Which raw honey flavour is right for you? Whether it’s floral, forest, light or dark, here is a guide to help you discover your perfect honey match.
We think that honeys have personalities and finding the right match for you and your palate is like finding a friend who is compatible with your needs and interests. From delicately floral, to highly medicinal, for pairing with certain foods, to just eating straight from the spoon – which one is the right match for you?
Make sure it’s raw
This is most important for getting the truest flavour. Heat treatment, pasteurisation or micro-filtering robs honey of its multi-layered tastes as well as losing its nutritional value. Always choose raw (untreated) honey for delicious, complex flavours that are good for you too.
Honey comes in all sorts of forms, from thin, clear and delicate to thick and granular. Again the treatments that commercial honey undergoes makes it all standard and non-crystallise, but this closes the door on the wonderful variety of textures available.
Single source or multi-floral
There are literally thousands of honey varieties in the world. Each has a unique flavour and colour depending on which flower species the bees gather their nectar. With single varietal honeys, the honey bees gather nectar from the same type of flowers; multi floral is where the bees gather from a range of flower species. As well as nectar source, the percentage of fructose, glucose and amounts and types of amino acids along with the changes in the seasons and environment also affect texture and colour.
How to describe it?
There are some common flavours and language used to describe and build on your honey-tasting vocabulary:
- ‘Floral’ meaning from hints and notes of flowers like lavender, rose and jasmine.
- ‘Fruity’ often has a taste of mango, berries and citrus.
- ‘Warm’ means there are undertones of caramel, butterscotch, creamy notes of butter or even deep flavours of chocolate.
- ‘Fresh’ indicates bright flavours like citrus
- ‘Herbal’ can have hints of thyme, mint and rosemary.
- ‘Vegetal’ points to a hint of raw vegetables, wet grass, or even hay and straw.
- ‘Woody’ has a taste of pine or oak or spices derived from bark and seeds like clove and nutmeg.
- ‘Funk’ means yeast like, fermented in taste or even mushroom like.
10 Varieties of Honey to Explore
- Wildflower - Derived from a variety of wildflowers and plants this honey can range anywhere from a very dark to a light honey. Every year it changes with what blooms are produced by what plants. This honey is especially good at improving the immune system. It can also help those who suffer from seasonal allergies or allergic asthma. Taste this honey from the area where you live, as it will contain pollen from the flowers that cause you allergies. Taste a tiny amount and see how your body responds.
- Clover – Most people think of this as a common table honey. It is typically lighter in colour from white to light amber tones as the nectar from the clover comes from white blossoms. There are different types of clover (Red Clover, White Dutch Clover, etc.). Granulated or liquid it makes for a sweet addition to toast or in tea.
- Acacia - Light in colour, sweet, but it not overly strong. It comes from the shrubs and trees of the pea family in Australia and Africa. Its taste is subtle and doesn’t overpower food or drink. It can aid relaxation and sleep when used as a soothing accompaniment to teas like chamomile. It also suits tea drinkers who want a little bit of sweetness with their tea.
- Eucalyptus – This honey carries more of a herbal flavour and you can sometimes notice a menthol taste. The trees are found in Australia, South Africa and southern Europe and sometimes known as gum tree. This honey pairs well with savoury or spicy ingredients, it goes very well used in a barbeque sauce.
- Orange Blossom – This can be pure or mixed with nectar from nearby citrus flowers, such as lemon and lime. This like many honeys goes well in teas and as a simple marinade. For example, take 2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard with 2 tablespoons of orange blossom honey and mix well with a fork. Use it on turkey or chicken and grill or bake.
- Forest Honey - Sometimes called pine honey or honeydew, it is made from different types of pine, cedar, or fir trees. Although pine trees do not have flowers, during certain times of the year they do produce something called honeydew. This honey is super tasty and very dark in colour. It has strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compounds. This honey is rich in iron, so it’s a good choice for those who are anaemic. Low in sugar but rich in minerals, it’s also a good choice for athletes and diabetics.
- Manuka Honey - Often thought of as the king of all honeys because of its high grade medicinal qualities. It comes from the from the Manuka bush in New Zealand, part of the tea tree and leptospermum family. Such is the healing and antibacterial qualities of this honey it is used in wound care and to combat infections such as MRSA. Manuka has more of a medicinal taste compared to other honeys. I have written a lot about Manuka recently having visited New Zealand and Australia.
- Buckwheat – Honey from buckwheat is a very dark honey that resembles the molasses and malt that it tastes like. It has a very strong flavour that is not for everyone, is rich in iron, and has more antioxidants than lighter honeys.
- White Honey - A very pure, rare honey that is white in colour and intensely floral in taste and aroma. Found in mountain locations like northern Ethiopia, Balqees source our Raw White Mountainous Honey from the Tien-Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan. Made solely from the nectar of white wild flowers that bloom during the summer in the pristine alpine meadows on the Eastern side of Lake Issyk-Kul. It’s really thick and granular in texture but easy to spread on bread (it goes beautifully on deep rye).
- Yemeni Sidr Do’ ani – Tasting raw Yemeni Sidr honey for the first time can be a revelation. It’s really thick, like molten toffee and rolls around your tongue. The flavour is intense with layers of floral and warm notes. It lasts for ages in your mouth and on the palate. Sidr trees grow in other part of the Middle East, but Yemeni Sidr is very balanced (due to the wild and remote countryside so that bees forage on the Sidr blossoms alone). Other Sidr can be quite strong in taste with a rusty or blood-like after taste.
Yemeni honey is considered the best in the world due to its delicious taste, aroma and health promoting benefits. From the remote Wadi Do'an in the Hadramout region of Southern Yemen. The ancient Sidr tree is famous for its highly medicinal properties. It is often called the Manuka of the Middle East and is reported to be particularly good for liver problems, digestive problems and strengthens the immune system and promotes general health and vitality. For more on the culture of Yemeni Honey.
This is, of course, just a small sample of the amazing honey that is found around the world.
How to Taste Honey
Spoon out a small amount of honey (about 1/2 of a teaspoon). Take in the aroma and let the honey sit on the front of your tongue. As it melts, the honey will spread to the back and sides of the tongue bringing out nuances in flavour. Eating a dry cracker and sipping room temperature water between each tasting will help neutralize your palate.
Enjoy your raw honey journey and let us know what you discover!