With so many brands on the market, finding good honey is akin to finding our way through a maze. At times, it can be really confusing. The less knowledgeable may end up paying for inferior and adulterated honey. Here are tips to help you navigate through this maze.
A discerning honey consumer establishes the quality of honey with the eye, nose and mouth. This reveals defects like fermentation, impurities, odours and inferior flavours.
Eye-Balling Method Examine the container in which the honey is stored. Honey is best stored in stainless steel, glass, porcelain or food grade plastic containers. There should be an absence of wax particles and other impurities. However, presence of pollens in pure and raw honey is a good sign as is pollen.
Honey is categorised generally under four colour classes: Light, Amber, Golden, Dark. However, colour alone cannot determine the quality of the honey. Check for bubbles due to fermentation. While bubbles can be a sign of fermentation, a freshly bottled honey might contain air bubbles too. Air bubbles in freshly bottled honey jar is not a sign of fermentation but reflects poor bottling.
Honey aroma can be judged by smelling with the nose when the lid is removed from the jar. Any “off and obnoxious” odours can be indicative of fermentation.
Due to its fructose and glucose content, all honeys are sweet. To get the most of the honey flavour, it is best to allow the honey to flow all over the tongue. Sweet, sour and bitter are the three basic tastes. The tip of the tongue is more sensitive to salty and sweet. The sides of the tongue can pick up sour tastes more readily while the back of the tongue more readily picks up bitter tastes. Fructose is said to be 2.5 times sweeter than glucose. The sour taste is affected by the acidity of the honey. Honey produced by stingless bees has a sour tangy taste.
The tactile properties of honey can be enjoyed on the lips and tongue. Some honey lovers love the coarse and hard crystallized honey while others prefer fine and creamy honey. Yet others like a smooth and less vicious and liquid honey.
When doing a taste-test, check for defects like off and abnormal tastes.
Good grade honey has less than 20% moisture content when using Refractometer measurements. Honey with more than 20% moisture, stands a high risk of fermentation.
Heat and Poor Storage
The use of excessive heat in processing honey for liquefaction and pasteurization has adverse effects on honey quality, leading to loss of enzymes, accumulation of HMF and reduction of invertase and diastase activities. Honey is best stored in a cool, dark place.
Hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde (HMF) Hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde or HMF is an indication of decomposition of fructose. With excessive and prolonged heating or improper storage, HMF concentration increases. European Union sets the acceptable HMF level to a maximum of 40 mg/kg.