If you’re going to start, continue or pursue a love affair with raw honey, a little guidance goes a long way.
So what do various terms we hear about honey all mean?
Let’s start with ‘raw’, what does it mean, isn’t all honey just raw?
You may be surprised to know that a lot of honey is not raw. There is plenty of supermarket honey around that has been heat treated.
Raw honey on the other hand isn’t heated or at least not above the normal internal temperature of a hive (roughly 35 degrees Celsius). This means that raw honey is pretty much in the same state that it is when inside the hive.
One of the reasons raw honey is wonderful is because the honey maintains a lot of its macro-nutrients and enzymes by not being heat treated. This has a huge impact on the honey’s taste and health benefits.
Raw honey preserves the subtleties of flavour, which can be lost through heating and processing. Raw honey a far superior product.
Most honey found in supermarkets is not raw, it is pasteurised (often to 70 degrees Celsius or more and rapidly cooled). Commercial regular honey goes through this process in order to make the honey easy for filtering and bottling.
This is done so that from a consumer perspective, all the honey looks and tastes the same (and appears cleaner and smoother). Whilst the honey might last longer on the shelf, the delicate aromas, tastes and enzymes are partially lost.
Filtering the process by which the honey, once extracted from the honeycomb (the hexagonal wax cells that hang inside a hive) is filtered.
At the most basic level it may simply be a strainer to remove debris from the honey such as wax. At a more industrial level the honey is heated to make it easier to filter through very fine meshes which removes even the pollen.
Monofloral or single flower honey is honey that is largely made up from a single nectar source. Examples of monofloral honeys are Scottish Heather, French Lavendar and Greek Thyme.
Whilst bees can’t be trained to go to a particular plant, they do like a good nectar source. Bees generally gather honey within a 3 mile radius of their hive, so the beekeeper can place the hive next to a source such as a heather moor or lavender field and the bees will go to the nearest and best available nectar source.
Whilst monofloral honeys will inevitably contain nectar from other flowers a bee farmer can by following the blooming seasons of certain plants produce a monofloral honey of a particular taste and scent.
Multifloral honey is where the honey is made from the nectar from different types of plants. The taste and aroma can be influenced by the place, mountainside, coastal, alpine and urban settings.
Hopefully the above should give you some things to think about and look out for when you are next looking for honey.