With a rise in the demand for health-conscious foods, consumers have been making a bee-line for honey as a healthy sugar alternative.
A report says that Indians consume approximately 80,000 metric tons (MTs) of honey each year. Can you even imagine the number of bees we owe this possibility too?
If you love consuming honey, you must know what to look for before buying it. It is essential to get all the nutrients that this natural sweetener carries and with the popularity of the natural sweetener soaring, not only are local markets full of fancy flavours, grocery stores are following suit. However, the variety may be overwhelming—are certain varieties healthier or tastier than others, what is the difference between raw and organic honey, what sort of honey is best, and what to look for in a jar of honey?
These are some questions that plague many buyers with the overwhelming selection in the marketplace but do not worry. We have you covered.
Dive straight into this hive of a guide that tells you everything you need to know when buying honey.
What is honey and how is it made?
Honey is a viscous, golden liquid created by bees. It is made from the nectar of flowering plants and stored inside the beehive for use during lean seasons.
Bees fly from flower to flower, gathering nectar and pollen along the way and storing it in a special stomach. When they're full, they return to the hive, where they regurgitate the nectar into their proboscises or sharp beaks, and pass it on to worker bees. The worker bees chew on the combination for a few moments before regurgitating the now-liquified sucrose into honeycomb segments. Because nectar may practically originate from any flowering plant, honey variations are almost limitless.
What is the difference between raw honey and organic honey?
Raw or Natural honey – This is natural honey straight from the beehive, and has only been cleaned by straining it so that little bits of beeswax and bee body parts are removed. This is honey that has not been heat-treated, that is, pasteurised above 45C and has not had its pollen filtered out.
A wide variety of forest honey are of the natural kind.
Organic honey - Honey that is labelled as organic is made from a bee farm that follows the organic farming standards, according to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). According to these guidelines, the hives must be chemical-free or placed far away from any contaminants that may be present. Furthermore, the flowers from which the bees will collect nectar cannot be treated with pesticides, and the bees cannot be administered antibiotics.
What kind of honey is the best?
Raw, that is natural forest honey, is the best kind of honey out there. It is sourced straight from the beehive, strained and put in a jar for you to relish.
Honey naturally contains vitamins, enzymes, and pollen–all of which are great benefits of natural honey. These are all retained as they are when the honey you buy is raw. Pasteurized, heated or sometimes even artificially flavoured honey is likely to lose these medicinal properties.
Why does honey crystallize?
Crystallization is a natural property of natural, raw honey. This is because the natural sugars in honey tend to bind together as time passes and form crystals. Crystallization is an indicator of the purity of honey and varies from honey to honey.
How to avoid crystallization or delay it? Firstly, do not store your honey in the refrigerator. If you want to completely avoid crystallization then you must consume the honey before it begins to crystallise. However, crystallized honey is also perfectly fine to eat and tastes as delicious as normal honey.
To de-crystallize honey, you can soak the entire jar in a lukewarm water bath. However, it is necessary that the water be just lukewarm and not hot because that can alter the natural properties of your honey.
What makes pure organic honey hard to come by?
Organic honey is a sweet illusion. Let us tell you why.
In layman’s terms, the process of collecting honey involves bees travelling miles and miles to collect nectar. This means that they come in contact with thousands of flowers, plants and trees. This is what makes organic honey questionable.
Organic honey is honey that is free from contact with pesticides, insecticides and other synthetic chemicals with the exception of approved organic chemicals.
A colony’s worker bees cover large-scale lengths of land to bring back nectar and come in contact with all kinds of flora – be it organic or pesticide and chemical treated. For honey to be truly organic, the beekeeper has to ensure that the bees are kept away from chemicals, pesticides and even anti-biotics that keep bees healthy. This means that miles and miles of land and produce that falls under the bees’ nectar-collecting radius must also be organic. Not only this, bees are animals with furry bodies that are prone to attracting all sorts of environmental particles. This means that any chemical applied anywhere near the extensive reach of bees has the potential to end up in the beehive.
Many a time, bees become carriers of these particles through their fur, which is how the chemicals end up back in the beehives. Since beekeepers don't own the tens of thousands of acres surrounding their hives, they have no control over what their bees are bringing home.
This makes genuinely ‘organic’ honey not impossible, but beyond the ability or control of most beekeepers. Not only this, ‘organic certification’ protocols often overlook wax-contamination and underestimate the real nectar-collecting radius of a bee colony. This makes ‘organic’ honey an elusive proposition that is often falsely upheld by brands.
What to remember when choosing a jar of honey?
- Choose Natural and Raw.
Natural honey is essentially the best and most beneficial honey you can get your hands on, other than starting to keep bees yourself.
- Choose local.
Local brands and farms selling honey are more likely to be free from chemicals. Not only that, it supports smaller bee-keepers instead of bigger brands that sell packaged honey full of artificial elements.
- Always check the list of ingredients on the label.
Even though it may sound like a practice in vain, checking the ingredients list at the back helps you gauge whether it truly is the pure honey it claims to be or has artificial sweeteners like corn syrup which is very common in superstore or mall-bought brands of honey.
- Choose ExclusiveLane Raw and Natural Wild Forest Honey
Not to toot our own horn, but ExclusiveLane’s Raw Forest Honey ticks all the checkboxes in this guide and more!
Sourced straight from the lush foothills of Uttarakhand, our pure and natural forest honey is non-pasteurised, retaining all the benefits of naturally present antioxidants, enzymes and vitamins. It is a truly blissful experience for the tastebuds.
Filled with unadulterated goodness, each jar of honey supports sustainable and responsible bee-keeping practices.
It is rich in nutrients including Vitamin C, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium and Calcium.
This jar of goodness is one of the best in the Indian market today and you must definitely give it a try!
Until then, happy honey hunting!