A guide for helping you to choose the best honey to buy
The Best Honey in the World
Every 2 years, beekeepers from around the world gather at an international conference called Apimondia, otherwise known as the International Federation of Beekeepers' Association. This gathering takes place at different locations -- the most recent conference was held in Instanbul, Turkey where there were 12,500 participants from 127 different countries.
The biannual Apimondia conference is the largest beekeeping event in the world, where beekeepers, scientists, honey companies, industry technicians and legislators meet to discuss current topics and to listen and learn from each other. At each conference, one of the most anticipated events is the World Beekeeping Awards where honey products are evaluated by a panel of expert judges. Prize categories include raw liquid honey, raw crystallized honey and raw honey comb. Winners in each category get to brag that they have the "Best Honey in the World." Here are some recent winners for liquid honey:
- 2022: Thyme honey from the Greece
- 2019: Wildflower honey from Turkey
- 2017: Mountain Honey from Oman
- 2015: Sidr honey from Kuwait
- 2013: Wildflower honey from Cyprus
- 2007: Acacia honey from Ukraine
- 2005: Sourwood Honey from USA
Given some of the remote places where it was made, finding honey from these past winners, much less buying it, is rather difficult. So what might be another way to determine the best honey to buy? How about using popularity and word of mouth? Different world regions definitely have honey favorites as decided by honey lovers and honey consumers.
Best Honey from the USA
Two American honey varieties are generally at the top of the best honey to buy list. These are tupelo and sourwood. Both are a bit rare and are always in high demand.
Tupelo honey comes from the green and white blossoms of the white tupelo gum tree. These trees are native to the United States and grow best in a few feet of fresh water. They are found mostly in the Altamaha River system in southeast Georgia and the Apalachicola River system in northwest Florida. Each year in April, these trees produce delicate round blossoms, which last for just 2 or 3 weeks. These blossoms produce a sweet nectar which bees collect and turn into delightful tupelo honey. Tupelo honey is lighter in color and has a bright floral-fruity flavor that dances playfully on the palate.
Sourwood honey also comes from tree blossoms. The sourwood tree gets its name from sour tasting leaves (who eats them, anyway) but the honey is delicious. In mid summer, sourwood trees are covered with thousands of small white flowers that look a lot like a Lilly of the Valley. Hence one of the nicknames for this tree - the Lilly tree. Sourwood honey has a warm and rich flavor, with notes of cinnamon and cloves.
best honey from Europe
Three premium honey varieties from Europe are acacia, lavender and thyme.
There are two types of acacia trees - the true acacia, from Africa, and the false acacia also called a black locust tree (robinia pseudo-acacia). The black locust is actually native to the USA, but it was exported to England and France in the early 1600's. One of the first trees sent to France ended up (after several transplants) in the gardens of the Natural History Museum in Paris where it was still growing strong until the early 1960's. After arriving in Europe, the black locust tree was renamed as the acacia tree and the new name stuck. Acacia trees can spread rapidly, with seeds above ground, and suckers below ground. Within a few hundred years, large acacia forests were found all over Europe, with some of the largest forests found in Eastern European countries such as Romania, Hungary and the Ukraine. Good quality acacia honey is very light in color ("water white" at times) and it has a very light floral flavor. It may also have a hint of vanilla. In these dense acacia forests in Europe, the quality of the acacia honey often exceeds what is made in the USA where there are fewer numbers of black locust trees.
Lavender honey from Southern France is another best honey to buy. In the Provence region of Southern France, picture-perfect lavender fields are abundant. Large lavender farms have also been developed in Bulgaria and in 2020, Bulgaria passed France in lavender oil production. While lavender plants are grown primarily for the fragrant flowers, honey is an important secondary crop. Lavender honey has a delicate floral flavor with faint citrus overtones.
Thyme honey from Greece is another premium honey variety. This honey has developed a reputation for being high in anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. The honey is medium sweet, with flavors of dried fruits such as dates and raisins. As an ingredient in Greek baklava, thyme honey is amazing.
Best honey from South America
Best honey from the South Pacific
A true marketing success story is Manuka honey from New Zealand. This honey has become so popular and profitable that some beekeepers use helicopters to move beehives into remote locations where the
the flowering Manuka bushes grow. Small jars of this honey can retail for $50 or more. The flavor of this honey is not overly pleasant - it is earthy, pungent and a bit bitter. But the reported health benefits are what makes this honey so special. Manuka honey is very high in phenolic compounds that may have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits.
Best honey from Africa
Much of the honey produced in Africa is polyfloral - meaning that it is made from the nectar of several different flowering plants. Many times, this is labeled as wildflower honey or forest honey. In terms of monofloral honey, there are a couple nominees for best honey to buy. One is fynbos honey from South Africa, and the other is Tigray white honey from Ethiopia.
Fynbos honey is dark in color and strong in flavor. It does not come from a single source, but from a group of scrubland plants that grow in dry and nutrient poor areas of South Africa. The name fynbos is derived from the Dutch word "fijnboch" which means "fine bush." Similar to manuka, fynbos honey is more of a medicinal honey, with a strong flavor, and with anti-bacterial and antiseptic properties. This honey has been used for many years in treating wounds.
In a dry, mountainous and remote area of northern Ethiopia called Tigray, bees are attracted to a number of different flowering plants in the sage family, along with prickly pear flowers. These flowers bloom once a year during the rainy season and bees collect the precious nectar to make an exotic white and creamy honey. Named after the region, white Tigray honey is not very sweet and it has an intense aftertaste. It is considered to be a rare delicacy and some believe that the Queen of Sheba brought this rare honey to Solomon when she paid him a visit around 950 BC.
Best honey from Arabia
Sidr honey won the "Best Honey in the World" honors at the 2015 Apimondia conference. Sidr honey comes from the nectar produced by the blossoms of the wild Sidr tree, also know as Christ's Thorn. This tree grows only in remote and uncultivated areas of Yemen, which are free from pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals. Traditional beekeeping methods (non-mechanized) are used by semi-nomadic beekeepers to collect and harvest Sidr honey. This results in a completely organic and rare honey. Sidr honey is darker in color and it has a rich herbal flavor, with a slightly sour aftertaste. It has a reputation for strong medicinal benefits, and is sometimes call the "Manuka of the Middle East." Pure Sidr honey is quite expensive, and can sell for more than $100 per pound.
Are you ready to try some great honey?
While we do not carry all of these coveted honey varieties described above, we do have several of them, including coffee blossom, tupelo, and sourwood. Check out our full selection of raw and unfiltered honey varieties here.