HaCaveret – The Hive in Beit Horon: Honey, Fresh Air, Coffee and Beer

What could be better than honey made in Israel?


On Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year, one of the staples gracing the holiday table is honey. What could be better than honey made in Israel? HaCaveret in Beit Horon is your one-stop honey shop.

The truth is that most people feel somewhat ambivalent about bees. While we love the sweet taste of honey, we’d rather avoid the bees themselves, especially their stings. Which is why an invitation to HaCaveret for a up-close-and-personal encounter with bees didn’t sound too great to me. “Buzz” words like “a peek at a transparent hive” and “participate in the honey making process” gave me goosebumps. I prefer getting my honey from a nice jar.

Omri Rozner’s Hive: Much More than a Hive

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Omri Rozner: Bees are man’s best friend?

When I met Omri Rozner, the beekeeper behind HaCaveret, all of my fears seemed to dissipate. Beit Horon is centrally located, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis passing by it every day as they travel to Jerusalem via Highway 443. Omri greets me with a wide smile on a wooden pergola with a gorgeous view of yellow hilltops on all sides.

HaCaveret is actually much more than a hive. It’s a rustic wooden structure, well heated in the winter and light and airy in the summer, where you can refresh with a locally brewed, ice cold beer or a cup of coffee. On Thursdays, it becomes a café, serving a variety of delectable treats and featuring live performances. Private events can also be held at the site. During harvesting season, visitors can don beekeeper’s gear and extract honey themselves. All year round, the visitors can learn all about the lives of bees, taste honeycombs and participate in workshops about honey and beeswax, out of which HaCaveret creates a variety of interesting items.

Because I visited in the early morning hours and things were quiet, I could sit with Omri and hear all about this unique profession called beekeeping, and learn some of the jargon of the field: what he means when he says “open a comb,” what “avocado honey” is, and how honey beer is made.

Raising Bees: “I thought it would be a nice hobby”

I’m really curious – how does a person get into beekeeping?

After serving in the army, I went to learn agriculture. I wasn’t thinking of bees, though. My dream was to raise calves. I went to learn about animals – dairies and cattle. Without any connection to my studies, I heard about an external course on beekeeping and honey making. It sounded like a nice hobby to me. Instead of a pet dog – having pet bees!

What did your parents think of your strange hobby?

I managed to convince my mother to let me put a hive in the back yard. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. After the first harvest, I gave out small jars of honey to our neighbors.

What did the neighbors say about the honey?

They didn’t stop complimenting me on the quality. About two months after I harvested the first batch, people told me that they wanted to bring their kids to see the process.

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The wooden pergola with the gorgeous view of the surrounding hills

So you started realizing the potential of your hobby?

Yes. I understood that it was an interesting subject. I happened to be in this area about three years ago, and I spotted two neglected caravans and decided to turn the site into a tourist spot. The neglected structures were a safety hazard, so I wanted to fix that, and with such an amazing landscape surrounding them – I envisioned a lovely site here. I realized that people were really curious about the honey making process but were completely unfamiliar with it, and that was a gap that I could fill in for them.

Wait, but how do you turn two neglected caravans into such a beautiful site?

The truth is that I did most of the work myself. I worked for an entire year and built this place. Friends from school and from the army came to help me occasionally, but I did about 80% of it on my own.

“Honey from citrus flowers has more Vitamin C, while honey from avocado flowers has more B vitamins”

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Avocado honey has a more dominant flavor and is darker in color

I noticed that some of the honey jars are labeled “Avocado Honey” or “Eucalyptus Honey” – what does that mean?

Honey is made from the blossoms of different trees, such as wildflowers, eucalyptus blossoms, flowering citrus trees or the flowers of the avocado tree. The hive is placed in the orchard, and the bees will first turn to the resources closest to their hive, and only afterward search for a new, farther source of food. Bees can fly for kilometers, so farmers benefit from the pollination and beekeepers benefit from the honey.

Does avocado honey, for example, taste different than wildflower honey?

Not exactly. Avocado honey doesn’t taste at all like an avocado, like many people ask me, but its flavor is more dominant and it is darker in color. Because honey comes from different sources of pollen, each type of honey has a different texture, color and nutritional value. Honey made from citrus flowers, for example, is rich in Vitamin C, while honey from avocado flowers has more B vitamins. Each pollen has its own nutritional properties.

What else do you produce besides honey?

I design candles, produce lip balm based on beeswax and either orange or lemon essential oils, a beeswax-based hand cream that is creamy and nourishing, and massage candles. I also make beer that incorporates honey.

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Honey beer, not too sweet but with a great honey aroma

How is honey beer made?

I brew the beer using my own recipe in a professional brewer that also bottles the beer. The malt is cooked and then honey is added. Alcohol is produced when the yeast consumes the sugar content of the honey.

Does honey beer taste like honey?

It’s not too sweet, but it has a distinct honey aroma. In terms of alcoholic content, it started out at 10% but we’ve brought it down to 6% alcohol. It’s a long process that takes about a month of brewing.

Honeycomb in a centrifuge: How is honey extracted?

Omri, I’m curious – what’s in that room opposite the bar with the glass wall?

That’s our extraction room, where we manually extract all of our honey. Everything here is at the boutique level. The process begins in the spring, because honey is seasonal – just twice or three times a year, depending on the flowering season and the winter. The first extraction takes place usually in May, here in the mountains. Sometimes I also travel to the coastal plain region, where the citrus blossoms begin to flower in March.

What happens after the hive has been sitting in a certain area for a while?

About two or three weeks after the hive has been placed in a specific spot, small stores of honey accumulate, which the bees seal – just like bottles closed by a cap. The purpose is to save it for the winter. I bring the full honeycombs to the extraction room and place them on the opening table to the left. I open the sealing wax (the beeswax) that the bees placed on the holes with a special fork.

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Honeycombs from Rozner’s Hive

So when you say “open a comb,” you mean opening the sealed honey cells?

Yes, it’s a very delicate process. When I open the comb, I need to carefully peel back the wax using the extraction fork. After the comb is open, I transfer it to the extraction machine. It spins, and the centrifugal force extracts the honey from the combs. It flies to the sides, drips to the bottom of the machine and reaches a stainless steel bucket. It is then strained twice to remove any wax, leaves from the field or a wayward bee, and then is bottled and placed on the shelf. The process is fairly simple, but takes quite a long time since I do it all myself.

How many honeycombs are there in a hive?

Each level has 10 honeycombs, and there are usually between one and three levels. From one hive, you can usually produce about 45 kilograms of honey each time.

HaCaveret in Beit Horon: “The ambience is great even just for going out to drink coffee”

Who usually comes to the visitor center?

We see tourists who are passing by, families, groups and children from kindergartens and schools. People also stop here to refresh with a cup of coffee. Even just for sitting down for a cup of coffee, the ambience here is special because of the honey extraction room and the transparent hive, and the shelves filled with our unique products.

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The transparent hive – a glance at the lives of bees

You mentioned the café every Thursday. What’s on the menu?

We serve focaccias, shakshuka, gourmet salads. The cuisine is rustic-dairy. Groups can also come on Fridays with advanced reservations.

Honestly though, after three years – are you sick of honey?

Not at all. I still use it all the time at home, whether in sauces or simply in a cup of tea. It’s a wonderful ingredient.

Just minutes from Modiin, right on Highway 443, is a place where you can enjoy a unique atmosphere, taste beer and honey, enjoy a coffee or focaccia, and connect to the most interesting creature as far back as Winnie the Pooh’s days: the bees.

Stop by and pick up fresh Israeli honey for a happy, sweet New Year!

 

 

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