Over the Grose Valley, the oils from about 90 species of eucalypts hang in the air. Light scatters and takes on a blueish hue. Below the canopies, varying with the elevation, the understory ranges from rainforest plants to scleromorphic trees, broad-leaved shrubs, heaths, sedges and grasses, bringing the total number of species up to around the 1500 mark. As the seasons come and go, those eucalypts will bloom, sunshine wattle will explode into canary-coloured balls and sawtooth banksia flowers will drip with nectar.
At the edge of the escarpment, hundreds of metres up from the valley floor and the base of the cliff wall, through heath and scrub and scribbly bark, Tim Malfroy’s bees hum quietly in eight small hives. Track one bee, from the edge of the cliff out into the centre of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and back again, and it’ll return to the hive with loaded legs and a full crop from an ancient place, depositing pollen and nectar to feed its brood, and slowly concentrate and condense into rich, complex honey.
Eventually, after maybe five years, that liquid will be cold-pressed and harvested from the comb, then sealed into jars and labelled Malfroy’s Gold Blue Mountains World Heritage Post Brood Polyflora Wild Honey. Twist off the lid and the contents are opaque, dense, flecked with resin (or propolis) and deeply floral with a flavour that’s reminiscent of biscuits, maple, herbs and dried apricots, but most of all the place that it comes from.
Whatever the bee-equivalent of terroir is, this is it.
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