The History of Manuka Honey in New Zealand

06 October 2021

As one of the most iconic and precious substances from New Zealand, Manuka honey has become famous worldwide for its scientifically proven health benefits. Derived from the Manuka bush (or Leptospermum scoparium) - this plant grows extensively around coastal areas of the country. 

This article will outline and explore the history of pure Manuka honey and how it became an internationally recognised staple of natural health. Furthermore, this article will highlight why it’s critical for your business to partner with a Manuka honey supplier who is aware of the cultural and logistical significance of the product.

The Maori Origin

The indigenous Maori population would use the redwoods from the Manuka tree to create many tools, such as weapons, spades, bird spears, and much more. In addition, the bark of the Manuka tree was used to make water containers and provided waterproof layers for roofs. It was also extensively used as Rongo (medicine). 

The plant’s bark was used topically to treat wounds and internally to prevent gum disease and improve overall health. First, the bark was burnt, and then the subsequent ash was used to treat skin diseases. Meanwhile, the water-boiled leaves produced vapour that was used for colds. Finally, the inner bark was boiled, and that liquid was used as a mouthwash. 


Early European Use

Upon meeting the indigenous Maori people, James Cook found that the Manuka leaf could be used as an alternative to tea. It was subsequently seen to reduce the severity of scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) among his crewman. 

Moreover, the early settlers who arrived in New Zealand would also drink the tea tree and learn of the medicinal uses from the Maori people. 


Manuka Honey Is Born

In 1839, Mary Bumby was a Methodist missionary who introduced honey bees to New Zealand upon her arrival. Mary set up the first apiary in New Zealand, and it was established near several Manuka trees. So it’s likely that the first Manuka honey was produced at this very spot. 

Furthermore, New Zealand’s diverse nature of trees made for the ideal honey bee environment. By then the 1860s, there were many honey bee colonies throughout New Zealand forests. The Maori people soon learned how to farm wild honey and would use this to their advantage. Maori entrepreneurs grew as New Zealand’s first commercial beekeepers, selling honey through their new methods. 


The Journey To Refined Manuka Honey

For many years, up until the late 20th century, Mānuka honey was considered to have very little value. Beekeepers would groan in frustration due to the difficulty of extracting Manuka honey from the hive frames. 

Moreover, Manuka honey was considered too strong of a flavour compared to the widely-loved sweet clover honey. Also, it was not pure Manuka honey as the bees were not solely taking pollen and nectar from the Manuka bush. Only genuine Mānuka honey has the delectable taste that we’ve all come to love. 

At the time, clover honey was dominating the domestic and export markets. Rumour has it that some beekeepers would even give Manuka honey to livestock as feed. 


The Antibacterial Discovery of Liquid Gold 

In the 1980s, Dr Peter Molan was a prominent biochemist who began exploring the potential of Manuka honey. To the world’s surprise, Molan discovered an antibacterial capability within Manuka honey in a controlled laboratory environment. 

The preliminary research conducted by Molan set the foundation for what would eventually lead to one of New Zealand’s most profound natural exports. 

Since Molan’s research, Manuka honey has grown in both popularity and purity. Across the world, people can’t get enough of this liquid gold.


Manuka Honey Empires

Many across New Zealand are now running their Mānuka honey operations. However, not all Manuka honey is made the same. There are a few metrics that companies use to sell their products based on potency. Across the world, it is well understood that the stronger the Manuka honey - the more unique the benefits. 

Manuka honey suppliers are expected to keep up with the heavy demand worldwide, and only very few can deliver. Furthermore, consumers and brands expect top-quality products that are pure 100% New Zealand Manuka honey. 


Midlands Apiaries - Wholesale Manuka Honey Suppliers in NZ

As the largest wholesale Manuka honey suppliers in NZ, transporting our products globally, we know a thing or two about quality. An accredited and independent laboratory tests each batch of Manuka honey for certification. We are very aware of the stringent requirements essential to produce UMF™-certified Manuka honey and consistently exceed the minimum chemical and technical requirements for certification.

Additionally, Midlands Apiaries offers the services of a highly knowledgeable marketing team. So, if you’re looking to bring an amazing brand to market, our team of professionals can plan a pathway to your launch. With an extensive network of honey supplies, laboratories, and state of the art packing facility - Midlands Apiaries can provide your business with everything it needs.

Get in touch with us today for more information about how Midlands Apiaries can make for a beneficial partner in your budding business.