Early on Saturday mornings, beekeeper Tim Moore sets up a small white tent by an apple tree in front of Arrowhead Montessori school, his coolers full of golden and dark amber honey from his family’s bees.
He and his wife, master beekeeper Connie Moore, have kept bees for the past 12 years and together they own Honey Hive Farms, a collection of 800 hives kept at various farms throughout the Valley.
Since bees pollinate and create honey from their nearby flowers and cactus plants, the Moores house their bees at pesticide-free farms to produce the greenest honey possible. But don’t expect to see bees at the honey tasting tent on Saturdays.
“Bees have a strong sense of smell and even if our bees are in their glass cases on display for our tastings, other local bees will smell them and want to come to say hello,” Moore explains.
So while Connie works on various honey-related projects and cares for the bees and her recently acquired chickens, Moore mans the honey tent.
Despite the miserable heat, he has a big friendly smile fixed on his face from beneath his oversized sun hat. He happily explains the nuances between the different honey he bottles and sells.
The honey, packaged in plastic bear-shaped bottles with cute hand-drawn-looking stickers, is lined up from Wildflower, Orange Blossom, Cactus, Mesquite, Suicide, and Cat’s Claw flavors. The Suicide Honey sticks out with its darker color and big question mark logo. Moore explains that it’s a mix of several different kinds of honey.
The average Saturday will bring a crowd in the range of around 50 people, and visitors tend to stay for 15 to 20 minutes before heading home with some fresh honey, Moore says. As I try samples and ask questions, several locals stop by and purchase “the usual” order.
First up, I tried the Wildflower honey. It was smooth and sweet. In the Suicide Honey, mesquite is the overwhelming flavor. My favorite was by far the Orange Blossom, which Moore says is the rarest, as bees can only produce it once a year. The other flavors are bottled in all four seasons.
The Moore family and their customers’ favorite is the Wildflower Honey. For the Moores, this flavor is sentimental since it was the first honey they’ve ever bottled. It’s their bestseller with customers because it is believed to be a natural remedy for seasonal allergies.
The theory of seasonal allergy sufferers using raw local honey as a source of aid is controversial and still debated in the medical community. But believers say this: exposing the body to local pollen regularly in the form of honey helps create immunity and protection against allergies. According to Moore, customers swear by the Wildflower Honey as an allergy aid and he has many repeat customers who praise it. Moore says even part-time residents or “snowbirds,” will often visit or order gallons of honey from the farm to take with them to the East Coast.
Similar to maple syrup, honey is categorized by different grades. Baking and cooking grade honey is lower grade than grade A honey from Honey Hive Farms. According to Tim Moore, baking grade honey is typically graded B or C, and is often a mix of different kinds of honey such as wildflower and clover. Honey Hive’s website offers suggestions and tips for baking or cooking with their honey at home and for making fun honey-infused cocktails, mocktails, coffees, and hot chocolates.
For the Moores, honey is a family affair. Connie has beekeeping in her blood as her parents were also beekeepers. Tim jokes that their eleven-year-old son Alex is “really the boss of the operation.”
His family has been doing free tastings every Saturday for the last six years since they opened a farm in Peoria in addition to their original location in Missouri.
The Moores are proud to have the bees to back up the honey. Moore warns us to be wary of farmers market honey and supposedly local raw honey at supermarkets because it is too hard to know where it comes from and “where are the bees?” he asks. Buying from Honey Hive Farms means getting the honey directly from the source.
Folks curious about beekeeping can arrange visits to meet the bees ahead of time with the owners and bring the whole family. Connie leads a series of beginner beekeeping classes with 10 students at a time. For $65 for kids age 5 to 12 or $100 for adults, students don a bee suit and learn the basics of beekeeping. Classes run from September through May on different Arizona farms where the bees are kept.
If the farm is too much of a trek, those seeking local hive-to-table honey can order any combination of products from the website with free shipping on all orders over $50. One 12 ounce bottle of artisan honey costs $10, with 3 pounds of honey ranging from $30 to $35. Raw honey “never expires,” Moore says, although he recommends keeping it in a pantry or storage place that doesn’t exceed 80 degrees.
Local pollen, comb honey, and spun honey is also for sale. Spun honey is the same as whipped honey and is a product they are phasing out so now is the time to grab some before it’s gone. Spun honey adds seed honey to liquid honey to create a lighter-colored spread almost like butter consistency.
Some small businesses that Honey Hive Farms works with include Blue Sky Farms, Well Coffee, Fruta, Valley Coffee, Passport Coffee, and Alaskan Pride.
Meet Moore at his tent, taste some honey, maybe take a beekeeping class, try some new recipes that incorporate honey, and share it with someone struggling with allergies. The one thing Moore says not to do: Don’t ask how many times they’ve ever been stung.
“Bees sting, that’s part of the life, but there’s always honey, plenty of honey to go around,” he says, “and we love what we do.”
Honey Hive Farms
14611 North 83rd Avenue, Peoria
Free honey tastings every Saturday 10 am – 1 pm