Nick Cameron is General Manager and Head Bee Wrangler at The Buzzstop
Nick Cameron is General Manager and Head Bee Wrangler at The Buzzstop, his honey centre, café, and advisory on beekeeping in Queenstown, New Zealand.
We chat to Nick about all things honey and how chefs and hotels could offer to their guests their own unique honey with a story to tell.
What first inspired you to get into honey?
My family on my mother’s side has been involved with beekeeping for more than 100 years in Otago. My grandad, Colin Farmer, who’s still alive and kicking at 94 years, used to keep around 400 hives with his father in the Ida Valley. My brother, Blake, is a full time commercial beekeeper as well.
The Buzzstop itself was driven by a niche I saw to offer tours and experiences that educate visitors (and Kiwis) about how bees operate as a colony, their importance to the global food chain as pollinators, and the hands-on process of extracting honey and getting it into the jar on the shelf. Travellers to all countries are seeking better knowledge and understanding of the world around them, they want to learn something new and take that home with them.
At the Buzzstop we always have a beekeeper in the shop to properly explain all our honey and answer people’s questions. Most people are especially interested in hearing about Manuka honey and its benefits, and how the rating system for Manuka works.
When did Buzzstop open and what was involved in opening such a big honey-focused centre?
We opened July 2017, after around two years of blood, sweat and tears altering the Grant family’s 50-year-old run-down, sheep-shearing shed into a commercial retail space and cafe. We have also created a wonderful outdoor dining area planted out with native plants, including Manuka, and a kids’ play area with lots of real green grass.
What different types of honey are there?
For a small country, New Zealand boasts a huge range of very different honey. NZ is long and skinny, covering a large range of latitude, altitude, rainfall and temperature. And within this there is a vast range of different ecosystems, including rainforest, alpine, coastal climates, etc. The end result is that there are lots of very different plants producing unique flowers, whose unique nectars produce amazing honey.
We stock honey from the far north to the deep south, and from east to west coasts, as well. We have everything from rich Northland Manuka honey to malty, caramel-toned Kamahi honey from the rainforests of the west coast, and silky white clover from Southland farmland to pungent, super strong thyme honey introduced to Central Otago by a French gold miner in the 1860s. We have around 30 different honey varieties at any one time, and these change seasonally.
What is special about New Zealand honey?
We possess such a vibrant and vast range of very, very different honey, with a huge range of extraordinarily different colours, flavours and textures. And we don’t suffer the problems of many countries experiencing bee loss and issues triggered by heavy pesticide use and pollution.
Most notably, it’s illegal to add anything to, or dilute, our honey. New Zealand honey is true-to-label and is a pure, natural product people can trust. The last jar of honey I purchased in the US turned out to be 80% corn syrup and 20% honey!
What should customers look for when deciding which honey to buy?
Keep it simple, buy honey that tastes good to you. Find a tasting table like at the Buzzstop and go crazy. Try a heap of different honey, and discover what you like. Over and above taste, we do get many people after Manuka honey for health purposes. From sore throats to skin conditions and wounds / infections, there is a honey that can help.
Do you supply any chefs with your honey?
Sure do, lots of restaurants, hotels and wineries. We even sent a box of honey to Tokyo last year, with each honey paired to a specific menu item with matching New Zealand wine.
We have helped establish and maintain hives at the Hilton Hotel, The Rees Hotel and the Heritage Hotel to date, and hopefully Millbrook in the weeks ahead. The honey these hives produce is extracted by the hotel staff at the Buzzstop, and returned to their respective hotel for guests to enjoy.
How would you say chefs and hotels can integrate top-quality honey into what they offer their guests?
There is a clear shift towards chefs and hotels seeking to source and include local produce in their menus, and have a menu that reflects the change in season. We now provide many hotels with quality local honey to replace the cheap, generic budget honey used previously. It makes for a great story, and can be linked to the plants and flowers they see as they enjoy activities around Queenstown. (And for locals, it’s a great way to reduce the effects of hayfever in spring and summer)
You use honey in many of your items at the Buzzstop café, and it’s especially your waffles that are very popular, is that right?
Yes, we cook our waffles in-house. We actually brought the waffle irons and recipe from a Belgian family who sold waffles as a business, it was their grandad’s recipe. We still even import the pearl sugar from Belgium to stay true to his recipe. Drizzle a freshly baked waffle with Manuka honey, add a scoop of Kapiti Island Manuka and fig ice cream … oh my God … unbelievably good!
You’re making us hungry now! Thank you, Nick, for giving us insight into what honey is all about.
Buzzstop honey centre is a one-stop shop for all things bees and honey. Visitors can taste and purchase a wide selection of Kiwi honey, from local raw varieties to premium active Manuka, and artisan honey from all corners of New Zealand. Skincare products, beeswax candles, sweet treats, beekeeping equipment, and gift ware are also on offer.
Buzzstop offers fun, educational and hands-on activities for all ages, such as making your own beeswax candles, honey soap and beeswax wraps. Discover how bees convert nectar from flowers into delicious natural honey, and learn the difference between a drone, a worker and a queen bee through our large see-through observation hive. Try spinning and bottling your own honey to take home with you. Or climb into your own bee suit and experience what it’s like being a beekeeper.
For more information on working with Buzzstop, check out www.buzzstop.co.nz or contact Nick on email@example.com.