The current demand for raw honey reflects current food trends- where raw food diets and clean eating is becoming more than a fad, and something of a way of life. However, the term raw when it comes to honey is not quite as clear cut as it is with meat or veges. Raw is raw – right? Not exactly.
Let’s get really honest about it and understand what it is you are really looking for in your raw honey given there is no strict legal requirement for claims and labelling of honey raw. In its raw state honey contains natural vitamins and living enzymes and when buying raw honey- you want to be guaranteed that the nutritional elements are preserved.
So, generally speaking, the basic difference between raw and regular honey is how it’s been processed and in particular how heat is been used in that process.
Here is what you need to know:
· Heat and filtration is used in the honey extraction and production process.
o So- in the strictest terms honeycomb or honey straight from a local beekeeper that has not been filtered or processed is as ‘raw’ as you can get. However read below to find out why this doesn’t mean it’s anymore ‘nutritious’ than other forms of honey.
· Most honey goes through a filtration process after the beekeeper extracts it in order to remove foreign objects, in particular pollen.
o Honey is made by honey bees from the nectar of flowers and plants, not pollen. Pollen is actually an accidental guest in honey, brought back by the bee as a source of food for baby bees (the “brood”), or incidentally introduced into the honey through other means, such as during the extraction process. Pollen in honey is sometimes analyzed to help determine the primary floral source. The amount of pollen in honey is minuscule and not enough to impact the nutrient value of honey. Honey is still honey, even without pollen. So therefore there is no reason whereby ‘unfiltered’ honey would be more ‘nutritious’.
· The average temperature of the hive is between 33-38 degrees, so it’s natural for honey to reach these temperatures and a good manufacturer will only try to mimic these temperatures in order to work with the honey so it can be filtered/ creamed and packaged yet maintain the nutritional goodness.
o So- you should ask your producer or retailer if they know to what temperatures the honey has been heated to in the production process. (*this satisfies a raw diet where all food has not been heated above 37 degrees, which is the average temperature of your body and is believed to keep the food as nutritious as possible.)
· Creamed honey is achieved by having one part finely granulated honey blended with nine parts liquid honey. The mixture is then placed in cool storage to promote rapid granulation and produce a small crystal structure that results in a smooth creamy texture. - Hence creamed honey. The precisely controlled crystallisation process also lightens the colour of honey, but does not affect the taste and nutritional goodness at all.
o So- creamed honey is by definition raw if it’s from a trusted producer. In the case of Happy Valley we harvest and produce raw honey trying to maintain its natural goodness throughout the process. Our 100% pure NZ natural raw honeys are carefully stirred to produce a silky smooth creamed texture. Our honey maintains its flavour from the unique environment they are made in. Our honey is raw and as close to nature as we can get it.
· Some manufactures will pasteurise their honey, this is achieved by heating the honey above 72 degrees for a short period, followed by rapid cooling. This is not raw honey. This is for easy filtering and bottling so that it looks cleaner and smoother, more appealing on the shelf, and easier to handle and package and store where heat and moisture will not effect the honey.
o So this is typically the syrupy liquid (or runny) honeys you might find in the supermarket, these honeys have been pasteurised to help with the presentation and making it a consistent colour and look for consumers by stopping the granulation process. This is not raw honey. It is simply a way to ensure the honey does not ferment over time (Fermentation does not pose a health danger, it just affects the taste).
Suppliers who understand honey that has undergone heat treatment would not be as ‘nutritious’ (and no longer Raw) and have the consumers' health in mind would ensure their honey is only slightly warmed (not pasteurised), just enough to allow the honey to flow for bottling. So- you can still have raw honey that has been processed, but only gently warmed, mimicking the heat of the hive to retard granulation for a short period of time and allow light straining, stirring and packing into containers for sale. Using as little heat as possible is a sign of careful handling.
Ultimately it is up to you, as the customer to understand what level of filtration and processing with heat you are happy with.