If you thought all honey was pretty much the same, you are in for a surprise. This sweet treat is enjoyed by many people across the globe and there are numerous ways to use it. Interestingly, the many varieties differ in color, aroma and flavor. So, how do you pick the best honey in the world for your table? Well, you have to understand how they vary and then try a lot of different ones!
Different Types of Honey – Which is Best?
Bees collect plant nectar from millions of blooms (or flora) to make honey. Most of it is considered multi-floral. This means it is made from many nectar sources that are all mixed together in the hive.
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Hundreds of different plant nectars can be used to produce even one jar. The variety of mixed nectars used depends on the location, season and foraging availabilities. It may contain pollen grains from source plants.
Regular honey is called “Wildflower” – an industry term. Which does not mean that the only plants visited by the bees are tiny native wildflowers.
Rather, that many different flowers contribute to the final product. Therefore, it can vary widely in color and taste from year to year.
Most of the jars in your local supermarket will be blended products. Large producers mix barrels of light and dark product to create the blend. This allows them to provide the consumer with a consistent product that usually looks and tastes the same.
But, not all varieties are made with numerous nectar sources. Monofloral types often called “specialty or artesian” because they are produced using primarily one nectar source. (i.e. clover, buckwheat, orange blossom).
Beekeepers produce this special crop by placing hives in an area with a large bloom of a particular nectar source. When the bloom is over, the boxes are harvested.
A small percentage of other nectars may be present – because you can not control where the bees fly. However, these specialty products have a more uniform taste and color.
Beekeepers with the opportunity to produce specialty crops can charge a premium price. More work and hive manipulation is needed to produce this artisan honey. Expect to pay more per ounce. And, these products are always in limited supply.
Wildflower honey can vary greatly in flavor from one harvest to the next. But, monofloral varieties offer a more consistent flavor and texture.
Most Popular Artesian Varieties
Just like the color of honey, flavor and aroma are determined primarily by the nectar source. Some types are sweeter than others due to a higher percentage of fructose vs glucose.
How do you know which is the best honey? Honestly, the answer to that question is not an easy one. Determining the best flavor qualities of any food is subject to personal preference. Everyone’s taste buds are different.
1. Acacia Honey
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.
2. Sidr Honey
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”.
3. Manuka Honey
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 of honey 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 variety of 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.
4. Tupelo 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.
5. Sourwood Honey
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.
6. Fireweed Honey
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.
7. Buckwheat Honey
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.
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.
8. Blueberry Honey
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.
9. Greek Thyme Honey
The history of honey in Greece goes back thousands of years. One of the most famous Greek honeys 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.
Specialty Honey Products
This bee product is pretty impressive straight from the hive. Pure raw unfiltered honey is delicious and offers some health benefits too. It is antibacterial, antibacterial and contains antioxidants, vitamins and enzymes.
But, the flavor can be varied or enhanced in several ways. One option is to infuse honey with herbs or other substances. If you like spicy foods, you can make your own hot honey using jalapenos.
Another variation is to use the natural crystallization process and make creamed honey. This product is often called Whipped or Spun. Never fear – no cream is needed. You can make your own and add flavors to it also. Ground cinnamon is a favorite around here.
Use it in Bath & Beauty Items
While we are most familiar with honey as something to consume, it has more to offer. If you enjoy making your own healthy and beauty aids try a couple of these: diy salt and honey scrub, face moisturizer or a no lye Goatmilk and honey soap.
How to Choose the Best for You
Deciding which one, you like best will require some experimentation. Also, you may find that you prefer different varieties depending on the use.
In general, light colored ones are milder in flavor while darker colors have a bolder taste. Some people prefer light varieties for table use. You can use them for drinks like hot tea too.
It looks pretty and tastes good drizzled on other types of food. Dark bold varieties are delicious when paired with cheeses or used in baking.
And maybe, you will prefer regular wildflower that is a blend of so many different tastes. It is fun to try wildflower from different locations around the country and notice the great variety of taste and color.
When you begin shopping for the best one, read the label 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. The exception of course is monofloral varieties that are only produced in other countries.
Honey is a great gift idea for friends and family and you can buy the best honey in the world from many different producers.
Experiment with samples or small jars of different types before investing a lot of money in a large jar. Consider creating your on little tasting bar for friends to sample.
Can your group agree on which one is the best honey in the world? How do you decide? Is it the sweetest or the most expensive? Maybe it is that jar of raw wildflower that came from your very own beehive in the backyard!