- English beekeeper Mary Bumby introduced bees to New Zealand in 1839, producing the first Manuka honey.
- Long before honey production, the Manuka tea tree had cultural significance for the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, who used it for medicine, food, and tools.
- The Maori people referred to the Manuka tea tree as “treasure” or “taonga.”
- Manuka honey gained global recognition in the 1980s after the publishing of scientific research detailing MGO’s potent antibacterial properties.
Manuka Honey: From New Zealand Roots to Your Table
Few foods demand as much respect and awe as Manuka honey. Its journey from the unassuming Manuka tea tree to the pantries of millions worldwide demonstrates the power, hard work, and resilience that it (and its buzzing caretakers) embodies.
However, the history of Manuka honey is just as rich and original as the taste of this golden nectar itself. From its birthplace and traditional uses to its undeniable emergence as a superfood, this article dives into the vast and rich history of Manuka honey.
Birthplace of Manuka Honey
The fascinating past of Manuka honey begins with a European settler named Mary Bumby. Mary, an English beekeeper, was the very first European to bring bees to New Zealand.
In 1839, Mary situated her hives on the East Coast of the North Island. As you might already be able to guess, this area was home to plenty of Manuka tea trees. Because of this, it’s thought the very first honey produced in New Zealand was our much-loved Manuka honey.
Yet, let’s rewind for a quick moment.
Before the bees were introduced to New Zealand, the Manuka tea tree was described in great detail by Johann Forster in 1776. This specific plant is found nowhere else worldwide outside of Australia and New Zealand, and it’s truly what makes Manuka honey so special. Manuka honey only comes from the nectar of the Manuka tea tree.
Forster noted the significant durability of this plant. In particular, the Manuka tea tree is very resistant to droughts and wildfires.
If we go back even further, the Maori indigenous people of New Zealand actually had various uses for the Manuka tea tree. So, let’s take a closer look at the Maori’s relationship with this plant and how it contributed to their culture and way of life.
Traditional Understanding and Use of Manuka Honey
Between 1320 and 1350, the Maori arrived in New Zealand via canoes from East Polynesia — which is an impressive feat all on its own.
The Maori had a special relationship with the Manuka tea tree, referring to it as “taonga” or “treasure.” They made use of it in various ways, using it for medicinal purposes, food, weapons, tools, and even roofing.
If it weren’t for the Maori, the Europeans might never have understood the powers of the incredible tea tree. In fact, the Europeans learned about this tree and its many uses from the Maori themselves. The leaves of the Manuka tea tree were even used to make deliciously brewed tea, which is where the name “tea tree” comes from.
The Europeans and indigenous cultures alike had a similar appreciation for the Manuka tea tree — well before honey hit the scene. Yet, it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s that Manuka honey gained global recognition.
The Global Recognition of Manuka Honey
It’s no secret Manuka honey is becoming more and more popular. This type of honey includes a nutrient called methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO contains highly potent antibacterial properties, which give way to various benefits.
In the 1980s, Manuka honey become famous worldwide when research was published regarding MGO’s antibacterial effects. Then, in the 1990s, to be considered authentic, Manuka honey producers had to have their products tested by an independent third party. This ensures that each consumer is getting the real thing.
At Manukora, we even go a step further; on each Manukora Manuka honey, such as our MGO 850+, you’ll find a QR code. By scanning this code, you can discover the origin of your honey, identify the beekeeper who produced it, and verify its potency and certification.
Manukora's Role in Upholding Manuka Honey Tradition
Manukora’s story aligns with the increasing popularity of Manuka honey across the globe. In 1998, Bryce Hooton, our founding beekeeper, took great care in looking after the bees and harvesting Manuka honey.
In fact, he had to. Bryce Hooton was blind, so he always paid extra attention to every step. Bryce believed in working with nature and not against it. This meant letting the bees do their job and not interfering with the process until the honey was ready to be harvested.
Since then, we’ve followed Bryce’s lead. The Art of Ethical Beekeeping prioritizes the health of the bees, their habitat, and our planet. This means not moving the hives and allowing nature to do its thing. After all, the bees contribute to our planet’s natural balance and even our food supply. Without bees, we wouldn’t have many crops or honey.
By following these ethical practices, our Manuka honey doesn’t lose any of its potent nutrients along the way, and best of all, our bees remain happy and healthy.
The Sweet Future: Manuka Honey’s Continuing Legacy
Today, Manuka honey is a staple in many households worldwide. Whether you drizzle it over yogurt or toast or take it by the heaping spoonful, Manuka honey is a great addition to any lifestyle.
Knowing its history, you can now appreciate your Manuka honey even more. It doesn’t just taste creamy and delicious; it’s also part of a vast and long history. Its nutrients, like MGO, also provide plenty of support when it comes to immunity, digestive function, and overall wellness.
The only way to uncover the superpowers of this honey is to try it for yourself. Manukora’s Manuka Honey comes in various MGO strengths. Not sure which MGO grade is right for you? Take our MGO quiz to discover which Manuka honey suits your needs.