What Makes Honey Taste Bland?

I’m asking because I don’t know.

I’m in New Brunswick at the moment. I picked up a jar of honey at a grocery store this morning. The honey is from a local apiary. The label on the honey jar reads “Pure liquid Canadian honey — Canada No. 1 White.” And that means… what exactly? Is the honey pasteurized or heated? Is it ultra-filtered? What does “pure liquid honey” actually refer to? Is it something specific or just some made up term like “natural” that doesn’t mean anything? Whatever it is, it tastes like melted plastic to me, at least when I compare it to the raw honey from our hives.

Raw honey comb removed from foundationless frame. (Sept. 25, 2011.)

What is it that makes grocery store honey, even “pure liquid honey,” taste more like a bottle of Elmer’s Glue than honey? Does heating the honey, whether to pasteurize or clarify it, kill all the goodness in it? Or does large-scale blending of honey from various hives through a single extractor result in a homogenous honey, a honey with a consistent — but bland — flavour?

I don’t know. But I sure do like our honey.

December 9th, 2011: Here are some informed responses to this post (much more informed than me anyway), all from Honey Bee Suite: Honey so bland it’s boring; Pasteurizing honey… whatever for?. And if you like that, you might also find this interesting: So is it honey or not?

6 thoughts on “What Makes Honey Taste Bland?

  1. I think you’re right, that both the flash heating and mixing together of honey from multiple hives or even countries in the case of some cheap honey don’t do anything for flavour. The volatile aromatic compounds within honey can easily get destroyed. The best honey I’ve ever tasted has been sucked from brace comb straight out of my hive on a warm summers day :)

  2. Even the small micro sized bits of wax should enhance flavor. Think about it the wax is essentially a type of fat. We all know fat makes things taste good. So it may help amplify and improve the taste.

    But I have to agree with the heating aspect. Everyone that has tried my honey this year was amazed by the flavor and taste.

  3. I am curious to know why honey I buy sometimes has little to no flavor at all. I live in Colorado, and every one of the local honeys I have bought has been very bland and without much flavor at all. I have also had honey given to me from Washington state, and it is delicious. Is it about the flowers we have here in Colorado? Are they just not very tasty honey makers?

  4. Most honey that doesn’t have much flavour is usually pasteurised, heated to the point where every microbe inside it is destroyed, including everything that has flavour. Honey is often heated, though not technically pasteurised, to delay crystallisation. Any process that heats the honey will affect the flavour.

    Bland honey could also be mixed with corn syrup from China and other places. Non all honey is pure.

    The flavour of honey can vary widely depending the nectar source too, but even the lightest honeys usually taste good.

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