Honey is one of the oldest food items known to mankind. With the earliest evidence dating back to over 8000 years, honey was discovered buried with pharaohs in their tombs, which surprisingly was still edible even after thousands of years. The fact that Egyptians didn’t want to part with it even after their death, highlights how important honey is to humans.
From being a rich source of energy to its strong antioxidizing and antibacterial properties, honey is not just consumed as food but also used in several skincare and beauty products as well. You must be using honey in some way or some form, but are you aware of all the different types of honey that you can choose from?
There are about 300 different types of honey in the world. While they all are mainly composed of sugar (glucose and fructose in varying percentages), they vary in taste, color, texture and even smell. In case you are wondering what sets apart one pot of honey from the other, then read on to find out.
The following article covers the main types of honey classified according to the methods of extraction, processing and source of nectar collection.
Table of Contents
By Processing Method
Pure Raw Honey
Pure raw honey is a type of honey that is exactly what its name says it to be. This refers to unprocessed honey that is directly offered for sale after extracting it from the comb. Pure raw honey is the most elementary and crude form of honey that is free from any additional chemicals or artificial preservatives, which are often added to most commercially available honey. This type of honey might be warmed a little bit to ease extraction and straining or to transfer it to bottles, but it is never heated beyond 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that its delicate aroma and various enzymes that are beneficial for your health remain intact. Thus, raw honey is known to have the highest therapeutic value. Because it does not undergo any refining procedures, it is not uncommon or unusual for one to come across pollen, propolis or beeswax particles in a jar of pure raw honey.
The taste of raw honey differs depending on the types of flowers that the bees used to collect their nectar. But one thing is certain, this type of honey tastes great no matter how it is consumed. It is because of its originality and health benefits that pure raw honey is the best buy for anyone who is really into natural and organic foods (but be warned that raw honey tends to crystallize and will require a spoon or knife to scoop it out of the jar).
Pasteurized honey is processed honey that has undergone various procedures to ward off bacteria and other live agents. Any honey that has been heated above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and has any extra agents added to it is considered to be processed honey. Needless to say, pasteurized honey is far less healthy and less beneficial as compared to pure raw honey because with the unwanted bacteria, the good enzymes are destroyed as well. In case you are wondering why manufacturers heat honey if it makes it ineffective, it is done to make it more convenient to use. People mostly want smooth and consistent honey flowing out of bottles that can be easily poured into tea, on pancakes, toast, etc.
By Texture and Consistency
Comb honey is a type of honey that is available for consumption while still in its original form, i.e. just as it is stored by bees themselves. This means that it is not extracted from the hexagonal-shaped beeswax cells (called honeycomb) and is instead sold in the market in its purest form. Many companies offer a piece of honeycomb in a jar of ‘comb honey’ but the real comb honey refers to a section of the delicate comb that is oozing with lots of sweet syrup and is sold in a tightly packaged container. It is packaged like that in order to keep the comb intact and to prevent it from leaking. This means that you cannot simply just dip a spoon in the bottle but instead you have to squeeze out the honey on your own.
Comb honey is helpful in lowering bad cholesterol while simultaneously raising the levels of good cholesterol in the body. Its long-chain fatty acids and alcohol strengthen the liver via their ant oxidation properties but excessive use of this type of honey can lead to gastrointestinal blockage.
Chunk honey is simply comb honey that is sold in a jar along with lots of liquid honey poured over it.
Liquid honey basically refers to honey prepared by cutting the wax cappings of a honeycomb and then straining the resulting product using a honey extractor. This removes all the honey from the individual cells in a beehive. Liquid honey is the most common type of honey found on
shelves. Compared to comb honey and granulated honey, it is the most widely consumed type of honey due to its consistency and ease of use. All the types of honey discussed above (except comb honey, chunk honey, and raw pure raw honey that might crystallize) fall under the category of liquid honey.
As the name suggests, creamed honey is a type of honey that unlike most other forms, is in a semi-liquid state. It’s composed of one part granulated honey and nine parts of liquid honey. The blend is stored at about 57 degrees Fahrenheit till it becomes firm and solid. Creamed honey undergoes a special procedure to control crystallization. Small crystals in this honey ensure a smooth consistency and prevent the formation of larger crystals that can occur in unprocessed honey. This type of honey is best for spreading on a toast or devouring with hot pancakes.
Other names for creamed honey include spun honey, honey fondant, whipped honey as well as churned honey.
Granulated honey is honey in a powdered form. This is achieved by freeze-drying the liquid honey to get rid of the water content. Granulated honey is not available everywhere but is the most versatile of all types. Due to it being in a powdered form, it can be mixed in various things from food items (teas, smoothies, cakes etc) to beauty products (hand creams, body scrubs and so on).
By Nectar Source
Spring honey refers to honey that comes from bees that gather nectar from any type of spring produce. This may include flowers of fruits harvested in spring such as apples, pears, blueberries, etc. as well as other spring flowers such as lavenders, tulips and others. Spring honey is loaded with flavor that can range from mildly sweet to tangy or citrusy depending on the source of collection. These types of honey are an excellent choice for deserts, herbal teas or even for simply enjoying it on toasted bread.
Meadow honey refers to honey collected from natural beehives as well as that harvested from bee farms on various grasslands. Just like spring honey, meadow honey too comes in varied tastes depending on the flowers and vegetation that the bees collected the nectar from. Many farmers follow a single meadow origin philosophy which means that they go to great lengths to ensure that starting from nectar collection to honey extraction; the bees only stay on one meadow. This is because meadows that are even just a few kilometers apart can lead to completely different tastes of honey as the type of flora on each land differs from one another.
The term ‘wildflower’ honey is used to describe the various types of honey collected from undefined flower sources. Also called polyfloral honey, this type of honey is derived from the nectar of miscellaneous flowers that grow naturally on wild lands. Wildflower honey is commonly used by people who are allergic to pollen grains in order to reduce their sensitivity and increase their tolerance for these allergens. However, the key for this remedy to be effective is to use pure or raw wildflower honey as pasteurized honey, which is void of most of the enzymes and antioxidants that boost immunity.
This type of honey is light and fruity yet packed with lots of taste. Depending on the specific type of flowers from which the nectar was sourced, wildflower honey can taste more delicate or intense. If you have a particular flavor profile in mind, then if possible, try out a small amount of wildflower honey before you buy one.
If you think that honey bees collect nectar from only flowers or that they are the only insects involved in honey production, then you probably haven’t heard of forest honey. Even if you have used it before, it is likely that you are unaware of where it comes from.
Forest honey is also known as honeydew honey. Although it doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes from a forest, one thing is certain: the nectar for this honey is not collected from flowers as per the norm. Instead, it is gathered from honeydew from trees. While many people believe that honeydew refers to the sap excreted by trees, in reality, it is excreted by aphids.
Aphids feast on tree sap looking for nutrients. Once they have digested the necessary amino acids, they excrete the undigested material back on the tree. This ‘honeydew’ is collected by honey bees to produce what we call ‘forest honey.’ Forest honey is largely produced in Mediterranean regions from where it is exported to different parts of the world.
Now that you know the different types of honey, make sure to try them all out and widen your options of ‘liquid gold.’