Why does honey you buy direct from a beekeeper, amateur or professional, taste so much better than supermarket honey?
Because it is untreated, just strained to filter out the inevitable bits of wax, then bottled. And it is fresh!
While commercially produced and marketed Australian honey can be relied upon as genuine honey, processing and packaging have involved some degree of human intervention.
There is also growing concern about so-called honey in which human input has been added to the incomplete products of the bees.
It may be where harvesting has been done before the honey is fully matured or artificial chemicals have been added during processing.
Or it may be the complete fraud, foreign false or fully synthetic "honey".
So, what is true honey? True honey is as produced entirely by bees for the carbohydrate component of their diet.
True honey is as produced entirely by bees for the carbohydrate component of their diet.
It has been defined as 'the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or from secretions of the living parts of plants or the excretions of plant sucking insects on the living parts of plants, which the bees collect, transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store and leave in the honey comb to ripen and mature' (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, quoted in The Australasian Beekeeper May 2019).
Nectar which the bees collect is about 80 percent water, a dilute solution of sugar, mostly sucrose (cane sugar), minerals, vitamins, traces of other nutritional substances and small amounts of flavours specific to the floral source.
For millennia bees have been transforming this natural product into honey by reducing the water content to below 20%, adding enzymes to break the sucrose down to glucose and fructose (fruit sugar), reducing the pH, adding 'bee-own' substances and perhaps adding the influence of bacterial activity.
Many changes are involved in this change from watery thin nectar to dense honey and 'ripening' it to the complete product.
Foraging bees ingest the nectar into their honey stomachs which are connected with, but excluded by a valve from, the true stomach at the beginning of the alimentary tract.
There enzymes are added to begin splitting sucrose into glucose and fructose.
Delivered back in the hive, the forager bee passes her harvest on to house bees and dehydration begins.
More enzymes are added including glucose oxidase which is responsible for the production of glucuronic acid and hydrogen peroxide contributing to the antibacterial activity of honey.
Acids from the bees' stomachs lower the pH, and it is likely that bacteria contribute to these chemical processes which mature the honey.
Special chemicals from the floral source give the taste of varietal honeys.
Nectar from flowers of species of Leptospermum includes the substance methyl glyoxal, responsible for the stronger antibacterial properties of honey.
Such honey is most commonly known as 'Manuka' honey.