What to look for in a good varietal honey
Excerpted from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating
Flower varietal & geography
Although most people think of honey as a homogenous substance, there are more than three hundred varieties in the world. Every blossom, so to speak, begets its own “brand”, a honey that’s based on the floral source in the same way that wines depend on the grapes they’re made from. The beekeepers set their hives among particular flowers in bloom. Take note, though, that very few honeys actually taste like the flower or the fruit.
Geography plays a big part in the taste of honey as well. The same type of blossom in two different parts of the world will yield honeys of varied texture and flavor. The vintage also makes a difference. Like every other natural food, varietal honey will be different each yet, depending on changing climactic conditions.
Little handling and heat
The less honey is handled after it’s been taken from the hive, the higher the quality is likely to be. Other than a very gentle warming used to loosen and remove honey from the hive, most other heat is likely to be harmful.
No extra flavors
There should be no added fruit flavors, colors, or additives of any sort. Good honey doesn’t need any. Don’t make the mistake of confusing authentic varietal honeys with commercial clover honey that has been flavored. Most of the time Blueberry Honey Creme on a store shelf is made by bees that have never seen a blueberry blossom. It’s nothing more than standard-issue honey with a dose of blueberry extract.
Solid or smooth: both are ok
The majority of good varietal honeys are cloudy and naturally crystallized and thick to almost solid, often completely opaque. In much of Europe, these honeys are the preferred model. Good lavender honey can be creamy white. Honey is primarily made up of relatively equal parts glucose and fructose. The more glucose, the more likely the honey is to be crystalline solid.