How to Taste Natural Honey for the First Time
By Sharyn Inzunza
To taste natural honey for the first time is to experience it at a sensory level. Unlike the honey options lining supermarket shelves, locally grown honey — honey that a farmer harvests from carefully nurtured hives — opens up a world of color, aroma and, of course, taste.
Natural honey comes in many shades, creating a kaleidoscope of earthy tones. Like a stained glass window, the jars of natural honey sparkle light and bright and glow golden and warm.
It’s easy to think of honey as a standard caramel color. In fact, natural honey includes a palate of colors ranging from almost white to deep rust — almost black. And it is the bees’ surroundings — the flowers they visit — that determines the honey’s color.
For example, here are some flower types from around the U.S. and the honey color they produce:
- Orange blossom flowers from Texas — pale
- Tupelo flowers from Florida — golden amber with a “greenish” hue
- Goldenrod flowers in Maine — rich amber
- Avocado flowers in California — dark
And just as flowers give off a specific scent, their nectar also scents the bee’s honey. The best way to experience the honey’s aroma is to approach it like, say, a wine sommelier. A sommelier swirls the wine around the glass then inhales the fragrance of the wine. You can also do this with honey.
In fact, to experience the aroma of natural honey, the American Honey Tasting Society recommends putting it in a wine glass and smearing the honey around the glass with a spoon.This opens up the honey’s aromas, revealing the flower types the bees visited.
With the aromas captured in the bowl of the glass, you can stick your nose in the glass — like a sommelier — and take in the fragrance of the flowers, the soil, the terroir.
Of course, the taste, or flavor, of honey is closely related to the aroma. But to taste honey is to identify it like we identify food, as sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (savory).
Interesting fact: Honey is not simply “sweet.”
Going back to the sommelier example of tasting honey…
To identify the true flavors (which can be different to the aromas), take a spoon of the honey and let the it melt on your tongue. And just as you would when tasting a wine, inhale through your mouth to let the flavors bloom.
The flavors you taste in the honey may include marshmallow or lavender, woodsy earth tones or dried fig.
And as the flavors dance on your tongue, you’ll discover the honies you like best; the ones you’ll want to add to your collection.
Natural honey for the senses
Honey is a food source we identify for its sweetness. It’s good in tea or on toast. But when you
experience natural honey for the first time, a whole world of flavors ignite your senses. And once that happens, honey becomes something new, exciting and precious.
At Spring Break Maple and Honey, we harvest natural honey that our bees make from the beautiful clover and goldenrod flowers surrounding our Maine farm. And you can order them here, right on our website.
We identify food: https://foodschool.ca/assignments/how-we-taste/