I wrote about this in Agriculture.com.ph early last year, and I think it’s worth revisiting, because in a market flooded with adulterated honey, or “fakes,” we can always get a refresher on how to choose unadulterated, or “pure” honey.
Not all honey available in the market is pure. According to Wilfrido “Jonji” S. de Jesus Jr. of Two Bees Apiary in Iloilo City, these so-called “fake” honey isn’t actually fake, but most probably either honey made by bees who have been fed sugar water instead of nectar, or honey that has been adulterated with other substances.
De Jesus himself ensures that the honey he sells is made by bees who have fed on nothing but nectar, which is why his honey is always sold out. He offers some tips on what to consider when buying honey:
Trust your nose. Honey is dehydrated nectar, and it should smell like a mix of the flowers it was taken from. “Honey should smell like flowers,” De Jesus said. “When you open [the bottle], it’s like flowers in your nose.”
Tune in to your taste buds. Since our senses of smell and taste are connected, it stands to reason that if honey should smell like flowers, then it should sort of taste like it, too. “…it should taste like a mixture – it’s like smelling the flower and when you taste the honey, it also somewhat tastes like the flowers you have smelled because it’s nectar,” De Jesus said.
Because the kind of nectar gathered not only determines smell but also taste, this means that honey from different areas, as well as honey gathered by different bee species will taste different, with notes ranging from sweet to sour. “That’s the difference between [European honeybees], which is apis mellifera, and our native bees. Our native bees, most of the honey that they gather are sour… they prefer their foraging [for sour nectar]… that’s why their honey tastes like it has vinegar in it. But the Italian bees, they go on the [sweet] side of nectar,” he said.
Know your beekeeper. According to De Jesus, the best way to tell if honey is “fake” is through lab testing, since pure honey will contain micropollens while honey from sugar water-fed bees will not, although some people get around this by blending “fake” honey with those from different sources to make it harder to detect, even with a microscope.
“The best answer to the question ‘How do you know if your honey is real?’ is you should know your beekeeper. It’s that simple. Because if you know your beekeeper… it’s like building trust from the start,” he said, citing his own apiary as an example. “We had a hard time at the start but as we went through the years, we gained [our clients’] trust. We know [our honey is] real, they found the difference, so by word they also spread it around, that’s how it is.”