Honey, the sweet, sticky, golden nectar that comes in as many different brands and containers as a person (or bee) could dream up. And, for as variant as its marketing, it can be just as variant in flavor. Most honey from the shelf of your local grocery store may not convey these differences as powerfully, but raw or unpasteurized honey gets its uniqueness across very well and is often used in professional tastings. So, just what kinds of taste differences are we talking about here, and where do they come from?
The most notable differences in a honey’s flavor profile originate from the type of flower the bee has harvested the nectar from. This alone opens up a wonderful array of possibilities, as bees can be controlled to harvest from specific flower fields or harvest in certain combinations to create a uniquely blended flavor profile in the resulting honey. What most of us think of as classic honey would most closely match the flavors of acacia and clover honey, though clover is slightly more floral than acacia.
Some interesting honey flavors that result from specific plants are the light menthol touches of eucalyptus honey, dark and rich coffee honey, citrus noted orange blossom honey and the sweet and nutty macadamia nut honey. All of this honey is delicious and distinct in its own right, but flower alone is not the only difference one can measure in honey. After all, there is a good reason that the best honey comes from your local beekeeper.
Geography is a game-changer in the world of honey flavor profile, and honey performs best in the regions in which it is created. Luckily, there are some amazing online services that can connect you to the honey in your area (just to be clear, that’s the golden sticky stuff that goes in your tea, not the other kind of honey). Utilizing local honey is an amazing way to add a personal aspect of your life into whatever you’re using it for – which can be an extra-special treat if you plan on sharing it with others.
The local flora is the main way that local honey gets their unique flavors, and even when the type of plant is controlled to create the specific types of honey as described above, the differences in how these plants grow in certain areas lends itself to the different leanings in a honey’s flavor profile. Things like soil pH, chemical levels, and consistency change the growth patterns and resulting flavors of these flowers along with weather patterns and air quality. And that’s not to mention the local crop yield in specific areas which can also influence a bee’s harvesting patterns, and therefore the resulting honey.
Honey is something that everyone enjoys, it is a term of endearment and a substitute for sugar in almost any application. Honey connects us with nature and continues to keep the bee population strong and pollinating our world. Honey is personal in its locality, and it is delicious. Next time you are at the grocery store, skip the honey aisle and see if there are any local vendors in your area instead, and get it raw and unpasteurized if you are interested in experiencing the full range of what honey has to offer.