In Australia, you may have noticed honey labelled with the name of native trees, such as Yellow Box or Blue Gum. Honey is commonly classified by the source of the nectar from which it has been derived. Pollen is sometimes accidentally introduced into the honey, and may be used to determine the floral source.
Most commercially produced honey is blended, meaning that it is a mixture of honeys from different sources and areas, and therefore colour, flavour and texture will vary accordingly. Polyfloral honey, also known as wildflower honey, is similar in that it is also produced from a variety of floral sources, but is generally from a particular locality and may be harvested from a single hive. If this is the case, taste and other characteristics may vary seasonally and from year to year, depending on the species of flowers that are prevalent.
Monofloral honey originates predominantly from the nectar of a single plant species, which should constitute at least 75% of the nectar collected by the bees. Monofloral honey commands a premium price and is highly sought after due to its distinctive taste. While it is impossible to guarantee that any honey is produced entirely from a single source, monofloral honey that is almost pure may result from the prodigious nectar production of a particular species, or because the bees can only access one type of flower (it may be that there is little other vegetation in the area, or little else in bloom). Beekeepers may plan their harvest to take advantage of specific floral blooms and may periodically relocate their bees for this purpose. Honey that has been produced earlier may be removed from the hives immediately prior to the bloom, to ensure the harvest is as pure as possible.
Monofloral honeys are popular around the world, and the endemic Australian native flora has yielded some highly regarded and distinctive varieties. Monofloral eucalyptus honeys include Yellow Box, Grey Box, Blue Gum, Jarrah, River Red Gum, Ironbark, Stringybark and Messmate. Eucalyptus honey varies considerably in colour and taste, but generally has a bold, clean and smooth flavour, with mild sweetness and a characteristic aroma. It is slow to granulate, making it perfect for domestic use. Blue Gum honey, for example, is produced mainly in South Australia and Tasmania. It is amber in colour, with a dense texture, and has subtle, cool, minty overtones. It is delicious on toast or drizzled over ice cream. Manuka honey is produced in Australia and New Zealand from the Manuka bush or related Australian melaleuca species, and has anti-bacterial properties. Other notable Australian monofloral honeys include Tasmanian Leatherwood (which is considered a delicacy) and Macadamia.
Honeydew honey is produced in a number of regions, including parts of Europe and the United States. Instead of nectar, the bees collect honeydew, the sugary secretion of aphids or other sap-sucking insects. Honeydew honey is very dark, with reduced sweetness, and a strong fragrance and flavour. Pine honey, a form of honeydew honey, constitutes more than 60% of the Greece’s honey production.
Every region has its own different and characteristic honeys. Honey also stores extremely well, and unique regional honey therefore makes a great gift. In Melbourne and across Australia, delicious monofloral and polyfloral honeys, reflecting our wonderful native flora, are best sourced from professional local apiarists, or beekeepers.