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Good Honey is Hard to Find

Roquebrunehoney6 It's sweet and syrupy. It drips with the taste of sunny days when flowers cover fields and bees buzz.

It's emotions in a golden jar.

Where do they come from?

In France, PACA (Provence Cote d'Azur and Alpes) is the country's leading apiary region.

Nothing too surprising if you think about it. It's warm and fuzzy half the year. It's full of romantic fields of lavender, thyme-strewn limestone fields, tender hills with sariette summer savory herbs in the Haute-Provence, tilleul or linden trees in the baronnies and the Alpes-Maritimes. In the Var, sweet chestnut trees (Maures) and strawberry trees (Estérel) cover parts of the Maures Mountains, the Estérel Mountains and the Tanneron hills.

While Paris may be the city of love and France a country for romance, it's in Provence that you'll find the largest numbers of professional beekeepers. Every year 350 beekeepers produce 2000 tons of honey here in Provence.

AzurAlive: Bee on LavenderWhat are the better ones?

Provence's crown jewel honey? The lavender honey with its delicate tinge of lavender aroma.

But there's a honey for every taste.

On the south-eastern side of Provence, in pockets of land where the soil is acidic, bees are inspired and produce vintage honeys.

You won't find these at the mega-supermarkets. For the most part, they pop up only at local markets, brought by bee lovers who aren't in it for the money.AzurAlive: Many Honeys, Little Time

What's your personal favorite?

My very favorite of these delicacies are the slightly offbeat, the one-of-a-kind, the memorable: the Miel de Chataigniers (Sweet Chestnut Tree Honey) and the Miel d'Arbousier (Strawberry Tree Honey).The first is deep brown like the freshly waxed oak wood floors at an old French library. It's nutty and a touch bitter. The second is chunkier and lies somewhere between raspberry jam and honey.

To be honest, I enjoy the lavender kind too but I can't find enough quirkiness about it for a life-long thing.AzurAlive: Love in a Jar

Where can I find me one?

With 350 professionals in Provence, the picking is still generous. This isn't so across the world. According to recent BBC news, the UK has witnessed a dizzying drop in local honey production and has to rely almost entirely on imports.

Here are some of my favorite local honey producers in the Var and in the Alpes-Maritimes. This isn't exhaustive by any means. It's a select list from personal tastings. Half the fun will be in finding new ones on your own. If they're tasty, unique and available, please drop us a line.

Les Ruchers du Bessillon, Lou Camp d'Andiou, 83570 Cotignac. Tél: 04 94 04 69 39. Email: ruchersdubessillon@free.fr

Les Ruchers des Maures, Quartier des Jardins, 83340 Les Mayons. Tél: 04 98 11 49 52. Email: lucien.lamoine@wanadoo.fr

Rucher de la Bouverie, 83520 Roquebrune-sur-Argens. Tél: 04 94 40 01 69.

Le Rucher de Saint Cézaire
82 Chemin de CHautard, Saint-Cézaire. Tél: 04 93 60 20 81. Email: lerucherdestcesaire@free.fr

Les Ruchers des Baous
143 Chemin des Vergers, 06140 Tourrettes-sur-Loup. Tél: 04 93 24 39 54; EMail: payenjerome@wanadoo.fr

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