Taos Honey Company
Taos Honey Company is a small, family owned business. They sell raw, natural, unfiltered and unprocessed honey, patiently processing the honey in small batches to carefully preserve the subtle floral nuances. They only use glass containers and the bottling process is driven by the core belief that the honey comes out of the hive perfect. It is impeccable during extraction. Their primary job is to get the honey into a jar, and into the kitchens of their customers, without altering, changing or corrupting that perfection.
Taos Honey Company’s business philosophy and approach is based on cultivating sustainability, natural stewardship, and giving back through community support and empowering others. As they expand their bee yards around Taos County and northern New Mexico in 2020, owner Michael McMannon is focused on balancing growth with the need to maintain the quality of their product while making sure they support the needs of their staff professionally and personally. The first component requires pollinator friendly practices, happy, healthy bees. The second component provides the foundation for employee retention, satisfaction and development, a critical foundation for growth.
Born and raised in Michigan, Mike was the kid that wanted to catch turtles and frogs or wade into a swamp in pursuit of snakes. Whereas this behavior led to more than a few bites and stings, he was not deterred, intrigued initially by how it affected him, fascinated by the natural world and his place in it.
He moved to Taos in 1994 as a wilderness ranger and mule packer with the United State Forest Service. At that point, he had already worked at National Parks in Idaho, Colorado, and California. Though roaming the beautiful backcountry of the American West was fulfilling in many ways, after 17 years, he was looking for a new opportunity when he arrived in Taos, one that would build on his love for nature, with more direct, hands on land stewardship and less bureaucracy.
From Ranger to Beekeeper
McMannon’s interest in beekeeping started while moonlighting at a local ranch. There were a few colonies of bees in the apple orchard. He shadowed the beekeeper while he inspected hives, asking a lot of questions, filling in his knowledge by devouring books about beekeeping and, most importantly, observing the bees. He developed an awareness and understanding of the tiny insects he interacts with.
“Bees want for me to use all of my senses when I work with them. I appreciate this. Colonies provide subtle feedback, by sounds and smells, as well as the hive conditions, which are monitored visually. If you are a person who notices subtle changes and micro adjustments, you would probably be a good beekeeper.”
When McMannon arrived in Taos, Questa Honey was a large, thriving beekeeping and honey operation. They garnered orders primarily from catalog sales and a 1-800 number. Mike passed their headquarters regularly as he commuted to his day job in the Latir Wilderness. He got to know the owner, serving as an apprentice for 3 years prior to purchasing the company. They are still using some of the same equipment, with many of the same employees and customers. For Mike it was a conscious decision to establish roots, to make a commitment to the bees, his co-workers, his general manager, Jeffrey Vasquez, and himself.
We gently strain the harvested honey, never heating it above hive temperature. Pollen, propolis, superfood qualities are ruined when honey is cooked. They are careful not to over-filter, relying on gravity and patience rather than forcing the honey through high pressure pumps. The process of pumping, pasteurization, involves overheating. However, there is no reason to pasteurize honey. It is naturally sterile.
The Hue of Honey
The color of honey ranges from nearly colorless to dark brown. Lighter honey is usually milder, with subtle flavors, whereas darker honey tends to have a bolder flavor. The hue and flavor of honey varies based on the foliage visited by the bees. In fact, there are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States, each originating from a different floral source. Additionally, honey straight from a hive is full of flavorful notes, influenced by location and season. The taste varies from subtle and mild to distinct and bold.
The beautiful mountains and high desert foliage surrounding Taos, New Mexico provide an abundant smorgasbord for pollinators, resulting in a complex, unique flavor, distinct from honey collected in other parts of the country. The Taos Honey Company capitalizes on the natural bounty. Their bees have a varied diet, foraging on a variety of floral sources throughout the growing season, both cultivated agricultural crops; such as raspberry, alfalfa, lavender, clovers, mustards and peas, and fruit trees, as well as wild flowers and berry shrubs; like sage, sunflowers, asters, milkweed, elm, plum brambles, spruce and Russian olive trees.
In addition to providing transitional job training for people recovering from trauma and addiction, Taos Honey collaborates with the Taos Land Trust, CAV community against violence, and Not Forgotten Outreach Veterans.