Alum’s Sweet Idea: Virtual Honey Tastings
Bethesda-based Artisanal Honey Seller Builds Appreciation for Bees and the Environment
During a time when many small businesses are struggling, Chris White, founder and CEO of Bee America, is passing along an appreciation for his products without the risk of transmitting viruses too: virtual honey tastings.
White’s Bethesda-based artisanal honey family business normally conducts in-person honey tastings for local corporations, historical societies, synagogues and others. But with the coronavirus pandemic restricting in-person interactions, White adapted.
“People are looking for something different during this time,” said White MBA ’07. “The element of having a sensory experience through the tasting and smelling of the honey still remains, even in a virtual environment.”
During the experience, participants gather together over Zoom, and under the online guidance of a honey sommelier learn about selecting quality honey, what to consider when tasting and how to pair honey with other foods.
Included in each experience are four jars of Bee America’s artisanal honey, shipped beforehand to participants along with the company’s placemats, disposable tasting spoons and recommendations for seasonal food pairings.
“It takes the bee 2 million visits to the flower to produce a pound of honey,” White said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to help people develop an appreciation for this magical process.”
During the virtual tasting, the sommelier explains how nectar sources and terroir—the sum of the unique environment that gives rise to a specific honey—influence flavor and color, as well as what participants can do to help bees in their own neighborhoods.
“One out of every three bites of food we eat every day requires pollination,” White said. “And the majority of this pollination is carried out by honeybees.”
White credits the need for pollinators and his education at the Robert H. Smith School of Business as part of the inspiration to launch Bee America 11 years ago.
“I wanted to do something purposeful for the local environment,” White said. “My experience at Smith gave me the confidence to step out and say, ‘I can grow an environmentally focused business.’ It made me more entrepreneurial-minded.”
Originally trained as a chemist, White credits the creativity of the artisanal honey industry as his other inspiration to create Bee America’s unique products.
One example is the company’s American Heritage collection, which offers artisanal honey blends that recreate the taste of honey at key points in U.S. history, based on the flora that was prevalent during those times.
Visitors to George Washington’s Mount Vernon can purchase Bee America’s honey on-site, as well as through Bee America’s website and via other retail distributors.
“One of honey’s unique attributes is that it is a bellwether for the ecological health of the area in which it was produced,” White said. “You can taste variations in flavor over time due to changing environmental conditions.”