Do you like honey? Do you know how good natural honey can be? And do you know how many wonderfully healthy products can be obtained from the hives of bees kept in the local Paphos countryside? Well whether you’re aware of these things or not, meeting up with Stavros Mintzis is a real education. Stavros runs the “Stavros Flower Honey” shop in Chloraka along with his wife Georgia. This is just behind the “My Pet” shop, but it is not just a sales outlet. Behind the shop front is an empire of millions of bees buzzing their way through life in 300 separate hives spread over several different locations all the way from Stroumpi to Peyia.
Stavros has been keeping bees for 17 years. In the late 1990s he had a car accident and was forced to take time off from his regular work in the family restaurant. Even when he was able to return to work, he found the routine stressful and was looking for something else. He was walking across his garden one day when he saw a large number of bees swarming on a tree. His father Tonis had kept several colonies of bees in some barrels which is one of the old traditional Cypriot ways of doing this, and so Stavros set about coaxing them into a nearby barrel, just to see if he could do it. He succeeded in this, and then he decided to get serious with it by transferring the bees to a proper hive.
The advantage of keeping bees in a hive is that it’s much easier to lift out the various hive sections which contain the honeycomb and the honey. You really need to make this job easy because the bees are usually very annoyed when someone comes in and takes both their living quarters and their food supplies. Of course, this can’t be avoided, but it is helpful to be able to extract the good stuff as quickly as possible. The less time spent in the company of angry bees, the better. But I feel as if I have to ask,
“Don’t these bees suffer if you remove the honeycomb (their house) and the honey (their food)?”
And Stavros’ answer is, “No, because we don’t remove it all. Also they can rebuild the honeycomb and they can also make more honey. And furthermore we check the hives during the winter. This is the one season when they cannot find the flowers they need to make more honey. So if we find that they’re running short of food, then we give them back some of their own honey.”
And so what began as a bit of a hobby has now turned into quite the full time job. Stavros now sells several different honeys, each of them with a slightly different flavour depending on the time of year when the bees made it. By law Stavros is obliged to call all his honey by the common name “Flower Honey”, and this is what you’ll see on the labels, but he keeps track of the product coming from his hives, and so he knows that the honey produced in May will have been made with orange and lemon blossom, and therefore you can expect a slight orange/lemon taste. On the other hand, the honey produced in July and August will have been made with thyme blossom, and that from November will have been made using both the yellow flowers known as Konizos, and Carob flowers.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that there are many healthy products which can also be obtained from bees, and Stavros is into many of them. He uses a special grill on the entrance to his hives so that the returning bees will drop some of the pollen
they have collected. Stavros then collects this pollen and sells it separately. Apparently it is full of protein, vitamins and iron, and I can personally vouch that it has a wonderful flowery taste. Worth trying, in my opinion, but if you take some home, keep it your freezer. “Yes, that’s right. Definitely in the freezer,” says Georgia. Apparently it keeps better there, and it won’t freeze solid.
Also available is honeycomb, as mentioned above. This is a waxy substance which is chewy and is good for the stomach. Stavros’s wife Georgia also makes and sells a healthy natural beeswax ointment which is good for treating a whole host of ailments such as dry skin, eczema, cuts, burns and mosquito bites. She also makes lovely natural candles out of the same beeswax. And finally there is Bee Propolis which is a natural antibiotic. This can be purchased in solid form or dissolved in the local grape spirit Zivania, and this product is called Vamma Propolis. But probably best of all is the honey itself. But you might say, “Well I can buy honey anywhere. Every grocery has tons of it for sale.” Ah yes, but how has it been processed? Commercial honey is usually mass produced by boiling it which certainly produces a uniform product, but which also destroys all the natural nutritional value. But Stavros’s honey is raw. That is, he has not boiled it, and so you benefit from all those vitamins and minerals.
As I look over what Stavros and Georgia have achieved, I can’t help thinking that there is an awful lot of work involved. But Stavros and Georgia really enjoy working with the bees, and they also enjoy having their small shop selling all these healthy products from their hives. They tell me that they intend to continue doing this for many years because for both of them, this is a hobby as well as work. In conclusion, be sure to look at ‘Cyprus Honey Stavros‘ which is their facebook page.