Many people believe that all honey tastes the same. Nothing could be further from the truth unless you buy the same processed honey at the supermarket. The texture, color and taste of honey are all dependent upon the floral source of the nectar collected by the bees. Even within an apiary honey from different hives, indeed from different frames within a single hive can taste and look different.
At Brookfield Bees we have a large collection of honey from around the world that puts those differences on display. Not only can you see the differences but you can taste them and feel the different textures.
Initially, we collected a sample of honey every time we extracted. This limited sampling expanded when we started extracting honey for other beekeepers. Soon thereafter, whenever we traveled anywhere we would bring back honey to add to the collection. Now we are fortunate that people who have come and sampled our collection bring us honey from their travels. The whole thing is getting out of control and we are constantly trying to figure out how to add shelf space to accommodate new samples. We have samples from almost every state in the United States as well as a good number of countries.
My favorite samples of honey are those that come in re-purposed containers without any bar code or nutrition facts. Containers such as old plastic soda or water bottles, glass whiskey bottles and used coffee containers are particularly special. Containers such as these are pretty typical for roadside honey obtained in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Thailand, Puerto Rico or Sierra Leone.
Honey is divided into two categories: varietal and wildflower. Honey that comes from the nectar of a single plant species is called “varietal honey.” Familiar varietal honeys include clover, orange blossom, tupelo, buckwheat, raspberry and acacia. Some of the best varietal honeys come from weeds and other noxious plants. Some unfamiliar varietals include coffee, avocado, fireweed, poison oak and coriander. All other honey is called “wildflower honey” and is made from the nectar of many different flowers. It is precisely because the proportions of nectar sources are so variable in wildflower honey that there are so many different tastes even within a small geographic area. After all, in her lifetime, a single honeybee will only collect enough nectar to make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey.
The only scientifically reliable way to back up a varietal claim would be through an analysis of the pollen that is in the honey. If that analysis reveals that 100% of the pollen in the honey comes from the raspberry plant, then the honey sample is “raspberry honey.” The truth of the matter is that no honey sample is made exclusively from the nectar of a single plant variety.
Many people ask how it is possible to claim that a particular honey sample came from the nectar of a particular plant. The answer is pretty simple. Flowers bloom at different times and if a beekeeper puts out empty supers when, for example, clover is in bloom and removes and extracts the honey in those supers when the clover is no longer in bloom, it is a pretty safe bet that a lot of the honey in those supers is “clover honey.” The claim is even easier to make if the beekeeper has his or her hives in an area where the predominant plant is clover.
If you are interested in doing some honey sampling come to any of our events. Listed below are some of the varietals in our collection as well as international sources.
US Varietals: Acacia, Alfalfa, Artichoke, Asian Pear, Avacado, Bamboo, Basswood, Big Leaf Maple, Blackberry, Blueberry, Brazilian Pepper, Black Mango, Buckwheat, Chamiso, Christmas Berry, Clover, Coffee, Coriander, Cranberry, Eucalyptus, Gallberry, Goldenrod, Huajilio, Kamahi, Kiawe, Knotweed, Lehua, Locust, Lotus, Lychee, Macadamea, Mango, Mangrove, Meadowfoam, Mesquite, Orange, Palmetto, Raspberry, Red Mangrove, Sage, Saw Palmetto, Sea Grape, Snowberry, Sourwood, Star Thistle, Sunflower, Tamarisk, Texas Tallow, Tree of Heaven, Tulip Poplar, Tupelo, Wilelaiki, Yaupon Holly,
International Varietals: Blueberry, Coffee, Fireweed, Linden, Manuka, Blueberry, Carrot, Sunflower, Thyme, Linden, Lavender, and Heather.
Countries Represented: Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Burma, Canada, Colombia, England, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Wales,
If you are traveling anywhere and come upon what looks to be interesting honey, bring us a sample. US Customs has allowed me to bring in as much honey as I can fit into a checked bag. That said, I always get a note that TSA has opened the bag for inspection. Something about 20 jars filled with liquid gets their attention.