Honey is sweet, but there is more to this amazing ingredient than a sweet flavor. In fact, there are over 300 flavor profiles of honey, all with a unique taste that stems from the flowers bees forage.
Whether fields of clover or citrus groves, honey bees collect nectar from flowering plants and use it to make honey. The color and flavor of honey differs depending on the nectar source (the blossom) visited by the honey bees. Honey color ranges from nearly colorless to dark brown, and its flavor varies from delectably mild to distinctively bold. As a general rule, light-colored honey is milder in taste and dark-colored honey is stronger.
Retail bakeries can take advantage of the many flavor profiles of honey by developing product lines of similar products, but using different honey varieties. For example, does your bakery serve granola in the morning? Develop a robust-flavored granola using buckwheat honey, which is very dark in color, and a milder-flavored granola using clover honey. This simple solution will provide your consumers with options to meet their specific taste palates.
With over 300 varieties, bakers have quite a few options, and according to a survey of retails bakeries conducted by the National Honey Board, 73% of retail bakers stated they knew what variety of honey used. Among survey respondents, the most popular honey types are clover, wildflower, orange blossom and buckwheat.
Honey is produced in every state, but depending on floral source location, certain types of honey are produced only in a few regions. Here are some popular honey varieties that may be locally sourced in your area. For more information on sourcing honey, visit www.honeylocator.com.
Alfalfa: Alfalfa honey, produced extensively throughout Canada and the United States from the purple alfalfa blossoms, is light in color with a pleasingly mild flavor and an aroma similar to beeswax.
Avocado: Primarily produced in California, avocado honey is gathered from avocado blossoms. It is a well-rounded honey with a rich, buttery flavor and a flowery aftertaste.
Blueberry: Taken from the tiny white flowers of the blueberry bush, the nectar makes a light, amber-colored honey with a moderate fruity flavor and the aroma of green leaves. It is produced in New England and Michigan.
Buckwheat: Typically produced in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as Eastern Canada, buckwheat honey is dark and full-bodied. It has been found to contain more antioxidant compounds than some lighter honeys.
Clover: Clovers contribute more to honey production in the United States than any other group of plants, with Red clover, Alsike clover, and the white and yellow sweet clovers the most important for honey production. Clover honey varies in color from clear to light amber and has a sweet, flowery flavor and a pleasing, mild taste.
Eucalyptus: There are over 500 varieties of eucalyptus plants with the majority found in Australia and Canada. Eucalyptus honey varies greatly in color and flavor but tends to be a stronger flavored honey. Some eucalyptus honeys have a slight menthol flavor and scent.
Fireweed: Fireweed honey is light in color and comes from fireweed, a perennial herb that grows immediately following a forest fire. Primarily produced in the Northern Pacific states and Canada, fireweed honey is a delicate, sweet honey with subtle, tea-like notes.
Orange Blossom: Orange Blossom honey, often from a combination of citrus sources, is usually light in color and mild in flavor with a fresh scent and light citrus taste. Orange blossom honey is produced in Florida, Southern California and parts of Texas.
Sourwood: Sourwood trees can be found in the Appalachian Mountains from Southern Pennsylvania to Northern Georgia. Sourwood honey has a sweet, spicy, anise aroma and flavor with a pleasant lingering aftertaste.
Tupelo: Tupelo honey is a premium honey produced in northwest Florida. It is heavy-bodied with a mild, distinctive taste, and is usually light golden amber with a greenish cast. Because of the high fructose content in Tupelo honey, it granulates very slowly.
Wildflower: Wildflower honey is often used to describe honey from miscellaneous and undefined flower sources.