During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bee America is highlighting entrepreneurs who have embraced some aspect of honeybees and their life cycle and provide them with a platform to talk about their “pandemic passion.” In the first of this series, we would like to introduce you to Willie Harner, who has been inspired to make beautiful beeswax candles.
My love of bees was a late blooming flower of sorts. Growing up, I used to be terrified of them, but as I’ve aged, I’ve grown to appreciate them more and more. Honey has always been liquid gold as anyone will agree; finding different floral varieties, tasting the sweetest Tuscan honey, and finding crystalized honey in the Catskills of New York.
I’ve been cooking professionally and a chef for the past 15 years, so creating recipes, testing techniques, and experimenting are second nature to me. My cousin boasts an e-Commerce website through Amazon selling a DIY Beeswax candle kit complete with 100% Pure Hemp wick dipped in Beeswax.
I began to do research and came across how beneficial beeswax candles were to the environment; they burn clean, the remove toxins from the air, hemp is non-toxic, and beeswax candles burn brighter than any other candle. Not to mention, Beeswax Candles are not widely available in stores!
I began researching and experimenting with beeswax, testing new scents and most importantly finding the proper container to set them in. I came across a Muth Jar, an old cork-top jar that was first used to hold honey in the late 1800’s, which I now use a variety to set my candles in.
Then the pandemic hit. All the farmers markets were closed, all retail stores were closed, everything was put on hold. But that’s what makes these candles, Beeswax candles, more important than ever; they help to clean the air of germs.
There has also been an upsurge in family farms maintaining hives to aid with the benefits bees provide for the environment; pollinating flowers and helping with crop reproduction. The benefits honey bees give to the world are seemingly endless: California’s Almond supply for example, depends on honey bees to cross pollinate the flowers and honey bees are a perfect vehicle.
Like any approach I take when making a recipe, choosing high quality, crafted ingredients to support the main attraction is just as important. Choosing a hand crafted hemp wick, which no other candles use, and all natural essential oils has been as vital as the wax itself. The hemp wick is a natural compliment to beeswax, it burns cleaner, there are no added chemicals, and it burns beautifully; there is no soot.
Beeswax itself has a gorgeous, beautiful scent when burning, I always add a scent that naturally compliments the beeswax itself with a clean, pure scent. Lemongrass, citronella, and cinnamon have all worked great. I’ve also experimented with anisette, peppermint, and passionfruit — all yielding incredible results.
Coupling all of these three key components together, create a lovely, therapeutic, and warming candle, helping the environment and making the world more sustainable, one bee at a time.
Guest Blog provided by Wille E. Harner, CEO/Founder La Vela Bella
Willie’s candles are also available at a new coffee shop that recently opened in Washington, DC, La Coop. It's Willie’s friend’s shop, and Willie claims that it is one of the best coffee shops in the area. The shop’s owner is from Guatemala, and he imports the coffee directly from his family's farm located there.