The more particular the information on the label, the more likely it is you are buying good honey. For example, some jars will mention a particular beekeeper or a small company with its own hives in a particular region. A named place and type of flower, or type of flora, such as forest honey, spells good news!
Conversely, if the label says ‘product of more than one country’ then the honey has been blended from a number of sources and is less distinctive than pots that come from one hive and its surroundings.
Raw or unpasteurised honey has been lightly treated, simply spun out of the honeycomb and not fine-filtered. It may be slightly hazy from the pollen inside and it will probably crystallize at a quicker rate than processed honey.
Beware of what is known in the trade as ‘funny honey’, for example honey adulterated with sugar syrup. If you open a jar and there’s no fragrance and a boiled sweet taste then you’re not getting the full joy, taste and benefits you want from honey.
What's the difference between set and runny honey?
When it comes to texture, some honeys start off thick, such as the gel of heather honey, and many thicken naturally over time. Other honeys remain runny for longer, such as acacia (another common type).
You may find your once-runny honey has thickened up in your kitchen cupboard, to make it runny again, surround the jar in just-boiled water in a bowl and leave for five to 15 minutes, or very briefly heat what you need in a pan or microwave.
In addition, producers can seed a honey with a little crystallised honey to make a more spreadable texture known as ‘set’ or ‘creamed’ honey. At the other end of the texture scale, mass-market honeys can be heated and fine-filtered, so they won’t thicken and are easier to pour, although this also removes some of the aromatic and beneficial qualities of the honey.
The purest form is honeycomb, which sits in the beeswax cells. After a delightful chew, you then remove or swallow the little ball of leftover wax. More expensive and harder to find, it’s an unusual treat and looks beautiful on a plate with a piece of cheese and some fruit.