Here in York Durham Headwaters, we love a heartwarming story. You know the ones—full of inspiration and passion, the kinds that leave you gleefully thinking, “That’s. Just. Awesome!” Of course, we have no shortage of those in our region, but it’s an extra-special thing for us to be able to share those heartwarming stories that come with a unique twist. These are the stories that you don’t find just anywhere. Stories like that of Ontario Honey Creations.
Delicious, delectable honey… and more!
Founded by husband-and-wife team Peter Chorabik and Sarah Allinson-Chorabik, Ontario Honey Creations is a small beekeeping business in Mulmur which focuses on raw, seasonal terroir honeys. Of course, “small” is a relative term—they actually have a whopping 600 hives throughout the GTA, from Rouge Valley to Headwaters to right into Toronto’s downtown core. This, in fact, is one of the things that makes Ontario Honey Creations unique. You may not realize it, but the flavour of honey is affected by the flowers used to produce it, a phenomenon which Ontario Honey Creations uses to its (and ultimately our) advantage. “When we do our honey harvest, we do really small batches so that you get to experience different flavours of honey,” Sarah explains. “And that’s based on the different flowers that are living in those regions. People don’t think that honey can taste that different, but it can. It just depends on the availability of different blooms in the area, at that time of the season.”
We’re all used to the different seasons having different flowers in bloom, right? Spring blossoms are different from those of summer and those of fall. So, it stands to reason that if a honeybee is collecting nectar from different blooms in different places, and at different times of the year, the honey will naturally taste different. “Spring honeys are generally the mildest,” Sarah explains. Summer results in honeys that are more traditional, or familiar in taste. The fall honeys are stronger, more flavorful, more aromatic. That’s mainly due to goldenrod as the main flower source of nectar for bees at that time.”
Interestingly, though, Ontario Honey Creations also finds that the flavours differ across regions as well, depending on what blossoms are available where, as well as the regional weather and environmental conditions. In downtown Toronto, for example, summer tends to be drier than other areas, which leads to a more intense and concentrated flavour. “We have one bee yard right in the downtown core that produces a very dark, almost amber coloured honey,” Sarah says. “It has an incredible, unique plum flavor to it.” In another example, one of the bee yards in Rouge Valley was affected by a nearby farm that decided to plant pumpkins. As a result, the honey had a fun, fruity quality to it.
While honey is Ontario Honey Creations’ specialty, Sarah and Peter have branched out into two particular honey products that are just as delicious. We’ll give you a hint… it involves fermentation. If you thought honey vinegar and honey wine (or mead), then you guessed right! “We use our own honey and naturally turn that into vinegar,” Sarah says. “We’re not adding any vinegars to make a honey-flavoured product, it’s a fermented product.” Honey vinegars are quite popular for marinades, salad dressing, drinking vinegars and even cocktails. Conveniently, Ontario Honey Creations’ website has lots of different recipe ideas on its blog for anyone wanting to give either of these deliciously fermented products a try.
A rescue operation for honeybees
Incredibly, all of this started as a hobby over ten years ago, with only two hives and no intentions of the operation becoming a full-time career. Sarah and her husband both worked corporate jobs at the time. The bee keeping came from Peter’s side of the family, who were always into the pastime as a hobby. When Sarah and Peter started, they branched out, joined clubs, and learned from the advice of experienced bee keepers. “We learned how to do it really well,” Sarah states.
This is where the story becomes even more incredible. You see, in addition to founding Ontario Honey Creations, Sarah and Peter are also the founders of Toronto Bee Rescue. Today there is concern amongst environmental scientists and activists about the decline in the bee population. Bees, as we all know, are integral to the natural world as pollinators. Toronto Bee Rescue offers honeybee removal services for free. “If people see a honeybee swarm, we come for free and remove it, then give the bees a more suitable location to live in,” Sarah says. “We also specialize in established honeybee colony removals.”
“Essentially, bees split in half from their original hive to go and create their own colony,” she explains further. “It’s a way for them to spread their genes. When they’re in their swarm state, it’s a big ball of, like, 10,000 bees, and they’re resting on different structures. Within an urban environment, people tend to freak out and panic when they see that, and they unfortunately kill them. It’s heartbreaking, so that’s why we began offering the free service.”
From that point on, Sarah left her corporate job in 2014, and Peter left his job in 2016. “Now we’re both full-time beekeepers,” she says. “Those two hives have grown to about 600, and it’s a ton of fun!”
Of course, saving so many honeybees has been incredibly rewarding. But also rewarding for Sarah is being able to show people how amazing honey is. “I love seeing people experience the different flavours,” she exclaims. “They have no idea that honey can taste different than the mass-produced honey they’re used to—which is essentially different honeys all mixed together so you get the same taste across the board. But in smaller batches, it is definitely more prominent, and having that opportunity to explain everything to them, the education behind all the different variables that come into play… people love it!”
To check out the passion that Sarah Allinson-Chorabik and Peter Chorabik bring to Ontario Honey Creations, visit them online at www.ontariohoneycreations.com. OHC also offers beekeeping and farm experiences onsite at their farm in Mulmur. Currently, onsite visits are by appointment only. To make an appointment, email to schedule a visit. And, of course, if you are in need of honeybee removal services, skip the can of pesticide and get in touch with Toronto Bee Rescue at www.torontobeerescue.ca.
Story by Katherine Ryalen