As a sweetener and cooking ingredient, honey from various sources varies in taste. Its flavor profile is largely determined by the nectar collected by honeybees and can be influenced by what the bees have been collecting in other areas. Varietal refers to this notion of place-based difference with respect to honey.
Varietal is a word that we use to describe the specificity of where honey came from, whether it’s from a specific area or simply unique due to its source (such as different plants).
Learning more about honey varietals is not only interesting, but can also help explain the differences in the types of honey available, and allow consumers to make educated decisions on their purchases.
Think of the different varietals in the same way you think of different wines. In the same way that the soil and weather conditions affect the grapes that your wine comes from, the same can be said about the flowers your honey comes from too. So you could take two pots of honey labelled as Acacia honey, but you might notice subtle differences based on the exact flowers on offer to the bees making that honey. Truly fascinating, right!
Some of the most common types of honey are:
– Clover Honey: Most commercial honeys are derived from clover, which is a fragrant, medium-amber colored honey that is mild and sweet. Clover is by far the most popular type of honey harvested in North America and has a long shelf life.
– Lavender Honey: Lavender honey is a clear, light-colored honey with a sweet flavor and aroma that have been compared to freshly cut lavender flowers.
– Eucalyptus Honey: Originating from Australia, eucalyptus honey has an oily texture and a distinct aroma that at times can be described as having medicinal qualities. The floral-woodsy scent is very strong and can be overpowering.
– Acacia: Acacia honey is a brown to amber-colored honey. It has a distinctive taste that has been described as nutty, earthy, or herbal.
– Sea Buckthorn Honey: Originating from the east of Asia, sea buckthorn honey has a mild flavor with a hint of lemon. It can be very delicate in flavor and easily cloying. Its aroma is like fresh wildflowers with a light tang on top.
– Tupelo Honey: Tupelo honey is an amber-colored honey with a distinct taste and flavor. It is heavy, mild-sweet, and has been described as being like a cross between maple syrup and molasses. Tupelo honey is very thick and dense, which gives it a long shelf life – making it an excellent source for canning.
As the idea of gourmet or artisan honey has grown over the years, honey lovers are seeking out ever-increasing amounts of exotic honey varietals!