Which honey is the best? Have you ever asked this question?
In the last 12 months, Benefits of Honey had a record number of conversations on the benefits of honey among our local visitors. It was clear that many of them were keen to get started on a daily regime of consuming honey to experience the health benefits mentioned by others. It was a heartening phenomenon. But when they enquired, "Which honey is the best, pure, raw, organic or creamed?" you realized those terms were not really meaningful to them. And just when you thought everything was crystal clear after explaining each term to them and concluding that honey could be raw, creamed, organic and pure all at the same time, you got another question "if you say crystallization is a mark of raw honey, my honey must be pasteurized because it is not sugary." Education can be really tough and bothersome. When choosing a bottle of honey, most of them were happy to just read labels such as "pure honey", or "raw honey" which probably were interpreted with as "good quality honey".
Multi-floral honey blends and mono-floral honey varietals were found to be totally foreign terms to nearly all of those whom I have met online. When encountered with single floral varietals of honey such as Eucalyptus honey and Orange Blossom honey, they assumed they were honey infused with some artificially made eucalyptus and orange flavoring essence. I guessed that was perhaps why some single floral varietals of honey never quite became popular despite their fantastic tastes.
New Zealand's Manuka was one honey varietal that I have to specially mention here as it was particularly appealing to a lot of people. Many were told by their relatives and friends that it was the best honey one could get. Having to fork out a lot more for a bottle of the honey didn't seem to be an issue for most. They were eager to get their hands on any information on how they could benefit from the honey, but when a bit more was shared about its inherent properties or contents, you knew you had to put a limit to the use of Manuka-related jargons. There were consumers who assumed that Manuka was the name of the brand and that the bigger the number on the bottle the greater its "potency". Hence, honey jars labelled MGO 400 were particularly impressive for some (MGO is a testing standard that measures the activity of methylgloxal level in Manuka). One actually believed that Manuka honey was made by a special species of honeybee called "Manuka bee". "A distinct mono-floral honey varietal" was apparently not a term familiar to most as furnishing them with more information on how the honey was harvested from a single flower nectar source called Manuka often led to big surprises. One gentleman even claimed that a particular honey store advised him that Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) was no longer the testing standard and only bottles with the label "Active" were the best now.
So, responding to the question "Which honey is the best?" was no easy feat. Drawing on honey knowledge to know beyond the taste and benefits of honey can actually be quite a whirlwind process. It too took me many years to snap me out of my confusion about many terms on the honey jar labels and come to a realization that there existed no standard definitions to the terms such as "pure" and "raw" used on labels as it is not something you could easily get information on. And even until now, from time to time, I still get stumped by how some new honey is marketed. With the thousands of distinct floral varietals of honey of varying quality levels resulting from different beekeeping environment (weather, humidity, etc.) and beekeeping practices and beliefs, I can understand why so many people would rather only pick up information that is most essential them.
If your interest in honey goes beyond just eating it, here are a few articles which can help you unravel some "mysteries" behind those honey labels.
1. Frequently Asked Information About Honey: Pure honey, creamed honey versus clear liquid honey, crystallisation of honey, monofloral varietals, darkening of honey, viscousity of honey, honey storage.
2. Natural Honey, Pure Honey, Raw Honey ~ Making Sense of Honey Labels: Tips on reading honey labels.
3. UMF Manuka Honey And Its Big Price Tag: Is Manuka honey the best?
4. Eating Real Honey?: How informative are honey jar labels and claims?
5. Which Honey to Buy?: Raw, organic, multifloral, monofloral, local, imported and commercial Honey?
6. Do you really know me, honey?: Discover how much you know about honey with this quick quiz. Your quiz results might well surprise you!
To your good health,
June 2016 (Updated)