During a time when many small businesses are struggling, Chris White, founder and CEO of Bee America, may have found a way to thrive in the new virtual environment: virtual honey tastings.
“People are looking for something different during this time,” says White, MBA ’07. “The element of having a sensory experience through the tasting and smelling of the honey still remains – even in a virtual environment.”
White’s Bethesda-based artisanal honey family business conducts in-person honey tastings for local corporations, historical societies, synagogues and others. But with the coronavirus pandemic restricting in-person interactions, White decided to convert those events into a COVID-friendly socially distant activity.
Included in each experience are four jars of Bee America’s artisanal honey, shipped to participants along with Bee America's honey tasting placemats, which help guide the tasting journey, disposable tasting spoons and recommendations for seasonal food pairings that will complement the honeys.
During the experience, participants gather together over Zoom to have an artisanal honey tasting experience with their virtual honey sommelier and learn about how to select quality honey, what to consider when tasting and pairing honey with other foods, and how bees make honey.
“It takes the bee 2 million visits to the flower to produce a pound of honey,” White says. “This is a wonderful opportunity to help people develop an appreciation for this magical process.”
During the virtual tasting, the sommelier explains why terroir and nectar sources influence a honey's flavor and color and what participants can do to help bees in their own neighborhoods.
“One out of every three bites of food we eat every day requires pollination,” White said. “And the majority of this pollination is carried out by honeybees.”
White credits the need for pollinators and his education at Smith as part of the inspiration behind the artisanal honey business he launched 11 years ago.
“I wanted to do something purposeful for the local environment,” White says. “My experience at Smith gave me the confidence to step out and say ‘I can grow an environmentally focused business.’ It made me more entrepreneurial-minded.”
Originally trained as a chemist, White also credits the creativity of the artisanal honey industry with his inspiration to create Bee America’s unique products.
“Honey represents the terroir of specific regions during a distinct time period,” he says. “So our products reflect the essence of flowers at a particular moment in time. Our American Heritage collection offers artisanal blends of honey that recreate the taste of honey during important historical eras in our past based on the flora that was prevalent during those times.”
Visitors to George Washington’s Mount Vernon can purchase Bee America’s honey on-site, as well as through Bee America’s website and via other retail distributors.
“One of honey’s unique attributes is that it is a bellwether for the ecological health of the area in which it was produced,” White says. “You can taste variations in flavor over time due to changing environmental conditions.”
–By Laura Hayes. Hayes is a 2022 MBA Candidate and a Forté and Smith Fellow. Originally from Gaithersburg, MD., Hayes worked in marketing roles for four years in the financial services industry before coming to Maryland Smith.