Before becoming a bee keeper, like most people I took honey for granted. An underwhelming sticky goo in squeezy bottles from the supermarket, I had tried it once and then carried on with granulated sugar.
When I first started my training as a beekeeper, I met other established and passionate beekeepers who not only kept bees in the UK but had also travelled all over the world. In different countries, they always made a concerted effort to try the local honey. It surprised me to learn (although it’s obvious when you think about it!) that bees forage on different flora and this creates very different tastes.
I was intrigued and started to collect honey from all over the world to try it out. From sweet mild orange blossom honey to dark tangy chestnut honey, I enjoyed the huge array of flavours like a whisky connoisseur! I now substitute sugar wherever possible with honey as not only does it provide sweetness, it also brings a whole array of health benefits from providing anti oxidants to boosting the immune system. It even boasts benefits to skin which is why I use it when I make our soaps and shampoos.
Even UK honey can have different tastes depending on the time of year it is harvested and where the bees have spent the majority of their time. Spring honey is usually very dense as it has usually been made with nectar from late flowering plants such as ivy and stored over the winter months as a precious food store. This is only extracted once there is a good nectar flow for the bees to replace it. Summer honey is much lighter with obvious floral notes and is called “poly floral” as it is impossible to isolate which flowers the bees have foraged on.
For the first time, there will be Ffynnon Beuno bees in several “out apiaries”. This means that they will spend the colder months here and then for summer, the hives are taken a number of locations to forage on small range of plants. One out-apiary is in the high moorlands in the Clwydian Range to forage on heather. The honey extracted when they come home in Autumn is labelled “Heather Honey”. Our second out apiary is in deciduous woodland where the bees will forage on nectar bearing trees and plants such as willow and lime as well as bramble. This can then be labelled as “Woodland honey”.
Here’s a list of commonly available honey types and tastes – but of course, the honey from the bees kept near to where you live is always the best!!!
Acacia – Very sweet with the classic honey taste
Chestnut – Dark, strong and slightly bitter
Clover – Light and Mild. Lovely in tea
Eucalyptus – Dark and tart with a hint of menthol
Heather – Pungent and bitter with a surprising sweet smoky finish – try this in a black coffee
Lavender – Sweet Lavender flavour
Oil Seed rape – very yellow, fresh floral fruity- can crystalise
Orange Blossom – Sweetly floral with a citrus finish – lovely to bake with
Greet Forest honey – Strong, robust and a bit treacly
Cotton honey – Very sweet, faintly spicy
Go on and experiment in coffee and definitely in herbal tea!