Honey is a sweet treat that is enjoyed in many people. There are numerous way to enjoy it. And, if you think all of it tastes the same, you are in for a new experience. Individual 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 Kinds of Honey – Which is Best?
Bees collect plant nectar from millions of blooms or flora to make honey. Most of it is multifloral. This means it is made by the bees 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 depends on the location, season and foraging availabilities. Raw honey also contains pollen grains from source plants.
This is why 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.
But, not all varieties are made with numerous nectar sources. Monofloral honey is often called “specialty or artesian” because it is produced using primarily one nectar source.
Beekeepers produce this special crop by placing hives in an area with a large bloom of a particular nectar source. 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 so these items tend to be more expensive honey. Expect to pay more per ounce. These products are always in limited supply.
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.
While wildflower honey will vary great from one harvest to the next. Monofloral varieties offer a more consistent flavor and texture.
Characteristics of Top Honey 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.
Of course, you may prefer different flavors depending on what you plan to use it for such as baking or as a natural sweetener. Maybe you want to make some of these really cute healthy gummy bears.
Another option is to create your own Honey Bee Cake. You will find the flavor of baked goods varies a slight bit when using various types.
Popular Artesian Kinds of Honey
Some regions are popular for producing large quantities of high-quality honey crops. These varieties are not necessarily “better” than regular wildflower. However, they have more consistent honey tastes that some folks prefer.
- Acacia – Western US, Europe and China. Pale yellow color with a sweet floral taste
- Blueberry – New England, Europe. Light amber color with a fruity flavor and buttery aftertaste
- Chestnut – Southern Europe. Dark amber color. Can have a bitter taste but high in minerals.
- Clover – United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand. The color of Clover honey is yellow to white with a floral flavor. Popular to use in blends.
- Fireweed – Western US, Canada, Europe. Pale amber color to clear. Tea like flavor tones.
- Lavender – France and Spain. Golden color with flowery overtones in aroma and flavor.
- Mesquite – South Western US. Like to dark color with a smokey scent and unique flavor.
- Orange Blossom – Florida, Texas, California, Arizona and New Zealand. Color is medium amber with a distinctive orange taste.
- Sage – Sage honey comes from California’s Sierra Nevada range. It has a crisp taste and is light in color. It also crystallizes slower than some of the others
- Sourwood – Produced in the Appalachian Region of the US. Light to clear color with a buttery aftertaste. Sourwood is popular in the region.
- Tupelo – Southern US. Light amber in color. Tupelo honey has a very noticeable spicy flavor. It is very sweet.
What about Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey has made a major buzz in the industry in recent years. It is made in New Zealand and Australia by bees using nectar from the leptospermum scoparium bush (tea tree). Why do some people say manuka is the best honey in the world?
Even though any variety 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.
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.
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 honey.
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 – honey. 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.
Consider creating your on little honey bar for friends to taste. It is a lot of fun to see the different opinions about which one is the best honey in the world.