Mishka. The pure honey of Siberia. How UK honey lovers almost missed out.
Ah, but it seemed so simple back then, in the British summer of 2021. I would visit the lovely traditional beekeepers of Altai — a remote region of Siberia – and ask them to begin sending me small shipments of their exquisite, pure, single-source honeys.
Being Russian myself, I knew just how special these Altai honeys are. Straight from hive colonies that have been cultivated in the region since the 1700s. Honey just as the bees intended, gently filtered to remove only hive debris and then placed straight into jars locally. No factory pasteurisation (cooking of honey which destroys so much of its natural health and healing benefits). No sneaky additives like cheap glucose syrups.
I was absolutely certain that food lovers in the UK would adore these honeys as much as I do. I was excited when all the formalities were completed to send these precious products to me in the UK. In fact, I was so enthusiastic that I ordered all four of their mouth-watering honey varieties. There was fragrant meadow flowers and fresh, slightly herby mountain flowers. Then there was honey from bees that forage exclusively on the blossom of the Linden (European Lime) Tree and another single blossom delight: Angelica, which flowers freely in Altai.
So that was my great plan. A unique choice of treats for those who appreciate the pure joy of artisan style, single-source honey from such an unusual and fascinating region. The first shipment of Mishka jars would arrive mid-November, perfectly timed for those seeking luxurious treats over the Christmas holiday period, or to give them as gifts.
I was ecstatic. What could possibly go wrong?…
Well, let’s just say that Siberia is a very, very long way from the UK. And the famed Russian winter weather is no respecter of this individual honey-lover’s dreams. This is a brief summary of my honey travelling tribulations:
25 Sep 2021
Have found a transport company who’ll bring my honeys from Altai to the UK. Agreement signed. Amazing!
20 Oct 2021
Disaster. Just a few days before the pick-up date, my transport provider has pulled out. Blaming new UK customs regulations after Brexit, among other things. So depressing.
10 Nov 2021
It’s now three weeks since our freight company pulled out. Still looking for replacement. At wit’s end. [Russian swear word deleted]
15 NoV 2021
Good news! Finally found a freight company in the UK with connections to the port of St Petersburg. Contract signed. Lots of worries still. Winter snows now heavy in Altai. Truck journey from there to St Petersburg over 4,000 kilometres.
24 NoV 2021
Truck made it for the pick-up in Altai. So good to hear. Minus 17 degrees there now. Scheduled to arrive St Petersburg 3 December, ship departs for UK 6 December.
3 DEC 2021
Bad news again. Truck did not make it. Weather very poor. Unsure when truck will now arrive.
6 DEC 2021
Truck arrived too late for the planned sailing. My honey stock now waiting for another ship. Unsure when. Christmas launch plans now in ruins. Sad.
13 DEC 2021
Just heard next vessel will leave St Petersburg 20 December. The shippers sent me pictures of my honey waiting at the St Petersburg quayside. All hopes pinned on that new date.
20 DEC 2021
At last some good news! My shipment has left and is due to arrive on 29 December. Counting the days now. Very stressful!
29 DEC 2021
The big day – my honey has arrived safely at Tilbury Docks. It’s in England! Hooray! Now it has to go through the British border control procedures – shipping documents and certificates check, import duty payment and veterinary inspection – delays are possible at any of these stages.
30 DEC 2021
All documents and certificates in order. Import duty paid. That was quick! Now the tricky and unpredictable part – vet checks. They can be limited to a review of paperwork or involve physical inspection of the product and possible lab tests.
3 Jan 2022
New year celebrations and holidays do not help me obviously. After review of the paperwork, container with my honey has been transferred to another berth, where vet inspections are carried out. But the date for physical inspection has not been confirmed! Another wait. Hopefully it will be on 7 Jan. That’s the Russian Orthodox Christmas Day. Maybe a good omen?
7 Jan 2022
Can you believe it? My honey still cannot be released because of delayed veterinary checks. Okay. I understand that I am a first-time importer and there is a need for strict food safety. But now I again have to wait. 2022 is not yet a Happy New Year for me. Watch this space…
19 Jan 2022
Hooray! Honey has finally been delivered to me today! Logistics saga is over. Now I can start introducing and distributing this fine authentic product here in Britain. So exciting!