A shop dedicated to all things honey has opened on National Road 6 on the way to the airport, in the Blue Moon café complex. Run by Korean expat Hong Seung Hee, Natural Honey sells wild honey from the forests of Ratanakiri, as well as beeswax candles hand-made by the owner.
Open a mere three months, on first look one might be forgiven for thinking Natural Honey was some kind of high-end apothecary, stocked with all-glass display cases and elegant glass jars of varying shapes and sizes containing the amber liquid.
The centre piece in the small shop is an enormous impressive-looking 100 litre pillar-shaped tank with pieces of honeycomb floating at the top and a small tap sticking out of the bottom. This is used to fill the small pots of honey that are sold to customers. There is a small tasting area on the counter, with a delicate silver tray containing honey and spoons for guests to sample the wares. Entering the store, I am immediately given a surprisingly refreshing drink of honey mixed with cold water.
Clearly, Hong Seung Hee is a lady with a passion.
Honey enthusiast Seung Hee says she became interested in the product while living in Korea, where there is no natural honey, and it is something of a prized commodity. She studied honey-harvesting on the internet and read many books on the topic.
After discussing with her husband the importance and health benefits of honey, Sueng Hee decided to open a shop in Siem Reap.
“In Korea there is no natural honey because they feed the bees – the bees don’t make their own hives in the wild like in Cambodia,” she says. “Here we extract the honey made by giant bees that live on trees growing at high altitude in Ratanakiri. It is impossible for people to raise those giant bees, so we can say the honey is 100 per cent naturally made.
“Our Cambodian honey passed its test at the Korean Food and Drug Administration, and was submitted at the 2013 Sancheong international pharmaceutical EXPO,” she adds.
Honey harvesting season falls between November and April and the sheer manpower involved may go some way to explaining the high prices, with the cheapest pot on sale at the store, 500ml, priced at $60.
For those possessing a really sweet tooth – and a large wallet – three litre jars are available for $350. It has to be said the honey is undeniably delicious: smooth and syrupy without being sickly, and almost with a caramel taste.
Seung Hee says her shop is particularly popular with Asian customers.
“Many Korean tour groups come here, Chinese and some Europeans also,” she says. “Honey is the most popular thing – we sell a lot of it.”
Also on sale are pretty, colourful beeswax candles, which Seung Hee taught herself to make, ranging from $3 to $5, and tea made from the moringa plant.
“Moringa has a lot of important health benefits,” Seung Hee says. “The tea makes you sleep well. Both honey and moringa are good for your skin – it’s a very good beauty product.
“Cambodian honey is also called medicinal honey because it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, and helps build a stronger immune system. It can also be used to treat cuts and wounds.”
Natural Honey is open daily from 10.30am to 10pm.