Manuka: New Zealand’s sought-after honey

Published April 22, 2021, 10:30 AM

by Vina Medenilla

Manuka honey comes from the nectar of New Zealand’s tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium). This honey is not only famous in its native country, but has also been gaining interest and demand in western countries for its remarkable healing and antimicrobial properties. 

Honey production in New Zealand was first introduced by Mary Bumby, an English beekeeper and a sister of a Methodist missionary, who brought two hives of honey bees to the country in the early 19th century. Although New Zealand has native bee species, none of them can produce honey. The western species of bees that Bumby brought paved the way for the first local honey production.

There is substantial proof that the first-ever honey produced in New Zealand was the manuka. Despite this historical importance, the manuka variety was not recognized for many years until a famous New Zealand biochemist discovered its unique antibacterial properties. 

Among the many varieties of honey, only manuka honey has the ability to kill bacteria found in chronic wounds, bedsores, and leg ulcers. It contains compounds that aid in healing acne and scars. 

As the demand and price rose due to these unique benefits, manuka started gaining a place in the global market in 1991. 

What was once neglected is now the nation’s highest-paying export. From $40 million worth of honey, shipping of manuka honey has skyrocketed to $270 million by 2017.

The honey has become widespread in New Zealand, specifically in Auckland, where cafes and cocktail bars integrate manuka into various recipes. 

It has reached the United States as more and more chefs and public figures showcase manuka honey for its flavor, texture, and of course, its health benefits. It is also recognized for its versatility as a sugar substitute, as it contains less glucose levels compared to white sugar.

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