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We Tried It: Liliko‘i, Pineapple and Java Plum Mead from Mānoa Honey Co.

The Wahiawā-based company is officially in the mead business, with a limited collab available for Father’s Day.


manoa honey

Photo: Katrina Valcourt


Yuki Uzuhashi wants to change what we think of mead.


“Mead caters to cold places” and makes people think of a heavy and sweet medieval drink, he tells me. But that’s not at all what he was envisioning when he decided to expand Mānoa Honey Co.’s offerings to include the alcoholic beverage. “It was hard to get an example of what I wanted,” a much lighter, refreshing drink with local flavors, but after years of experimenting and learning—he took a course from UC Davis’ viticulture and enology department—Mānoa Honey debuted its mead.


The timing couldn’t have been better. With the pandemic shuttering his three main markets—restaurants, tourism and farmers markets—Uzuhashi was considering taking a break from harvesting honey as the number of unpurchased jars grew (good thing honey never spoils). But once the federal government approved his labels—the mead had been ready to go since February—Mānoa announced its three flavors for sale in April.


SEE ALSO: Local Honey is Having a Moment: What You Should Know About This Sweet Comeback


Photo: Katrina Valcourt


Mead is made by fermenting honey, similar to how wine comes from fermented grapes. Uzuhashi adds locally grown fruits, resulting in a liliko‘i session mead, pineapple sour and Java plum rosé. Each is 7.6% alcohol by volume—stronger than most beer but weaker than most wine—and sparkling, with delicate small bubbles.


After a few sips of each, I can’t pick a favorite. The liliko‘i session, with fruit from Kona, is perfect for summertime. The subtle liliko‘i flavor isn’t as sweet as I was expecting; it drinks like a light beer without any bitterness. The pineapple utilizes fruit from Dole and tastes similar to pineapple wine, with a little more sweetness and acidity than the liliko‘i but not nearly as saccharine as fruity wine can be. And the rosé—which is limited and comes in a 375-milliliter bottle, compared to 500 for liliko‘i and pineapple—is the sweetest of the bunch but also a little tart from the wild harvested Java plum (an invasive fruit with small dark berries), so it’s a nice balance. Each bottle costs $15.


fathers day set

The Father’s Day set includes a bottle of pineapple sour mead, about 0.6 pounds of Maui Nui Venison tenderloin, and honey that’s been aged over 12 months with ghost pepper, which comes as a glaze for the meat.
Photos: Courtesy of Mānoa Honey Co.


As we talk about inspiration and future flavors, a bee flies in; I squirm a little in my seat but Uzuhashi doesn’t notice. He’s waxing poetic about his decision to do a Father’s Day collab with Maui Nui Venison, where $38 gets you a bottle of pineapple mead, ghost pepper-infused honey and wild local deer tenderloin, an invasive species that now feeds the community. He talks about our relationship with what feeds us and how we need to appreciate it more. “In Japanese we have a saying [before we eat]: itadakimasu. ‘I’m taking your precious life into me.’ It’s about being grateful or thankful,” he says. “That resonates with what we do.” 


SEE ALSO: Order Maui Nui Venison Online For Your Shelter-in-Place Cooking


Maui Nui Venison isn’t his first collab. Mānoa Honey partnered with Sweet Land Farm in Waialua for Mother’s Day gift sets, which you can still buy: a bottle of mead, tomme goat cheese and a jar of honey for $35. By the time I leave, I’m carrying two bottles of mead, some cheese, two kinds of honey and a small cube of honeycomb.


mothers day

My personal haul: Tomme goat cheese from Sweet Land Farm, Java plum rosé mead and ghost pepper honey as part of the Mother’s Day set ($35); a jar of fresh seasonal honey ($9), and a piece of honeycomb that Uzuhashi threw in for free.
Photo: Katrina Valcourt


“What I always say about the honey, you see the trees blooming in daily life. Those are the liquid, that’s what you’re tasting. The alcohol is from flowers that you’re living in. The flowers you’re looking at, that’s your buzz,” Uzuhashi says. “It really resonates, what we do from where we’re living. That’s what I think is the most beautiful part. If I can deliver that, it’s beautiful.”


930 Palm Place, Wahiawā, (808) 927-0501, manoahoney.com. Email yuki@manoahoney.com to order one of 30 limited Father’s Day sets. You can also find Mānoa Honey Co. mead at Village Bottle Shop in Kaka‘ako and Hale‘iwa Bottle Shop.





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