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How Sweet It Is: Follow the Honey

By Rachel Leah Blumenthal
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Food labels are not necessarily an indication of food quality. (WBZ-TV)

Food labels are not necessarily an indication of food quality. (WBZ-TV)

When I first walked into Follow the Honey, a new bee-themed boutique in Harvard Square, I expected a simple selection of honey and related knick-knacks. What I found was much more than that: plenty of honey and trinkets, yes, but also a staff so full of knowledge and enthusiasm that I left almost wanting to become a beekeeper myself.

“We’re definitely more than a store – it’s almost like a movement,” said Maria Molteni, Assistant Manager of Special Projects, describing various outreach efforts – everything from promoting awareness of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) to supporting fair trade to celebrating female beekeepers. Maria is also a beekeeper herself.

The store is just the physical manifestation of a bigger story, and the fact that it’s full of pretty things is “the icing on the cake,” explained sales associate Lizzie Curran, who is an artist. In fact, nearly everyone who works at Follow the Honey is an artist, and it shows. The details in the decor are flawless and charming. Owner and founder Mary Canning’s daughter Caneen serves as the Artistic Director and brought together all of the vintage pieces of furniture and decorative items. Artsy items are also on sale – everything from delicately sheer vintage aprons to bee-themed graphic tees to honeycomb-patterned rings and necklaces.

But the most important merchandise is the honey itself. The selection touches on local sources (such as Jamaica Plain and Cambridge) to the US to the entire globe. One variety that I tasted was harvested on a boat in Louisiana; another was a lavender whipped honey from France. A few honeys are harvested from wild bees, although there are very few left in the world now. If you’re able to spend $50 or more on a small jar of honey, you might want to try the special Manuka variety from New Zealand, thought to be one of the most medicinally effective honeys. It has even earned its own rating scale, the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), that describes its antibacterial strength.

Follow the Honey has a fantastic back patio that serves as the setting for many events – lectures, cheese pairings, musical performances, and more.

So why a store focused on bees? “Its genesis is truly organic, from the inside out,” said Mary, who lost her first husband to bone cancer and then found solace in beekeeping, an activity she discovered thanks to a family friend. “Honey and bees took me back to the land of the living as it does anyone who comes in contact with our generation’s “canaries in a coal mine.” Slow down, they tell us, smell the flowers in bloom, sip the nectar, live fully and love.”

Follow the Honey

1132 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 945-7356
Website

Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.

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