A honey mecca nestled right in Yolo County, CA, The HIVE, aka Z Specialty Foods is a prime source for gourmet Woodland food. In addition to offering perhaps the widest variety of honey in the world, they also sell nut butters, honey fruit spreads and several other honey products such as beeswax and royal jelly.
While they don’t keep bees themselves, they do source honey from keepers all over the country. It’s a model that enables them to offer 30 varieties of honey, including 15 varieties from right here in California. “Our business exists to showcase the dramatic and subtle differences of varietal honeys,” explains Amina Harris, The HIVE’s Queen Bee.
Her son Josh Zeldner, the Nectar Director, concurs, “It’s really clear when you taste them side by side.” He points out that there is quite the difference between a Yellow Star Thistle Honey and a Coriander Honey, although both are harvested right in the area.
Certain honeys are only produced in specific areas, so The HIVE is sure to source honeys that are unique to their regions such as their Florida White Tupelo Honey. They are quite unique for their selection and are unlike any other company in the world in that regard.
Perhaps the most well known and widely distributed local brand they offer is the Island of the Moon Apiaries that they acquired in 2001. It was started in Esparto, in Yolo County, and is a simple line of natural California honeys. They offer five different honeys in five different sizes.
Moon Shine Trading company is another of their local brands that was actually started by Josh’s father, Ishai Zeldner inDavis, CA. Ishai learned how to keep bees on a kibbutz in Israel and then returned to the US to study at UC Davis.
All of their products are single ingredient products, created by nature. “Our goal is to showcase nature’s gold in its most natural form,” explains Amina. It’s something they do well.
In addition to honey, The HIVE sells gourmet Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, a blend of Cashews, Almonds and Filberts. You can also find chocolate nut spreads, honey in the straw, honey fruit spreads and a full line of beehive products including pollen, propolis, royal jelly and beeswax.
At The HIVE, the team mainly handles honey and wax at their 20,000 square foot warehouse in Woodland, CA. “It is truly a dream come true, and would not have been possible without the personal connections that the local city officials have created. We truly feel like part of the community here,” offers Amina.
Their tried-and-true process has been perfected over 42 years in business. They separate the honey from the wax as gently as possible. “We use very minimal heat and very simple filtration and that way we have a product that is as close to what the bees have created as possible,” assures Josh. Following that process, the honey is bottled for sale and the wax is stored up.
After some time, a beekeeper then takes their wax drum and renders it further, separating any remaining honey and cleaning the wax. The wax is then used for beekeeping activities and to make candles, while the honey can be eaten and enjoyed.
Currently much of their product is sold locally, but they also sell direct to independent specialty stores. Their online store is another place you can order. “We even shipped to the White House, which is fun,” boasts Josh. They’ve exported to countries such as China, Singapore, Japan and Korea as well.
Consider adding The HIVE to your list of things to do in Woodland, CA. Guests will be able to get an in-depth honey experience, taste different honeys and sample honey wine, or mead.
They will also have live music, food trucks, a café, lawn games and other activities. During your visit, you’ll also be able to tour The HIVE production and warehouse spaces and learn about their pollinator habitat. They’ll have gardens and beautiful places to relax and will host events there as well.
As locals, Amina and Josh definitely have their favorite spots around Yolo County. They’ve always loved hiking. “For years our favorite hike was up Cold Water Canyon outside of Winters,” explains Amina. Today, they still hike the canyon and other favorite trails in Yolo Basin, Cache Creek, Valley Vista and Putah Creek, where Amina has been known to kayak.
UC Davis has several events and spots they also love. They particularly enjoy the Whole Earth Festival, the new Manetti Shrem Art Museum and the Mondavi Center. As bee fans themselves, they also enjoy visiting the Haagen Dazs Bee Haven. “Observing what grows and blooms there has informed our own pollinator garden,” offers Amina.
Josh also recommends a visit to the Davis Farmer’s Market, a good bike ride from Davis to Winters or just around town, and swimming in Putah Creek near the dam. Amina would really like to spend a day at Park Winters, while Josh hopes to wine taste at the Old Sugar Mill.
The HIVE is a rare honey haven that’s well worth the trip. Consider relaxing at one of the top places to stay in Yolo County, soaking up all the beautiful scenery and sampling some of the best honey in the country at The HIVE.
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