How Flora Mānuka Honey Supports the Native Māori of New Zealand
Chances are you’ve heard of a special kind of honey that comes from New Zealand, made from the blossoms of the mānuka tree. Mānuka honey is all the rage right now because it has some pretty cool properties no other honey does.
Have you ever wondered who makes your mānuka honey (besides the bees, of course)? The answer: it depends on who you buy your honey from. Your money can either support large corporations whose profits line their own pockets, or it can go directly toward the Māori, the native people of New Zealand who have valued the mānuka tree for centuries.
When Flora decided to bring you the magic of this special honey, we wanted to do right by the Māori. That’s why we partnered with a 100% Māori-owned honey operation in the remote, geothermal regions of New Zealand. We’re buzzing with excitement to tell you about the place it all starts.
Paradise Lost and Regained
Flora Mānuka Honey is gathered by the Te Arawa, a Māori tribe who live in the shadow of the Mount Tarawera volcano on the North Island of New Zealand. This land is a spiritual place for the Te Arawa people; that’s why their chiefs are buried on the mountain.
In 1886, the volcano erupted, wiping out nearby vegetation. What quickly spread in the newly cleared land was the mānuka tree. The Māori have long prized mānuka wood, which is highly durable, and they use mānuka wood chips to smoke food.
Tragically, after WWII, the Māori tribes lost their land when it was given to British soldiers. For a long time, the Māori families were dislocated and the mānuka tree was either pulled like a weed or used as animal feed. Pretty unbelievable, given what we know about it now. From 2004 to 2008, the Māori were finally able to settle treaty claims with the New Zealand government. They received a financial settlement and their lands in the lake region back.<1> Thank goodness stories like this sometimes have a happy ending!
Rebirth of Māori Culture
In recent years, the Māori have enjoyed a spiritual reawakening and a flowering of Māori cultural practices. Children and adults are learning the nearly-lost Māori language in schools and cultural centers.
What’s made this all possible? Mānuka honey! (At least, it’s a big reason.) Selling mānuka honey has helped give the Te Arawa tribe the economic stability needed to invest in their culture. The Onuku Māori Lands Trust uses money to fund youth sports and arts programs and provides dividends to every member of the tribe.
Believe it or not, honey wasn’t available in New Zealand until the 1830s when an enterprising British lady brought two baskets of bees to the country by ship.<2> When she set them free and the bees encountered the mānuka tree, they fell in love. The insects formed a whole new kind of honey, giving the Māori’s already beloved tree a new use.
These days, an increasing proportion of beekeepers in New Zealand are Māori, and many of them are women. Whole Māori families collect the honey and whip it into its trademark creamy texture before bottling it. The bees are even doing well under the Māori’s care; New Zealand is one of the only places in the world not facing colony collapse disorder.
Flora Mānuka Honey is the product of a true partnership between nature and people. We think that’s a pretty sweet outcome.
<1> Tapsell P. Te Arawa. TeAra: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 2005 Feb 8. Updated 2017 Mar 22.https://teara.govt.nz/en/te-arawa/print
<2> Japhe B. The wild story of Manuka, the world’s most coveted honey. Afar. 2018 Apr 20.https://www.afar.com/magazine/the-wild-story-of-manuka-the-worlds-most-coveted-honey