On the island of Java, eight hours southwest of Jakarta, between the sea and the tropical forest, the villages of Panyaungan and Karangkamulyan are surrounded by many coconut palms. Grown for their fruit, these trees are resistant to the local climate and are the favorite refuge of the wild Asian honey bee (Apis cerana), known in the Javan language as tawon madu. There is a very close link between the bees and the palms; the insects help with pollination while the nectar gives a unique flavor to the resulting Cingagoler honey, madu cingagoler.
The villagers used to eat the bee larvae, preparing them in traditional dishes like pais nyiruan (larvae steamed with banana leaves and seasoned with onions and salt) and sayur nyiuran (larvae with turmeric, onion, garlic and salt). This custom has, however, become quite rare as attention has shifted to honey production.
The first basic wooden hives (nyiruan) were built in the 1980s. The hives were placed in the nearby forest where the bees would populate them after a few months. They would then be moved close to the beekeepers’ houses so they could be more easily checked. This was the start of Apis cerana beekeeping. The villagers believe that having a hive close to their house is a sign of prosperity, health and harmony with nature.
The bees are dark in color, similar in size to the European honeybee but more resistant to varroa mites. They produce a reasonable amount of honey, though less than the European bees, perhaps because they have been more recently domesticated.
The honey is harvested twice a year, between May and September, after the rainy season. Its color varies from medium to dark brown and it has a sweet flavor with coconut flower notes.
Recently, honey production has been suffering due to environmental and climate changes. The dry seasons have become too hot and the coconut palms are being cut down to make way for coal mines and cement factories, threatening the survival of the Asiatic honey bee.
Lebak district, Banten province, Java
low Food Jabodetabek – Jakarta Convivium Leader
Presidium Producer Coordinator
Wandi Assayid for Ade Maulana