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Bioactive honey is Forty Hands founder Harry Grover's new venture

Do you know the difference between Jarrah honey and Redgum honey? Harry Grover can. After all, the Western Australian native has drizzled it on crumpets or stirred it into his tea since he was a child and he thinks now is a good time for Singaporeans to know the differences.

Honey is a new direction for Mr Grover, the man who helped spawn the local artisanal coffee movement with Forty Hands and Common Man Coffee Roasters (the idea for which came about after learning about sustainable coffee farming in Asia).

As an entrepreneur, he is constantly on the lookout for new ideas, and honey is one that’s close to home.

“My family has a farm a half hour away from Margaret River. There are old jarrah and red gum trees on the property but we never thought much of it,” says Mr Grover. “Jarrah trees were thought of more as a hardwood tree for furniture or floorboards. But a neighbouring farmer would come by to park his hives during flowering season, walk away with boxes dripping with honey and sell it to the local market.”

According to him, the world’s honey industry is rife with scandal. Samples of honey, including boutique brands, have been found to be fake. In Australia alone, a scientific team led by one professor Mark Taylor at Macquarie University detected one adulterated sample in every five.

Which is why Mr Grover stands behind new-gen beekeepers Steve and Ryan, who “combine passion with pragmatic business sense”.

While small and family-owned, the duo has invested in buying strategically located land; experimenting with manuka seedlings and drone technology to scale up the business for an international audience. The honey is unprocessed and packaged straight from the hives.

But being pure isn’t enough to stand out in Singapore’s oversaturated market, with prestige still attached to manuka.

“What people don’t know is that these eucalyptus species – Jarrah, Redgum and Karri – are just as bioactive,” says Mr Grover. The measurement for antimicrobial activity used here is known as total activity or the TA+ scale, and is similar to the Unique Manuka Factor endorsed by the New Zealand government.

Their range includes the mono-floral Super Jarrah at TA20+ (S$42/260g) as tested by ChemCentre. It has a heavy-bodied, toffeelike flavour that’s absolutely delicious when slathered onto toast, yogurt and the like.

(The active antibacterial methylglyoxal in manuka honey gives it its distinctive bitter flavour.)

“Ultimately, it is all about education. When you see the honey online or on the shelves, it’s hard to understand. There are similar honeys in the market but not all are chemically certified for the TA+,” he adds.

“Price may be an issue, but that dissipates once they understand all the work that goes into it.”

The Rare Honey Company will hold popups and tasting sessions at its new honey bar, in addition to collaborating with like-minded bartenders, bakers and brands. It will also be on the menu at his cafes, so you can indulge in both his passions – coffee and honey – at one go.

#01-01, Tan Boon Liat Building, 315 Outram Road. www.therarehoneycompany.com

This article was originally published in The Business Times.

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