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If you thought all honey was pretty much the same, you are in for a surprise. This sweet treat is enjoyed by people across the globe in many different flavors, aromas and colors. How do you decide what’s the best honey in the world among a list of great contenders? First, learn what is special about each variety and then taste a lot of different ones!
Bees collect plant nectar from millions of blooms (or flora). This means bees make honey from many different nectar sources and each source contributes something to the final product.
Acacia honey is produced in the Western US, Europe and parts of China. It is produced from the flower of False Acacia or Black Locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia). Sold in Europe as Acacia – it does not really come from an Acacia bloom.
The color is a light or pale yellow and can be almost transparent. It has a sweet floral taste with hints of vanilla.
The wild “sidr tree” (also known as Christ’s thorn) grows in undeveloped areas of the desert areas of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The climate in the region provides the perfect growing conditions for the trees.
Sidr honey is considered to be one of the premium honeys in the world. Noted for its rich flavor, high nutritional value and limited availability, many Arabs describe it as “liquid gold”.
Manuka honey is made in New Zealand and Australia by bees using nectar from the leptospermum scoparium bush (tea tree). It is a rare variety because the trees only bloom for a few weeks each year.
Why do some people say manuka is the best honey in the world? Even though any honey is useful for wound care, manuka is a rock star.
The antibacterial properties of this manuka is much higher than that of regular raw honey.
Bees visit the blooms of the Ogeechee tupelo (Nyssa ogeche) to make Tupelo honey. These trees grow along the rivers and swarm lands of the southern United States.
The resulting honey is light amber in color and very sweet. It has a very noticeable spicy flavor.
Across the hills of the Appalachian region of the United States, a small mid-story tree grows (Oxydendrum arboreum).
It blends into the forest until late June. Then, the Sourwood trees burst into bloom with long tassels of white blossoms.
The resulting Sourwood honey is very light in color to almost clear. It has a sweet buttery aftertaste and is highly prized in the local region.
Fireweed honey is produced in the Western US, Canada and Europe. The fireweed plant (Chamaenerion angustifolium) is the nectar source.
With tea like flavor tones, fireweed honey is a pale amber color. It tastes similar to sourwood to me but everyone has different taste buds.
This variety comes from the nectar of the white or pink blossoms of the buckwheat plant. This is a common cover crop that is still used today by farmers. I plant a bit of buckwheat for my bees each year.
Buckwheat honey is very dark and has a strong molasses taste. It is one of those varieties that you either love or hate. It is filled with antioxidants and minerals.
Blueberry honey is made by bees from the nectar of blueberry bushes. Some people think it is made with infused flavor, but no – this is a true single source honey.
Much blueberry honey is produced in the wild blueberry barrens of Maine and other northeast states. It is an amber colored product with a slight hint of blueberry.
However, you might be able to find some purple honey out there – if you look really hard.
9. Greek Thyme
The history of honey in Greece goes back thousands of years. One of the most famous Greek varieties is made from thyme.
Thyme is a member of the mint family and many species are found growing across the region.
It is a golden color and is very aromatic. The flavor has herbal tones and fruity notes.
Produced abundantly in parts of Italy and Spain, chestnut honey is dark and very strong. Produced from the nectar of chestnut tree blossoms, it is valued for its nutty taste and bold flavor.
Factors that Matter
If the nectar used to make it came primarily from one source, it is considered mono-floral honey. And, each distinct variety of has an expected flavor.
In my region, we hear terms such as: orange blossom, tupelo or even sourwood honey. They all have unique flavors and characteristics – such as the color of honey.
Wildflower honey is a mixture of many nectar sources and can vary greatly in flavor from one harvest to the next.
But, single source honeys offer a more consistent flavor and texture. And they are considered some of the best honeys in the world.
Experiencing the Flavor of Artisanal Honey
In the beginning, they all taste the same – but nothing could be farther from the truth. When traveling or visiting other places, be sure to pick up a jar of local product.
You are sure to find some hidden gems in different regions. They may never make the news or have fancy names but each region has favorites – Tulip Poplar (Yellow Poplar) is a regional favorite here.
Leatherwood honey comes from the rainforests of Tasmania. It is highly praised by honey connoisseurs for its spicy flavor.
Each country has these unique flavors just waiting to be discovered. In some cases, only small harvests are made – so the locals may be the only people to experience them.
Create a Tasting Bar
Experiment with samples or small jars of different types before investing a lot of money in a large container. Consider creating your own little tasting bar for friends to sample.
Can your group agree on which one is the best honey in the world? Can they recognize and name the nectar source? This is fun for beekeepers too and often an activity at local beekeeping associations.
Buy and Storing
As you shop, read the labels carefully. The label should only have one ingredient listed. Don’t be fooled by words such as natural or pure. Some producers play loose and free with those terms.
Also, pay attention to the country to origin. When possible, choose those produced in the United States – unless you are wanting a variety only produced in other countries.
A Final Word
The world of honey is a fascinating and flavorful journey. We will never agree on which honey is the best in the world. So, I will tell you – its the jar I harvested from my very own backyard hive this season. 😉