What Is the Difference Between Regular, Raw, and Manuka Honey?
Exploring the world of honey is an eye-opening experience. Honey is so much more than just a sweetener and should be lauded for all of the valuable properties it offers. For many people, their only experience with honey is the over-processed honey that’s sitting on the grocery store’s shelves in a cute little bear squeeze bottle or a glass jar with flowers on the label.
For honey connoisseurs, these are probably a little on the generic side, and although they taste great to someone who doesn’t know other honey, they may taste bland to them. If you are one of those people, it’s time to widen your honey horizons. Let’s learn what are the different types of honey and what purposes they serve.
If you’ve visited any Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods lately, you might have noticed an abundance of honey and honey-based products lining the shelves. Honey, or apiculture (the technical term of beekeeping), is big business these days due to the variety of health benefits found in bee pollen to the sweet golden nectar of honey itself. Used as a natural sweetener in lieu of processed sugar and sweeteners, honey is even Goop approved, dubbed as a natural elixir and “nectar of the gods” by beauty experts with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kourtney Kardashian and Meghan Markle who swear by the sweet stuff’s restorative powers.
Historically, honey has been used for centuries. Dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt and ancient China, honey has been used as traditional forms of medicine, aiding in everything from digestive issues and sleep deprivation to allergies and anti-aging. Even today, China remains the largest consumer of honey products due to its natural uses of antibacterial and antiseptic properties found in its syrupy wake.
While there are literally hundreds of types of honey to choose from, not all honey is created equal and knowing the basics between regular honey, raw honey, and Manuka honey (the relative darling of the wellness and celebrity world right now) is equally important. Here’s a look at the major differences between regular honey, raw honey, and Manuka honey.
Simply put, regular honey is any honey that has been pasteurized or filtered. During the pasteurization process, similar to the pasteurization of milk, cheese, or butter, honey is heated at high temperatures to kill any yeast that may be present in order to prevent fermentation. It’s pretty easy to tell regular honey from raw or Manuka honey because of its translucent color and syrupy consistency. According to the website Benefits Of Honey, “a lot of honey found in the supermarket is not raw honey but ‘commercial’ regular honey which has been pasteurized (heated at 70 degrees Celsius or more, followed by rapid cooling) for easy filtering and bottling so that it looks cleaner and smoother, more appealing on the shelf, and easier to handle and package.”
Raw honey, on the other hand, is any honey that hasn’t been heated or filtered. Think of it as hive to shelf. While there’s no official FDA definition for raw honey, according to the National Honey Board, raw honey is defined as “honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat.” While raw honey is better in terms of preserving the vitamins and natural enzymes that you won’t find in processed, regular honey, the characteristics and consistency can vary greatly. Your best bet, if you don’t want to buy just based on a label, is to get it straight from farmer’s market/beekeeper as it really doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Taking your honey education one step further, one of the healthiest types of honey available on the market today, Manuka honey (pronounced Mah-noo-kah) is honey that is derived from the nectar of the Manuka bush, a plant that’s only grown in New Zealand and Australia. Long been hailed for its medicinal and antibacterial properties, today, this medical grade form of honey is being used in everything from treating topical cuts, burns and common colds to helping cure acne and general skin care to being served in high-end restaurants and sold in health food stores around the world. It also carries a hefty price tag to match.
Since honey has unique flavors and often a thick texture, you may wonder what the correct way to go about tasting a variety of honeys is to find one that you enjoy. You don’t want to the tastes or textures to mix together. You’ll want to get a small sample on a spoon and smell the honey first. Our other senses are just as powerful as our sense of taste. After this, you’ll want to place the honey on the front of your tongue and let it melt. This will spread the taste around your mouth.
To cleanse your palate between tastes, you should nibble on unsalted crackers and drink a small amount of water that is at room temperature. Most purveyors of honey that offers the chance to taste test their wares before purchase will probably offer a way to separate the tastes between the varieties.
Have you been missing out on trying all of these different varieties of honey? It’s time to start exploring the tastes and benefits that come from using other types of honey. Break out of the same old honey mold in flavoring your tea or trying to soothe an achy throat with that bottle of generic grocery store honey that has been over-processed to remove much of what makes it healthier for you. You’ll be glad you learned about different types of honey. Considering that there are over 300 varieties of honey, you’re sure to find one that you enjoy.
Do you have a favorite variety or brand of honey? What is your favorite way to use it? Comment below and share your experiences with everyone else. Be sure to share this article with others if you found it helpful.