Thomas Zelenka’s Imperial Honey: Sweet Gold from Vienna
You love Vienna for its opera, its museums, restaurants and shops. But now you have one more reason. MISTERWATCH talks to Artisan apiculturist Thomas Zelenka who’s Imperial Honey comes from bees living on the rooftops of famous museums.
Honey has a long tradition in Austria that goes back to the reign of Empress Maria Theresia. In 1769, the Empress founded the world’s first public school of apiculture in Vienna and in 1775 she passed a law to promote beekeeping. It is in accordance with this traditional craftsmanship that artisan apiculturist Thomas Zelenka, a former tourism specialist, has started to develop his Imperial project.
“I had a good connection with the Museum of Fine Arts – Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien – so I proposed to them a cooperation with bees on the roof top of the museum. This was such a successful project that the museum asked me if it were possible to create something “Imperial“. On the occasion of the opening of the new Weltmuseum at the Imperial Palace, former residence of the Habsburg rulers, I created the “Imperial Honey“ as a unique premium product for visitors and guests to Vienna.”
Thomas Zelenka’s love story with honey started as a kid. “Already my grandfather was a beekeeper and this was definitely the initial ignition, my wish to become a beekeeper was already planted in my childhood.” He followed a beekeeping course in Vienna and decided to change his life. After many successful years as a manager in tourism he went back to his roots with the dream of having the happiest bees in the world. “Since I started, our beehives have arrived on more popular roof tops in Vienna, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the KunstHausWien or the University of Vienna. The bees fly from the latter to the neighboring Burggarten and Volksgarten – once frequented by emperors and empresses – and pollinate the rose gardens and the magnificent tree-lined avenues. The <Imperial Honey> is hand-produced in Vienna using methods passed down from one generation of beekeepers to the next. But its name not only references its outstanding and certified organic quality, it is unique <city honey> of highest quality.”
Thomas Zelenka has proved to the world that a city can offer a superior bio honey much more delicious compared to a classic assortment. Temperatures are generally two to three degrees higher than outside the city, a great advantage for bees because they can start earlier in the spring and continue longer in the autumn. In addition, bees rarely go hungry as they can find flowers in many places like parks, streets, private gardens, planted roofs, traffic islands and window boxes. This abundance of food means that the harvest is richer compared to beekeepers in the country and that the honey comes not from a mono-culture but from a mix of pollen.
Even if theoretically everything makes sense, it is hard to believe there are many cities where bees can make such a special gold coloured honey. But Vienna is a different kind of city. Thomas Zelenka knows very well he is in the middle of a clean and green capital. “Vienna was named the most liveable city in the world for 10 times in a row and there are many reasons for it. There is a very high standard of living that includes also many green recreation areas. Beekeeping and gardening have become a popular part of modern life over the last years and honey became a hip product!”
The Imperial honey is more than a hip product. Its taste and texture have already won the hearts of many tourists as well as locals. Starting with 10 euros, every visitor to the Imperial Shop in Vienna or the shop’s website can take home a small piece of Sweet passion and history. Thomas Zelenka makes sure his work becomes a symbol of his city. “Taking care of my bees is time well spent for me and it gives me a lot of satisfaction. My work makes a lot of sense given the environmental problems of our time and every day I learn a lot from my bees.”