Smiley Honey was started by Donald Smiley in 1989. Born and raised in Wewahitchka -- the epicenter of tupelo honey production in the US -- Donald got into beekeeping later in life. Once he had a few hives, however, he was hooked. Donald recalls that "it was like falling in love all over again." Working the bees and harvesting honey became his passion. At the height of his operations, Donald had over 1,000 beehives. Recently, Donald sold his bees and retired from day to day operations. But he remains a key part of the business, teaching the new owners how to produce the same premium honey that he offered to loyal customers for many years. Here is a picture of Donald, doing what he loves:
The flavor and quality of honey depends on a number of key factors, including: the strength of the bee colonies; the location of the bee yards; proper care and management of the beehives; and the weather. We can control the first three factors, but the fourth is a wildcard that produces many a sleepless night for our beekeeper partners. When Mother Nature is in a good mood, the bees are happy too. Happy bees make bumper honey crops. But when the weather turns bad, low yields are the result.
Raw honey is a wonderful gift from nature. Not only does it taste great, but the health benefits of raw honey are well-documented. It is a powerful antioxidant, it boosts the immune system, it promotes better digestion, and helps to regulate cholesterol and sugar levels (among other things). Many honey lovers also report that local, raw honey helps to treat seasonal allergies. Raw honey is loaded with beneficial enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which we preserve through minimal processing. Healthy living and raw honey go together like summer and sunshine. And our honey is about as close as you can get to reaching into a beehive and grabbing a handful of golden sweetness.
We bottle and sell premium, all-natural and 100% pure raw honey. It comes to you exactly as the bees made it. Our way of processing preserves all of the good stuff, such as beneficial enzymes, pollens, vitamins and minerals. We do warm the honey slightly (to 110 degrees or so) to facilitate bottling, and we strain out the bigger pieces of beeswax and bee parts. But you may still see small foam layer at the top of the bottle, or a few specks floating in your honey. These are edible and they attest to the natural goodness of our products.
Our specialty is tupelo honey, harvested from the white tupelo gum tree (nyssa ogeche). These trees average 50 to 75 feet in height, and 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The trees are most content when standing in several feet of water. An abundance of tupelo trees are found in the Apalachicola and Chipola river basins in our part of Florida (Gulf and Liberty counties). The tupelo tree blossom starts out as a round bud, about the size of a small pea. It then swells into what looks like a miniature cauliflower. Finally, it explodes with dozens of little spikes. The nectar is at the base of each spike. This picture shows some of the swollen buds in the foreground, and some full tupelo blossoms in the bottom right corner.
Tupelo blossoms are very fragile and unpredictable. In some years, the nectar flow lasts for a few weeks. In other years, the fragile blooms may be ruined by wind, hard rain or cold weather just a few days after opening. One thing, however, is certain. Each year, the demand for tupelo honey increases, and the supply cannot keep pace. This explains the higher price for tupelo. But our other honey varieties are wonderful too, and we would be delighted if you tried them all. The picture below shows a honeybee, loaded with pollen, visiting a cluster of tupelo tree blossoms for some nectar.
We sell 100% raw honey, but it is impossible to get 100% tupelo (or orange blossom, or holly, etc.). While the beekeepers will place the beehives as close as possible to the target nectar source, it is impossible to stop them from visiting other plants in bloom. Over the years, our tupelo honey has averaged around 70 to 75% tupelo content. The higher the tupelo content, the less likely that the honey will crystallize (also called "sugaring"). We cannot guarantee, however, that our tupelo honey will not sugar. But this is a natural process that does not change the flavor or quality of the honey. Sugaring is easily reversed by placing the bottle in a pan of very warm water (125 degrees or so) for 15 to 20 minutes.
All of our honey is sold by weight, not volume. Also, you should not feed raw honey to children under one year old.
If you are ever down in Wewahitchka, please stop by. We love visitors, and you can save a lot on shipping costs by getting your honey directly from our bottling facility. We are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 4 pm (central time). But you should call ahead to be sure, because we are sometimes closed for one reason or another (like delivering honey, running errands, or maybe even fishing).
-Brian D. Bertonneau, Owner