Honey in its raw, unadulterated state is a healthy sweetener revered for centuries for its amazing antibacterial properties, abundance of trace minerals (iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and more), immune-boosting and digestive properties and other health benefits. Truth is, we can’t get enough of the stuff, and love it the most when it’s local. We sat down with the president of Southampton-based  Hamptons Honey Company, Gabriel Alfaya, to learn the inspiration for this sweet Long Island biz, and what makes it stand out from the many other (lesser) honeys on the average grocery store shelf.

RT: Who are the people behind The Hamptons Honey Company?
GA: The Hamptons Honey Company was conceived almost 17 years ago when my partners, Frederic Rambaud and Alan Ceppos, purchased their home in Water Mill and were looking for a pursuit that would allow them to “give back” with all the land they had acquired.  After reviewing several other options, including starting a small farm or vineyard, Frederic’s background in beekeeping lit a spark.  I came aboard in 2008 and Hamptons Honey grew to the next level.

RT: How would you describe the role honey plays for those pursuing a clean, healthy lifestyle?
GA: Honey is considered a superfood, and is integral to a healthy lifestyle…especially local honey, which has many health properties and never spoils.  It’s good for fighting allergies, soothing burns (honey is a natural antibiotic), and is a healthier alternative to sugar for cooking and baking.

RT: What makes The Hamptons Honey Company different from other honey?  
GA: At Hamptons Honey we strive to ensure that all of our honey is local and never overly heated or treated.  Honey should always be warmed gradually and never made too hot (overheating it can rob it of many of its healthy qualities). Our emphasis on quality is second to none.  We know our customers love our products and we try never to forget that.

RT: How important is it for you to source honey locally, from local beekeepers?
GA: We believe that honey is always best when local.  For example, if you suffer from allergies here in the Northeast, using an Orange Blossom honey—though delicious—will not help your body combat those allergies.  Local beekeepers are a vital component of our food system and we try to make sure to keep the cycle going.

RT: What’s one fun thing most people don’t know about Hamptons Honey?  
GA: EVERYTHING is fun – If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, what’s the point in doing it?  I enjoy meeting with our stores, setting up our displays, thinking up new products and labels.  It’s all a lot of fun.

RT: What’s the latest from Hamptons Honey? Anything new in the pipeline? 
GA: We’re always trying to think outside the box.  Right now, we’re toying with the idea of two new creamed honeys:  a blueberry and an apricot.  We’re also considering a hot chili-infused honey…or even a honey-infused BBQ sauce or salad dressing…stay tuned.

RT: When you’re not noshing on honey… what are you loving to eat right now? What are your top go-to’s (snacks, drinks, wellness products or other)?
GA: Too many times I’m guilty of not eating as well as I should (just ask my wife!). But anything caught in the ocean is good for me… and a nice bottle of wine!

RT: What are the best ways to use Hamptons Honey?
GA: Honey is so versatile and can be used so many different ways. You can bake with it, put it on your fruit or oatmeal, enjoy it right out of the jar on a spoon, mix it with other spices and develop your own BBQ rub, etc. And, of course, use it in your tea!

RT: What’s your favorite recipe to make using Hamptons Honey?
GA: My buddy Sam has come up with the best BBQ rub using our honey…amazing!

RT: What’s the strangest way you’ve heard someone use your honey?
GA: A woman once called to tell me that her dog was suffering from a persistent cough and her vet wanted to operate on the dog.  She started feeding the dog a little honey and the cough eventually went away. Yes, apparently dogs can get allergies, too!

RT: So many in this community dream of starting their own business. What’s your best piece of advice for launching a successful local biz?
GA: Great question. First, never lose sight of the fact that you and your customers are basically a partnership.  They want to provide the best products for THEIR customers so you in turn need to make sure you’re giving the best products that you can to your stores.  Also, never grow faster than you’re prepared for.  That growth will be short lived.  If you can’t continue providing the service that people have come to expect, you’ll eventually lose those customers.  That means you must be willing to invest in personnel and infrastructure to ensure that your customer service is always on point.  And lastly, your employees are ambassadors of your brand…treat them like family!