The Legend of Tupelo Honey

tupelo honeyThe Savannah Bee Tupelo Honey Family.

Tupelo honey is our all-time best-selling honey varietal. Not only is it everyone's favorite, but Savannah Bee is a company and a brand that owes its success to the legendary reputation of Tupelo honey. Although Tupelo honey does have some powerful rivals within our product-line like Sourwood honey, Raw Honeycomb, Royal Jelly Body Butter, and Beeswax Hand Cream, Tupelo honey remains the Queen of the Honey World and the heart and soul of the Savannah Bee Company. What is it about Tupelo honey that makes it so special that we sell completely out year after year? Perhaps more importantly, what is it about Savannah Bee Tupelo honey that is so extraordinary? To understand the legend of Tupelo honey, you must first look at its production region. Secondly, you must listen to the story that Ted Dennard has been spinning for years as he made it his mission to share this Southern Gold with the world

Tupelo hives on the edge of the Cypress swamp.

Tupelo honey is not just a southern honey, it is only produced in two tiny regions of the Southeastern United States, the Okeefenokee Wildlife Refuge on the Georgia-Florida line and the Apalachicola River basin right in the crook of Florida where the peninsula becomes the panhandle. Both of these areas are classified as Southern Cypress Swamp. In fact, locals often refer to Tupelo honey as Swamp honey.

What we refer to as the Tupelo tree is actually the White Tupelo tree (Nyssa ogechee), also known as the Ogechee Lime tree or the White Gum Tupelo. Although the Tupelo tree does grow outside these two regions, the Southern Cypress swamp is the only ecosystem that supports large stands of these trees. As a result, 100% pure raw Tupelo honey is very rare.

Not only is Tupelo honey rare but it has a great narrative packed full of celebrity and lore. Despite the fact that Tupelo honey has been harvested in Georgia and Florida for centuries, it was relatively unknown regional delicacy until 1971 when singer-songwriter Van Morrison released his album Tupelo Honey which reached number 27 on the Billboard charts that year. As a result, the name and brand of Tupelo honey now reached a national audience.

Even though Tupelo now had national name recognition, the honey was still very much a niche product. In 1996, Tupelo honey once again claimed the media spotlight with the release of the major motion picture Ulee's Gold starring Peter Fonda. In 1997, Ulee's Gold was the "Centerpiece Premier" at the Sundance Film Festival. In addition, Fonda won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film.

langstroth hive Ted Dennard working his Tupelo hives.

Interestingly, just about the same time Ulee's Gold hit the box office, Ted Dennard (founder of Savannah Bee) began his quest to introduce as many people as possible to the world's finest honey, Tupelo honey. You see, Ted grew up eating and producing Tupelo honey right here in Georgia. As you travel around a little sampling honey varieties from region to region, you quickly realize that there is no honey that compares to Tupelo honey. Tupelo honey has a color, texture, and flavor that is absolutely unmatched. Sure, there are other outstanding honey varieties but Tupelo really is something special. All you have to do is try pure Tupelo honey and you will know that it really is something special! In fact, Ted has introduced so many people across the nation to Tupelo honey that he has created a strong national demand for the product to the extent that supply has become a real issue. It wasn't too many years ago that Savannah Bee could acquire all the Tupelo honey we desired from our network of beekeepers. Today, Tupelo honey buyers come from all over the country in an attempt to secure as much of this precious honey as possible. As with any demand outpacing supply scenario, the price of Tupelo honey has soared, reaching all-time highs.

It's not just the flavor and texture of Tupelo honey that makes it unique, but also the very chemical composition of the honey. All honey varieties contain the sugars fructose and glucose. These compounds are used by our bodies as a primary energy source. Tupelo honey has an unusually high fructose to glucose ratio. This quality allows the body to release the energy contained in the sugar molecules over a longer period of time and significantly reduces the feeling of a "crash" that is often associated with sucrose, also known as white or refined sugar. In addition, this unique sugar ratio dramatically slows down the crystallization process.  All honey varieties will eventually crystalize given enough time. Honey varieties with higher glucose content tend to crystallize more quickly than those with a lower glucose content. We have a jar of Tupelo honey here in the Savannah Bee office that is over 10 years old and shows absolutely no signs of crystallization!

Tupelo Honey The Tupelo honey production regions.

So now it's Tupelo season again and I have heard mixed reviews about this year's harvest. Reviews from the Okefenokee region are positive and it looks like some great Tupelo honey has been produced. However, the reports from the Apalachicola region are not as promising. It looks like some high-quality Tupelo has been produced, just not very much of it. After a couple of low Tupelo honey production years, we sure would like to see a bumper crop this year but it is impossible to know the spoils of the season until we get the honey back here into our production facility.

tupelo honey The delicate and subtly beautiful Tupelo flower.

The story of Tupelo honey swirls with legend, lore, pop music, and big screen theatrics. It is a sweet, golden substance produced during a 3-week spring bloom in the dark Southern swamps. Beekeepers have to float their hives out on barges into alligator infested waters just to get their bees in the position to collect this glorious nectar. If it's too dry or windy, the nectar evaporates. If it's too cold or rainy, the bees won't fly. In fact, everything has to be just right to produce the Southern Gold.

Soon we will have the 2018 Tupelo honey in our warehouse and shortly after we will be filling our elegant flute bottles. You can be sure that we will offer the very best Tupelo honey available this year. No one can beat Savannah Bee Tupelo honey, always 100% pure. We will let you all know as soon as it is available, so please stay tuned and get ready for some of the best honey you have ever tried!

Submitted By: Brantley Crowder