Foods Cross: Thyme honey

January 29, 2016
Greek thyme honey of high gastronomic value and wine like vintages

Foods Cross’ thyme honey differs from all the honey I’ve ever tried and that’s what makes it hard to find the right words to describe it.  Finding the true meaning of life and going back to nature becomes all the more important during difficult times like these. I kept thinking though: who would be interested in honey while all this is going on, even if it is the best thyme honey in the world? On the other hand the fact that a country on a brink of disaster can actually produce something of this calibre is something in itself.

Thyme honey production

It’s worth clarifying at this point how honey is generally produced. According to the Food and Drink code, and specifically article 11 relating to thyme honey, says that in order to have that moniker it needs to have a minimum of 18% pollen grain.  If someone produces honey with say 30% pollen grain, he’s within his rights to mix it with a lower class product, which can bring the count down to 18% and therefore extend his production numbers.  This process of ‘downgrading’ makes it easier to ensure a uniform production (so that the honey produced is the same every year) as well as the same price and quantity levels.  What does happen though is that the overall quality and the nutritional value are substantially lowered as the mix occurs via a thermal treatment process.

Foods Cross’ thyme honey

Foods Cross’ honey is collected in specific areas and every vintage has different characteristics.  The 2014 Astypalaia vintage had an 80% thyme pollen grain count, while the Cretan one was at 60%. This honey has a terroir-like categorisation, almost like wine would. The Astypalaia 2014 for example was different to the one from 2013 and potentially the one from this year, while the Cretan 2014 vintage is different again. All this is because the production process is totally natural so the ground itself and the raw ingredients lead the way.

The way Foods Cross collects the honey is also very respectful towards nature and the bees themselves.  Honey is what bees feed on and it also acts as their natural antibiotic. When we collect honey, we take food away from bees and also open them up to danger, which beekeepers have to counteract with special chemicals. Foods Cross, as all other environmentally aware producers do, choose to only harvest part of the honey a beehive produces so as to leave them enough to feed on. They go a step further and in early summer take the honey produced from the spring blossoms, and store it in special containers. Bees continue to produce honey from thyme

during the summer months as all the other flowers have dried up by then. In early autumn Foods Cross collect the clear thyme honey and return the stored spring one.  This way bees remain strong, healthy and happy and able to produce high quality honey with the amazing pollen grain count we’ve already mentioned.

After the honey is collected and checked over, it’s packaged by hand in numbered bottles. It’s worth mentioning that the bottles were a collaborative project between the well-known Scottish designer Si Scott and Mouse Graphics, one of the best companies of its kind in Greece. The packaging is inspired by the bee and has received multiple design awards in Greece and abroad.  Foods Cross is currently awaiting its 2015 vintage like any good winemaker would.  The variables are the pollen count, the colour and aroma as honey is a natural product and can differ on an annual basis depending on weather conditions, geographical location, the blossoms used and the queen bee herself.

Honey: a healthy food used since ancient times

Honey has always been one of the main parts of Greek nutrition from the times our ancestors connected it with the food of the Gods, nectar and ambrosia. Greeks used it everywhere, mixing it with wine, vinegar, nuts, fruit, on bread and pies. They appreciated its therapeutic qualities and directly linked it with wealth and longevity. Hippocrates recommended it to his patients and Democritus spoke about how honey contributed to wellbeing.  The art of collecting surplus honey from beehives provided a balance between good honey and a happy bee colony.

Thyme honey is a great Greek product as it is produced in very few other locations within the Mediterranean. Greek thyme honey is of the highest quality because of its particular geomorphology and the climate which produces the uniquely aromatic thyme.

The producer

Foods Cross is the coming together of a group of friends who share common ideals; they are Panos Kirnidis, Thomas Tsilalis and Aliki Vassilopoulou. Their common ground is their love of science and the need to produce food which is good for the body and mind.  When I spoke to Mrs Vassilopoulou, she explained the reason Foods Cross came to be: “We want to offer our families the highest quality products both in the sense of nutritional value and through utilising the best production processes.  It’s not enough to know almonds are good for you; you need to know which almonds, what their characteristics are and how they got to your table”.  According to Mr Kirnidis, if this year’s honey doesn’t live up to these standards, it won’t be made available to the public. He told me the company’s vision is “to redefine what food means.  From respecting the environment, using good raw ingredients, delivering a high quality product and putting some thought into how we actually consume food. With that in mind we’re also working on a number of other products like Greek truffle, zea wheat and natural wine”.

Foods Cross’ concept is to always research, follow your philosophical concerns, develop new ideas, be professional, use up to date methods of production but above all show respect to nature and the environment.  They really deserve to be praised for managing to develop a business like this despite the pervading Greek economic climate.
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