Same as cheese or even wine, genuine honey (without adulteration) evolves through time, during storage. For example some honeys are more likely to crystallize than others (reminder, crystallization is a natural process) and can modify its taste in mouth. Moreover, each honey harvest is unique (due to location, weather, bees efficiency...) and beekeepers are unable to guarantee the same taste as the previous year.
My experience with Sardinia honey (Apicoltura Brisi)
Miele di Sardegna - Apicoltura Brisi
Living in Sardinia, a friend of mine brought me some honey harvested by his beekeeper neighbor (Apicoltura Brisi). It was precisely a package of 3 jars: Asfodelo (asphodel), Cardo (thistle) and Eucalipto (eucalyptus), known for their awards (Sardinia Food Award 2017).
Originally opened in a liquid state, I tried all of them without feeling anything special taste wise. Don't get me wrong, they were simply just as "good". However, with plenty of honey types to try in my cupboard, I forgot those wonders from Sardinia for a while.
During a few months time, honeys were stored in a dry and dark place...
Someday, I unexpectedly opened the asphodel honey in order to mix it with my Greek yogurt like I usually do (there are better options than white sugar for your desserts! Honey or even maple syrup are, without a doubt, healthier). Back to our story, I tried the honey before pouring it in the yogurt and what a surprise when I found it slightly crystallized with a more subtle taste.
It was simply just too good and outstanding to put in a dessert! As a matter of fact, I advice to try gourmet honey only from the spoon to catch its full flavour. Instead, I switched to the thistle honey and it was even better than previously! That day it was the best honey I have ever tried in my life! All thanks to the new texture brought by crystallization. Eating it was like traveling through different waves of sweet natural goodness. As a result, I couldn't put it in my yogurt again!
After the third jar (eucalyptus) and the same result... My flatmate said I was a honey maniac!
At the end, I sweetened my Greek yogurt with Romanian acacia honey, and everything went quite well! Acacia honey doesn't crystallize due to its floral origin, so I wasn't likely to have another surprise this time. But to conclude, honeys had time to change and this is a natural process on top of that!
What happened with my Sardinia honeys?
According to its floral origin, honey is more (or less) likely to crystallize. Crystallization changes not only the texture but also the taste! In fact, I consider the texture as important as the taste because these two parameters work together. For instance, liquid honey doesn't spread in mouth the same way as creamed honey (melt). Flavour propagation in mouth is important to assess different aromas from the beginning to the end notes.
What alters honey crystallization?
- Sugar type: fructose (sweet flavour) and glucose are both featured in honey but only glucose accelerates crystals formation (grains).
- Temperature: in the hive, honey stays liquid because of the warm environment (~35°C / 95°F), while stored at 15°C (59°F°) the opposite applies.
- Texture: creamed honey is usually an additional process brought by the beekeeper to ensure a slow crystallization.
- Humidity: lower it is, faster the honey will solidify.
- Shaken honey: is more likely to crystallize.
Crystallization differences between 3 honey types from Sardinia after few months of storage
- Asphodel: stays mainly liquid, very slightly crystallized with a delicate and vegetal taste.
- Thistle: half-liquid half-solid, this honey was completely outstanding after being crystallized and features as sweet and slightly spicy (cinnamon and nutmeg) with very long end notes.
- Eucalyptus: Solid when opened and more liquid after digging with a spoon (eucalyptus magic) with a woody and caramelized flavour.
What about Manuka Honey?
Allow honey to rest... And let it live!
If some people rather prefer liquid honey, it is possible to re-heat it again in a water bath (beware not to exceed 40°C - 104°F to prevent good properties to fade). Honey is full of surprises, today's jar won't necessary be the same tomorrow. So let live like you would do with cheese and wine and stay open to new discoveries!
About the author
After visiting New Zealand in 2016 and tasting its genuine Manuka honey, it unexpectedly became my daily job. Located myself in France (Chambéry, Savoie), we produce, import and introduce you some amazing premium Food & Beverage products from the antipodes. So prepare yourself for a mind blowing gourmet journey.