February 13th, 2012 4:20 pm | by RUTH BROWN Food & Drink |

Kickstart my Heart: Micro-Batch Honey That Tastes Like Your Neighborhood


Kickstart my Heart is a semi-regular blog series on Portland Kickstarter projects we don't hate.

At least once a week someone in WW's arts and culture section sighs loudly and says, "Oh, Portland." That was me yesterday, stumbling across Bee Local, a Portland project that described itself as "micro-batch honey produced in urban neighborhood varieties." I still think it's the most Portland Kickstarter project that ever Portlanded. But I also think it's pretty neat:

Damian Magista is a beekeeper who keeps apiaries in different neighborhoods around Portland. He says the honey the bees make reflects the distinct flavor or terroir of that neighborhood. So you can get a Mt Tabor honey or a Laurelhurst honey. Soon, he says, there'll even be a Pearl honey. Magista is already selling his wares in a few Portland stores, but he's taken to Kickstarter to help expand his project across Portland and into Washington and California.

We caught up with Magista over the phone:

WW: Tell us about what you do.
Damian Magista: What I do is I specialize in neighborhood honeys. Because of the way bees forage in a four mile radius of their hive, I figured out if you place hives in different urban neighborhoods, the honey comes out completely different, because of the trees and flowers around.

How big are you looking to expand?
I'm in the process of building 20 hives by April, and I'm going into the Pearl, I'm going into Alberta, I'm going into Belmont, Parkrose, and a couple others. And I’m also going into Seattle, Olympia and San Francisco. The logistical challenge is it’s just me for now. The ones in Portland will just be me and I've got people in Olympia and Seattle that can help out with basic maintenance, but they’re close enough for me to get up there often. But as it expands, and I hope it will continue to, then I might partner with existing beekeepers, or hire some in new cities.

So what does each neighborhood taste like?
Mt Tabor—that’s where I'm located so it's our flagship honey—it's very bright, very exotic, like lots of tropical flowers. I liken it to if you were to taste an oriental lily, that explosive tropical taste or smell. It’s a little bit spicy. It’s a really nice lighter golden ginger-yellow color.

Laurelhurst—that stuff is almost crystal clear, a super pale bright yellow. It's very unusual in that it’s really nutty and spicy—I think that's a result of all the walnut and maple trees the bees are foraging on.

Brooklyn, I have a lovely hive there, really productive, I love those guys. Brooklyn is a good solid honey in that it’s kind of medium copperish, you get the nuttiness and a bit of dry fruit taste. Then over the top you get a brightness that carries everything. There’s lots of pollen in it. I guess you would call it "epic."

Powelhurst, which is a little bit further out, it would be one I would use for day-to-day honey, for your toast, your waffles, your bagels. It’s a nice, solid flavored honey. You'll get hints of blackberry and some maple. It doesn’t have that explosive, exotic flavor of Mt Tabor, because the foraging isn’t as varied, but it’s a good, solid, fantastic honey.

Do people prefer to buy honey from their own neighborhood?
People want to taste within their neighborhood—that’s what's so fantastic, you can say "Here's this honey and your garden, your neighborhood contributed to this."

Are backyard bees the new backyard goats?
[Laughs] There's a lot of interest in it. When I talk to people, they’re very excited and the interest in hosting hives is there. I've seen an increase in that interest. So they might possibly be the new goat or the new chicken. I'm looking at doing hands-on beekeeping lessons this summer.

The project currently has $1,957 of its $5,000 goal. You have 24 days to pledge some yourself here.
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