Tupelo Honey

tupelo tree A Tupelo Tree in the Swamps of Southern Georgia!

So with the New Year coming up around the corner, we at the Savannah Bee Company are awaiting the spring when the bees will inevitably leave their hives in search of pollen and nectar from the new spring flowers. The honey stores will be low and most likely empty by spring and this will be the honey bees first harvest of the year. South Georgia is not known for its cold winters, but anything below 60 degrees is effectively winter for honeybees. Beekeepers will be on the look-out for swarms by late February and we may have to feed them honey water to help supplement their food supplies while they search for the seasons first nectar. As spring comes into full blossom, we await the very important two week period in late April we affectionately refer to as Tupelo season.

When people visit our retail stores in Savannah and Charleston, we receive a lot of questions and comments about Tupelo honey. Where does it come from? Is it related to Tupelo Mississippi? Some folks just really like the Van Morrison or Tim McGraw song? I wanted to take a moment to answer some of these questions and to explain why we feel that Tupelo honey may just be the finest honey in the world.

boxes in trees Tupelo Honey Hives!

Tupelo honey refers to honey from the White Tupelo tree (Nyssa Ogechee) also known as Ogechee Lime or White Gum Tupelo. White Tupelo is one of the rarest honeys in the United States. The tree makes up less than 1% of all the trees in Georgia. The White Tupelo tree primarily grows along the Ogechee river, the Altamaha river, and the Apalachicola river and only in the swampy river bottoms. You can find a few random patches in wetland swamp areas all through Southeast Georgia and the panhandle of Florida, but the Tupelo tree is more rare there. It also only blossoms for about 10 days a year on average. During years of high rainfall, beekeepers have been known to float their hives out on barges and anchor them under the blossoming trees.

Gold Reserve Gold Reserve

It may sound like an awful lot of effort to go through to produce a single honey, but once you have tasted Tupelo honey for yourself, you will understand why. It is iconic to this area of the world and for good reason. It has a rich, buttery-sweet flavor with hints of spice and an incredibly smooth floral taste. I like the think that if you had never tried honey and someone asked you to imagine the taste, Tupelo is what your brain would come up with all by itself. It has been called Southern Gold over the years and that is a very accurate name for this marvelous honey.

Tupelo honey has been a best-seller at Savannah Bee ever since the company's beginning in 2002. While many people have varying tastes when it comes to flavors they enjoy, most people will agree that Tupelo is one of the most outstanding honey varieties that they have ever tried. Each year we look forward to the subtle differences that will manifest from one harvest to the next. Regional climate variances like rainfall amounts, wind-speed, or total hours of sunlight can induce subtle but significant nuances on the honey produced from year to year. Every now and then, the perfect storm of ideal conditions in a Tupelo region will deliver a Tupelo honey that exceeds all others. In 2014 a small stretch of the Altamaha river experienced such conditions producing the highest quality Tupelo honey we have ever seen. This harvest is now bottled and known as Savannah Bee Tupelo Gold Reserve!

As a beekeeper, this time of year tends to remind me of all of the experiences I have had over the last 12 months with my hives and I get excited about the new moments I will have over the year to come! Tupelo season makes that list every year and I hope you will enjoy this year’s Tupelo honey and look forward to next year’s Tupelo as well. It really has been and incredible year here at Savannah Bee Company. the year 2014 really did produce some amazing honeys. I certainly do hope you will come to Savannah for a visit and to sample all that 2015 has to offer!

Submitted By: Usher Gay