In 2011 we were living and working in the fantastic, eclectic town of Taos, New Mexico in the high desert at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Taos was home to an ancient Pueblo settlement, to Hispanic settlers from the 17th Century, and a haven for artists, vagabonds and free people in the 20th century. We lived among painters, writers, sculptors, farmers and geniuses. Our friends and fellow travelers. The 2008 recession had hit us hard and left us on one wage rather than two. I worked as a fine art print maker and could only afford to keep us in rent, food and bills. Tam's work as a freelance studio assistant to a wealthy artist and property maintenance work had all but dried up. Despite the warmth and support and friendship of my boss and others, life in this place, we had so longed to make home, was falling apart, our immigration process, after years of waiting and legal fees had ground to a halt. The immigration climate and border patrols in the neighboring states had become increasingly aggressive and punitive.
We have always been accomplished cooks and done specialist catering gigs for private parties and personal chef work on the side. A timely gig, fell into our lap and 20 dishes of finger food for 70 people and 3 days work later we traveled to Colorado for some much needed health care. Somewhere on the way back with $40 dollars left to our name, we decided to move to Portugal, to jump from the USA before we got pushed.
We sold everything we could, friends pitched in, and on 31st of October 2011 with much sadness and some trepidation we drove out of Taos with an ancient land rover and trailer in tow headed for the port of Houston, Texas 1500miles away to drop of our things and catch a plane to Lisbon. We each bought a totemic pair of handmade cowboy boots and walked out of George W Bush airport in Houston and into a new life. Whatever that might be.
Arriving in Portugal at the depth of the recession was bleak, and shocking. We pitched up with a dear friend, the only person we knew in Portugal in the Algarvian Mountain town of Monchique. After two months of being unable to find a place to live, having only a couple of months worth of money left, things were looking so dire we nearly bailed. At the very last moment we found a place to live, but the reality was, we were all but broke, we didn't speak the language and had no real transferable skills and had moved to a country in the depth of depression with the minimum wage of 3.50 an hour. It was the last roll of the dice. So we did what we always do, we hustled. We started a supper club on the mountain and that gained a following but it simply was not enough. I finished one small sculpture commission but we were down to making toothpaste or soap type financial decisions and a trip to the beach in our ancient renault was 10 euros we could ill afford. So as it was coming up to summer I listed our house for holiday rental, Tam bought some canvas disappeared into a back room for 3 days and emerged having made a micro yurt from an old beach umbrella. We camped out under the lemon trees for the summer on our lower terraces. Some very sweet people came and went, but the summer was coming to an end and the financial singularity loomed on the event horizon.
Just then we met a young Isreali ( still a dear friend) who wanted to hire us to cater a 100 bed backpacker hostel in southern Brazil. I was game, Tam was not. Cooking for drunk teenagers was the last thing she wanted to do. After ten days of resistance I finally gave in and said Ok, Brazil is off, but she had to come up with something else, not just a no. Enter the Honey
As soon as we had arrived in Monchique, we had noticed the unusual honey, sold in the markets and even on the side of the road, coming from the USA, honey had never figured large with us and we had bought the propaganda about Agave syrup, ( highly processed) . Once we tried it, we were impressed, by the depth, the balance, the sheer beauty of it. It was the ultimate distillation of Terroir. However never having been business people in our own right, we couldn't really make sense of the economics of commercialization, as we thought we would have to physically drive it to England. By the time September came around, we took another look at it and got serious about it. Our initial thought was to raise some money, buy as much as we could get, design a label and a stand, go to a Christmas market and head off to the beach in India with the proceeds to have a life rethink.
A very wealthy friend in the states lent us $4000 and with the very last money we had we booked a stall at the BBC Good Food show 2012. We did pretty well but had bought way toooo much honey, 750 kilos of it and at the end of three days we had 600kg left and 40 mins to get it out of a building with no transportation. Two cab drivers, one grumpy one friendly drove us to my mothers garage in southwest London where we stored it all. We thought we would try and sell it in farm shops in the Southeast but were firmly rebuffed by the supporters of local honey. So we packed the rental car again, headed back to London and walked into the 10 best independent health food shops with a basket of honey and the adventure started there. Bumblebee, an old haunt of both of ours from the 80's and 90's was the first place that took our honey. Thanks Ian. I am glad it was you.
Nothing was easy and two middle aged bad-backs and a books worth of adventures and trials and 8 years later, we have won two 3 Star Great Taste Awards for our Raw Wildflower and Raw Heather honey. To the bees, we owe you everything and we love you. To the beekeepers and their craft, we applaud you, to all the other helpers, our transport company, John and Paul and Phil at Algarve, and to all our loyal stockists over these years, who knew a good thing and were willing to support two people who walked into their shop with a basket and some enthusiasm thank you. To the Guild of Fine food judges who have seen fit to award us 20 stars over these 8 years we are grateful for your vindication of this humble and crazy endeavor, and last but not least to you our customers who recognize and value real quality honey and have impeccable taste :)
Tamasin and Rustom