What is it?
Tambo Valley Honey specialises in Victorian native monofloral honey – honey that comes from the nectar of a single flower. This is rich and aromatic honey made by bees who drink the nectar of one of the predominant species of indigenous hardwoods growing in our forests. The husband and wife team have around a thousand hives which they truck around the state chasing the seasonal flow of nectar from gums and banksias flowering between September and April. Some, like Gippsland redgum honey, taste just like a liquid Anzac biscuit, while the honey made from the banksias near Marlo is dark, rich and tastes uncannily like banana cooked in butter and brown sugar.
Who’s producing it?
Back in 2011, young East Gippsland butcher Ben Murphy wanted a life outdoors and left his cleaver in the block to go and work with local beekeeper, Ian Cane. Murphy spent days on end in the local forests with Cane observing the trees, the weather and the bees. They would drive around the state in a truck packed with hives, looking for the nectar-rich trees. Murphy showed a natural aptitude for the bush and an affinity with beekeeping in general, and Cane realised he had found the right young man to sell his business to. In 2018, Tambo Valley Honey was passed on to Murphy. His wife Stacey joined him in the business, working on new packaging and branding that would help take Tambo Valley Honey upmarket. From there, they started collaborating with brewers like Sailor’s Grave and distillers such as Bancroft Bay Distillery and Logan’s Micro Distillery. Last year, Tambo Valley Honey opened a small café and tasting room and were joined by chef Sam Mahlook, making it a food lover’s destination on the Great Alpine Road.
Where is it?
You can taste all of the honeys at the Tambo Valley Honey café, which overlooks the Tambo River at Bruthen between Bairnsdale and Nowa Nowa in the forests of East Gippsland. The honeys are collected mainly in the forests of East Gippsland, but Murphy takes the bees further afield into the Victorian Alps, Mallee and coastal Gippsland to forage for nectar.
Why is it different?
“Honey is perfect straight from the hive,” says Murphy. “The aim is to not be greedy and do as little as possible to it to get it into a jar.” This means the honey is processed raw and kept below a temperature of around 35 degrees when extracted. The honey is not filtered, only settled to let any solid material fall to the bottom of the barrel before bottling. “You have to leave enough honey for the bees to keep the hive strong and healthy,” says Murphy. “I take the bees to the flowers and we – me and the bees – share the honey. That’s the deal.” Murphy is known to strap on the backpack and hike for days through the mountains of East Gippsland to find copses of trees about to flower. He has a mind-map of the state’s forests with mental pin drops of where the best patches of flowering trees will be any one season.
Who’s a fan?
“Tambo Valley Honey is unique,” says Mark Briggs, chef and owner of award-winning Sardine Dining in Paynesville. “In summer, I drizzle it over deep-fried zucchini flowers filled with Holy Goat fromage frais. It has a clean, sharp finish. In the colder months, I use the Bruthen Blossom variety with poached quince, honey tuille and a honey mousse.” Chef Rob Turner from Northern Ground is also a fan. “There’s a lovely savoury note to Tambo’s Giant Mallee honey, so I use a little in the vinaigrette to round out the flavour of the dressing,” he says. “Australia is lucky to have so many monofloral honeys and Tambo Valley is one of the best.”
Where can I get it?
The Tambo Valley Honey café and tasting room is located at 64 Main Street, Bruthen, on the Great Alpine Road. Other stockists include Rod’s Fruit and Veg at the South Melbourne Market; Gippsland Food and Wine in Yarragon; Pandesal in Meeniyan; Badger and Hare in Stratford; and Lucke’s Fresh Food Market in Bairnsdale. You can find more stockists at tambovalleyhoney.com.au.
By Richard Cornish