Many types of honey exist and are available to buy. How many types of honey do you think there are? Prepare to be surprised. As consumers you would be forgiven for thinking that honey is either set or runny. That it comes from the supermarket and that’s that.
Supermarket honey is one type of honey, out of many types. Flavour and aroma of supermarket honey is shaped by the why it is collected and processed. Most supermarket honey is blended. A blend of honey can be from two or more places with different origin (different honey farms, different country or area of a country), floral source, colour, flavour and consistency. By adjusting the amount of honey from different honey farms packagers can provide consistant colour, texture, aroma and flavour. Blend helps make processing honey efficient and allows mass producers of honey
to bring product to the mass market at a reasonable price. Flexible sources of honey and processing honey in a certain way ensures security of supply for the whole countries. Mass produced honey is processed to help to prevent crystalisation and keep the texture, colour and appearance the same.
All good things, but, at what cost? Flavour and experience gets sacrificed.
What’s stopping us from enjoying the variety and range of honey? Honey flavour is as exciting and diverse as wine or cheese.
Types of honey deserve to be explored. Honey types fall into two categories, floral source and methods of processing.
It’s all about flavour. Readers may like to check the page on what makes honey scrumptious? Floral source of nectar is the main contributor to honey’s taste. Local honey farms and mid scale producers offer types of honey determined by floral source. There are mainly 3 types of floral source that give distinct and exciting flavour to honey.
Blended honey is the most common because it is the easiest to produce on mass scale due to the flexibility of supply. If one region has really bad weather and affects the Honeybee colony, other honey farms pick up the slack to keep production going. Blended honey tends to be the lowest cost.
Local honey farms normally produce polyfloral honey meaning honey that has come from many sources of nectar. A wild flower meadow, hedge row, crops, woodland or moorland: and the list goes on. Your back garden may be included.
Fewer local honey farms produce monofloral honey or honey from one main floral source. Honeybees tend to get ingredients for honey within 7km of the hive. That creates a circle around the hive where they may collect nectar and pollen. This makes producing mono floral honey more difficult and reduces the supply of UK Mono floral honey reaching mass market. Instead it reaches the market via local food fares and specialist suppliers.
Orange blossom produces ubiquitous nectar that Honeybees love. Lots of small flowers with lots of nectar. Making orange blossom a favourite with honey farms producing mono floral honey. Also citrus has a distinct flavour which allows people to clearly link aroma and flavour with that of the floral source.
Floral source common to the United Kingdom includes hawthorn, apple blossom, rapeseed and sycamore. Local honey farms that focus on a single floral source for their honey often pick a floral source that provides the best flavour for their honey and harvest at certain time of the year after flowering has finished. For instance orange blossom blooms in July causing the honey farm to harvest in July when the affect on the honey’s taste is strongest.
Check out the scrumptious honey selection
Scrummy Honey has selected the best honey selected from various types of honey including extra healthy honey, from locations around the world.
Packaging and processing of honey
Crystallization is a natural process affected by the relative amounts of sugars in honey. Temperature affects crystallization, and plays a part in crystallization at the following stages: during harvesting, processing, packaging and storage.
Set honey as it’s known in the UK (other names include creamed, whipped, spun, churned, or honey fondant) is a process to control crystallization. A large number of small sugar crystals is produced and help prevent larger crystals forming.
Pastuerisation and ultrasonication
Processing to destroy yeast cells include making pastuerised honey or using ultrasonication. Pastuerisation uses heat and ultrasonication uses sound energy to jiggle the particles in the honey.
After yeast cells have been reduced or destroyed by these methods crystallization is also slowed down significantly.
Pastuerisation heats the honey to more than 72 degrees celsius to completely kill yeast cells which stops fermentation and increases shelf life. Heating honey to this temperature has negative consequences. Honey can darken and it creates flavours that are not natural to the product affecting taste and fragrance. Ultrasonicated honey
requires heating to only 35 degrees celsius and significantly reduces yeast cells and slows down fermentation.
Processing of this nature is welcomed by large producers as it produces product that doesn’t crystallize and can stay on the shelf for longer.
Raw honey can be thought of as honey as it exists in the beehive. Raw honey is a general term for honey that has undergone a minimal amount of processing. Straining is allowed to remove pieces of wax. Sometimes a low grade of filtering is carried out. It’s a term not recognised by regulation, trading standards, or beekeepers in the UK.
A mesh material is used to remove fine particles like wax, propolis and other defects without removing pollen, minerals or enzymes.
Filters removes almost all fine particles from the honey including pollen grains, air bubbles, enzymes, wax and anything else. To get honey through the filter it must be heated to between 66 to 77 degrees celsius.
Supermarkets prefer filtered honey as it is very clear and does not crystallize easily. A common method of filtration involves adding powdered rock called diatomaceous earth to the honey before passing through the filter.
Local honey farms don’t tend to filter honey because it removes pollen and enzymes from the honey affecting flavour and reducing some of the health benefits of honey.
Honey comb is taken from the shelves in the bee hive and it’s cut into chunks for packaging.
Chunk honey is where pieces of honey comb are included inside the jar of honey.
Other types of honey include dried honey and bakers honey used in processed food such as cakes.
Labelling of honey is generally determined by the floral source, geographic location of the Honeybees, and type of processing. Blended honey would typically be called runny honey, set honey, organic honey, or just honey. Keeping it simple!
Honey farms, and other producers don’t have to state on the label that the product is poly floral honey. Using just ‘Honey’ is acceptable.
If honey has been produced from a single source of nectar consumers would benefit from this information and it’s stated on the label. For instance, heather honey, forest honey, or citrus blossom honey etc.