You’ve no doubt been to a wine tasting room, and perhaps even an olive oil tasting room. But a honey tasting room? Chances are you’ve never been. But now you can go to The Hive, a newly opened honey tasting room in Woodland where you can sample varietal honeys from some of the best honey producers in the United States.
The Hive is operated by Z Specialty Food, a fourth-generation family business that sources varietal honeys from around the country and sells them under the brand names Moon Shine Trading Company and Island of the Moon Apiaries. The tasting room opened to the public earlier this week.
The Hive resembles an upscale wine tasting room, with a rustic wood-clad bar where visitors stand while an employee behind the bar offers honey samples on tiny plastic spoons. Each honey is surprisingly unique, with its own distinct color, aroma and flavor profile. Northwestern Meadowfoam is a golden honey with notes of toasted marshmallow and cupcake and hints of vanilla toffee, while California Coriander is a darker honey, with spicy, chocolatey notes that make it great for savory applications such as salad dressings, baked carrots and gazpacho. Hawaiian Creamy Lehua, with butterscotch and brown sugar notes that make it an excellent coffee sweetener, has an unusual crystallized texture. “That’s a normal, natural thing, because it’s higher in glucose than other honeys,” the server explains.
The Hive offers more than 30 varietal honeys for sampling, but the typical tasting maxes out at five to eight, with crackers or tart apple slices served as palate cleansers between each sample. “Honey is so sweet,” explains a server behind the bar. “After a while, your palate stops being able to taste anything.”
Amina Harris, who owns Z Specialty with her two adult children, says the tasting room was a dream of her husband, Ishai Zeldner, who passed away in 2018. “His vision was to have a honey museum that would attract tourists,” she explains. “Now we have a honey tasting room. It’s right off I–5, which makes it easy for people to stop.”
Free walk-in tastings are available 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday–Friday. The tasting room also sells nut butters, fruit and chocolate spreads, royal jelly and bee pollen. Outside the tasting room, there’s an outdoor event space where Harris plans to offer live music and seating for picnics. A pollinator garden surrounds the event space, and bee hives will be added next spring. Harris has applied for an alcohol permit so that she can also serve mead—an alcoholic drink made of fermented honey—in the tasting room.
The Hive is located at 1221 Harter Ave. in Woodland. For more information, go to the website.