My taste buds braced themselves as I scooped a spoon of golden brown liquid from a jar labelled "Upper Mountain Tualang", "100% wild honey from Sabah, Malaysia" and "Age 3 years". Some foaming and bubbling has already formed on the sides of the jar that warns "Do Not Shake", probably from fermentation and the movement of the jar when it was being carried in the bag. No wonder there was a release of an alcoholic aroma of honey wine when I opened the jar lid. The low viscosity of the honey could be associated with poor quality honey that has high water content or even adulterated honey especially by Westerners who are not so familiar with runny Asian honey.
Hmmm… it's runny, mildly sweet, has a fermented tang, possesses a typical Malaysia floral fragrance, not bad, but not as strong and exotic as I had expected of a honey that is supposed to surpass any grocery store honey in terms of health benefits and a product from the Giant Bees that has aged for three years…. These thoughts floated across my mind as I tried to make an appreciation of the 5ml of Malaysia's probably most famous wild rainforest raw honey.
I then got some sparkling water and ice in a glass and added a few teaspoons of the honey, and the result was spectacular! A very mild, cold beer! The Tualang honey must have fermented quite a bit!
Beekeepers risk their lives to harvest this medicinal honey from massive, parabolic-shaped honey combs built on top of Tualang trees which could measure as tall as 289 feet, warding off the menacing owners of the hives - the aggressive giant honey bees, Apis dorsata which are about twice the size of the European honey bees.
As we know, not all honeys are created equal. Highly prized, Tualang honey is used as a health tonic by the locals, and also as a medicine to heal wounds, skin infections, flu, and regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure. It is believed that a tablespoon of regular honey is equivalent to a teaspoon of Tualang honey in terms of health benefits. It has also been discovered in research studies to:
1) be a potential supplement to cancer therapy (Apitherapy News, 2010)
2) possess antibacterial properties against wound and enteric microorganisms that are comparable to New Zealand's Manuka honey (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2009)
3) have potential antileukemic effect on acute and chronic leukemia cell lines (BioMed Research International, 2015)
4) to be able to protect lungs, brain from effect of toxin (Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017)
The jar (400ml) I sampled cost 120 Malaysian ringgit (approx. 30 USD). It's not the most expensive Tualang honey I have come across but whether it is worth the price is rather subjective and personal. It depends on too many factors, such as how much one believes in honey, how much one values it over other sugars, accessibility and affordability of medicinal honey, and how much one appreciates the bee's work to produce every single ounce of the golden liquid. As the seller explained, "This honey is very popular with singers…its very effective for soothing throat."