Full disclosure: Romesh Fernando, the founder of Furious Bee Honey, is one of my boxing coaches, so I have to say nice things about his honey. But once you’ve tasted his honey, you’ll likely say nice things about it too.
Or at least you will if dense, slow-moving honey that’s the colour of an amber ale and tastes woodsy, caramelly and pure is your idea of a good time. That’d be the red gum honey, a single-origin, single-variety honey that Fernando collects in Chittering when the red gum trees begin to flower in early February. Compare that to the darker, more viscous banksia and eucalyptus honey: a sweeter, more floral style of honey compared to the red gum. It tastes of farmhouse breakfasts, patience and the blue skies of Cervantes where it originates.
Like thoughtful winemakers and farmers, Fernando believes things should taste like where they’re from, so his honey is raw, untreated with heat and gently filtered through cheesecloth. Honeys from different areas are also kept separate so that each parcel retains their own regional and flower-specific characteristics, although Furious Bee Honey also sells a creamed honey – honey that’s been “spun” to create tiny sugar crystals that makes it spreadable. A constantly changing “seasonal” honey rounds off the range, although the current offering – a honey produced with the help of flowering white gums in York – has sold out. Such is life when you’re working with the seasons and producing a small-batch product. And not to mention business partners that take the winter off to hibernate.
This year, gift them a dinner to remember with a Broadsheet Gift Card.SHOP NOW
But as the weather warms up, the bees – and the beekeepers – gradually shift into gear. For Fernando, this means spending time in this car crisscrossing the state and deploying, moving and collecting the 200 hives he keeps to produce his honey. While some beekeepers rent out hives to pollinate of fruit trees, Furious Bee Honey bees are strictly wild harvesters. Fernando prefers to keep his hives on rural bush properties owned by friends who don’t use insecticides, sprays or other chemicals. Although Fernando spends much of the year in the great outdoors, his headquarters is a small unit in the Willetton industrial area. His neighbours include a car workshop, picture framers and a jungle gym. It’s one of many surprising details about the story of Furious Bee Honey, and that of Fernando himself.
Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Fernando and his family moved to Perth in 1986 to escape the country’s civil war. His family’s first home was in Parkwood, five minutes from his Willetton HQ. Raw bush honey wasn’t his first tilt at the food game: Fernando also set up Ansko’s Muesli, a thriving gluten-free muesli operation that counted former Spice Girl Mel B as a one-time business partner. Prior to that, Fernando was also a boxer and represented Australia at two Commonwealth Games as a light flyweight. Curiously, he stumbled on beekeeping after dreaming about having a hive, and then discovered a colony of European bees swarming in an upturned flowerpot at home a day later. That premonition came to him in 2014. Two years later, the self-taught beekeeper started Furious Honey. But the real kicker? Fernando, part-way into his beekeeping career, discovered he’s severely allergic to bee stings. Still, risk of death wasn’t enough to stop our man in his quest to draw attention to the value and importance of bees.
“The real giants aren’t us bro,” says Fernando. “Just because we can drive cars and fly in planes we think we’re something, but we’re not. Bees are part of the ecosystem. They know where they belong. They work together, they pollinate the world, they’re doing something good.”
Spend time with Fernando and it’s clear that spiritual thinking and oneness are important to him. He’ll talk about the calming sound of buzzing hives and how the day-to-day of keeping bees puts him at ease. (“Only two things make me feel like the world slows down: one is when I was boxing in the ring, and the other is when I’m beekeeping.”) He’ll highlight lessons humankind can take from nature. (“Insects don’t have segregation or discrimination. They don’t care about how much you earn. It’s all about love and how much you care for them and how much you want to look after them.”) He’ll reflect on the importance of being in simpatico with nature. (“I’m very soft when it comes to gathering honey and will leave a lot of stock in the hives so the bees have enough food to get through the winter and they come out of it nice and strong.”) And he’ll revel in the knowledge that, since he’s started Furious Bee Honey, locals throughout the City of Canning know to contact him to remove and rehouse a hive in their home rather than a pest controller to destroy it. He estimates that over spring and summer, he’ll rescue around 50 hives. These aren’t conversations one might expect to have with boxers. Or beekeepers. Or boxing beekeepers, for that matter. (Fernando’s close friends and fellow boxers Jason Baird and David Jenkins are also involved with the business.)
While Furious Bee Honey is stocked at IGAs and specialty food shops, Fernando is looking forward to hosting guests at his Willetton base and is in the final stages of building a shop in the front part of the unit. In addition to being able to buy honey, the shop will also stock candles, balms and other nice honey-adjacent things.