CoNectar, a honey shop, cafe and education center, is heading to Millvale

Did you hear the buzz? CoNectara flora-to-table honey shop, is expected to take off by August or September in Millvale.

Like worker bees, master bbabysitter Christina Joy Neumann, as well as her brother and sister-in-law Jon and Larissa Neumann, have been hard at work on the renovation project since mid-2019.

The 1,000 square foot space at 411 Grant Ave. will include a retail area, botanical art gallery, bar and cafe seating. Customers can uncover the mystery behind bees while enjoying drinks and small plates that complement the natural substance.

Beekeeper Christina Joy Neumann and Jon Neumann – the sisterly force behind CoNectar. Photo courtesy of CoNectar.

Built in the 1880s, the structure functioned as a general store for generations, but required a great deal of design strategy to bring it up to current code. Until recently, the space housed a restaurant called The Grub Hut. Christina Neumann says a friend humorously suggested renaming the place The Larvae Lounge.

All insect jokes aside, she finds the creatures fascinating.

In Pennsylvania alone, there are over 400 species of bees. To make honey, Neumann works with Apis mellifera, or honey bees. his apiary, Apoidea, maintains 60 to 100 productive colonies tucked away to remote locations in the Greater Pittsburgh area, including his family’s five-generation farm in Cherry City. Each hive produces an average of 40 to 80 pounds of honey per year.

For Neumann, high-quality honey is not a condiment but a treasure of “liquid sunlight”.

Rendering of the Millvale space courtesy of CoNectar.

Because the laborious manufacturing process is not well understood by the general public, CoNectar will be a place where people can compare different honey products to better appreciate seasonal, floral and geographic variations.

The company already offers virtual tastings and bespoke boxes for weddings, showers and corporate team building events.

Even for a pro, the world of bees is complex.

“I need several lifetimes to understand them,” says Neumann, who recently completed an advanced honey sommelier course in Bologna, Italy, with the Albo Nazionale degli Esperti in Analisi Sensoriale del Miele. (Italian National Register of Experts in Sensory Analysis of Honey).

She studied architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, where much of her training was based on environmental sustainability. After studying bee construction techniques with The Biomimicry Institute in 2003, she became obsessed with the power of honey bees as food producers.

In terms of beekeeping experience, Neumann worked as a commercial beekeeper at the Rare Hawaiian Organic Honey Co. in Hawaii. She is a certified master beekeeper from Cornell University and has maintained a certified naturally grown apiary here in Pittsburgh since 2017. Certified Naturally Grown is the closest USDA Organic certification an urban apiary can achieve.

Although you can learn a lot about bees from the books and reviewsthe vast majority of a beekeeper’s training takes place in the field, where factors including climate, flora, invasive pests and pathogens impact honey yield. She keeps close records of all of these factors and will share the information with CoNectar customers every time they try a spoonful.

A frame of healthy bee brood. Photo courtesy of CoNectar.

Neumann has been harvesting the golden liquid since 2006, selling it at local specialty stores such as Una Biologicals and The city grows in Lawrenceville and love, Pittsburgh Locations. Eleventh Hour Brewing Co. and Hop Farm Brewing Company have used its honey in some of their beers.

Apoidea ApiaryChristina Joy NeumannCoNectarMillvale

About the Author

Laura J. Boyer