inspire them to help over 550 tribals across five states in India.
Speaking with The Better India, Mithun shares that just the taste of the organic condiment was enough to tell them that there was something wrong with the commercially-produced counterparts.
The honey wasn’t just sweet. “It was a combination of sweet, sour and bitter. We all know how honey is procured. Bees collect the nectar from various flowers, digest it and regurgitate it into their hives. The flowers from which the bees collect nectar vary and yet if you purchase a bottle of honey from a commercial brand in North India or South India, they will taste the same. What does that say? The sweet condiment we purchase in the market is filtered, processed, and all its natural properties are lost in the way,” he says.
At that time, Mithun worked as a programmer and Ramya as a freelance event manager. But she was always passionate about working in the health sector in a way that would empower people.
After tasting the sour-sweet honey in Dandeli, she decided to take the leap. Thus began Honey and Spice, an endeavour to bring minimally-processed sweeteners to your doorstep, from five corners of India.
You will notice a stark difference in this organic honey and that produced by popular brands. For one, you’ll see pollen in the bottle.
This pollen gives the condiment its nutrition and texture.
“We procure honey from various parts of India, including Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand. Since the biodiversity in each of these states is different, we can get you honey of different flavours, textures and aroma.” he says.
They differ not only in taste but also in their health benefits. For example, the Jamun variety from Maharashtra is beneficial for diabetic patients.
“Our products are unfiltered (apart from the basic filtration to remove impurities), unheated and unprocessed. So, you can have the real goodness of our forests sitting right at your table,” Mithun explains.
The six-person team at Honey and Spice has partnered with over 550 tribals from across the states mentioned above.
Cutting out the middle-men, this company pays to the tribals directly and helps you get authentic, organic honey. Mithun shares that sustainable methods they adopt do not kill or harm bees.
Traditionally, they were smoked out due to a lack of proper gear. But now, the rural partners are trained in wearing protective gear, climbing trees and cutting only a small portion of the hive that the bees can rebuild.
If you are making a healthy choice of switching to honey, make sure that you go only for that product which empowers local tribesmen and collects honey in sustainable ways.
Make sure you are not losing out on necessary nutrients in your choice of the sweetener.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)