When people get asked if they could name the best superfoods on Earth, most of them would throw honey in their list, and they’d be 100% right about their choice. However, in the modern day there’s a lot of fake honey in stores. That’s because shady manufacturers have learnt how to adulterate or dilute it just to lower their costs, and they sell it all the same to make profit. What happens in the end? The health-conscious customer who wants to enjoy the health benefits of honey and its authentic taste, gets swindled.
How is Real Honey Produced?
First, let’s say a few words about how natural honey is created.
Among other bee products like bee pollen, wax and propolis, honey seems to be the most widely consumed one. As you may have heard, honeybees use plant nectar to make this edible bliss. Nectar can be seen by you too. If you pull a flower’s blossom from its stem, you’d notice the liquid start dripping from the blossom’s end. Bees often get the nectar from tree blossoms, fruit bushes, dandelions, cloves and other. With their long tube-like tongue called proboscis extension reflex (PER), they suck the nectar out of the blossoms and store it in one of their 2 stomachs. That’s right. Besides their regular stomach, their body structure also includes a second known as a “honey stomach” in which they can keep up to 70mg nectar. A single bee usually visits between 100 and 1500 flowers before filling its stomach with nectar.
When honeybees return to the hive, they pass on the nectar to other worker bees, more commonly known as “house bees”. They suck the nectar out of the other bees’ honey stomachs and “chew” it for around 30 minutes. During that time, house bees’ enzymes assimilate the nectar’s complex sugars into simple ones, so that they can be better digested by bees and less susceptible to bacteria.
Then the bees distribute the nectar in the honey combs, where its humidity evaporates, until it reaches a thick syrup consistency. The bees can speed this process up with their wings. Once the honey is gooey, the bees seal the honeycomb cell with wax. The honey remains there until it is eaten.
Here’s a good video that describes how real honey is made:
How To Tell If Honey Is Real?
Today, the food industry has developed vastly. Foods get produced and sold by countless brands in various ways, so the market is brimming with alternatives, especially when it comes to more common foods. In that regard, honey makes no exception. Although it’s kind of hard to assess the quality just by looking at packaged honey at the shelves, if you want to make sure your dollars are well spent, there are a few tips and tricks that may help you learn how to tell if honey is real.
Keep in mind that different types of honey differentiate to some extent in terms of color, aroma and even taste. For example, acacia, linden, pine, and all other honeys derived from different plants have different color variation, taste qualities and density, but their health benefits profile tends to vary too. Adulterated honey will never come close to mirroring the health-strengthening effects of real honey. In some cases, the questionable origin and ingredients of a fake product may prove detrimental to your well-being.
A quick inforgraphic about assessing the quality of honey:
Here are a few more tips that will help you know if honey is fake or good:
Select the right brand. It’s a simple advice, but yet effective concerning all types of food. Real honey brands maintain higher transparency regarding their product by giving detailed information on the packing and they have legitimate certification labels included too. It’s advisable to aim for raw, organic certified honey. That’s how you’ll know the bees that are responsible for the production of this product have been fed flower nectar obtained from real, unprocessed wild plants. Study a few brands, and buy something that answers your notion of a price-quality. If you want reliable honey brands suggestions, here are a few 100% authentic honey products that are worth trying:
If you pick a jar of low quality honey, when you turn the jar upside down, you’ll notice the air bubble go up very quickly and reach the bottom (for 1-2 seconds). This shows the honey doesn’t have proper density, it has thin density and could be adulterated. That’s one way to test honey purity.
As mentioned above, estimating the quality of honey through a sealed packing is somewhat challenging. But when it comes to comparing real honey vs fake honey, the price is a relative factor. You probably didn’t want to read this, but there’s some truth to saying that a higher price means better quality. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should rush and buy the most expensive honey there is and hope it’s the purest you can get, it just means that the lowest prices usually don’t bode satisfying content. Rather cheap honey may be diluted for larger quantities, made of bees fed with white sugar syrup, or mixed with glucose, dextrose, corn syrup, invert sugar, starch and other.
How to tell if honey is real? Separate truth from anecdotal rumors. Due to the fact that in the last decades, pure honey has been adulterated and substituted with regular sugar and glucose, many people falsely believe that a honey product is considered authentic when it’s not crystalized. This is not how you recognize real honey, because honey is usually liquefied only in summer (or if you decide to liquefy it on your stove for your own consumption convenience). The only real honey type that doesn’t get crystalized in the cold months is the one made of acacia, as it naturally contains more fructose. In case you’ve bought a honey product that doesn’t crystalize when subdued to lower temperatures, it’s very likely that you have a low quality imitation, so you can use the temperature as another fake honey test.
Because it’s a creation of insects belonging to the same bee-garden, and because it’s derived through tested, simple and sustainable technologies, high quality honey has a homogenous structure, equal color, and is usually absent of harder lumps. Real honey generally has a thick consistence. To test the thickness, dip a spoon in the jar and start twisting it. Start pulling the spoon out while twisting. If the texture forms tiny spirals around the utensil, then you’ve probably bought a high grade honey. If it trickles too fast, avoid buying the same product again.
Use a spoon for another honey quality test. Make a scoop from the honey and leave the spoon in a glass of cold water. If you notice any small particles dispersing in the water, then your product is probably of poorer quality. Real honey usually settles at the bottom of the glass.
Want another test method? Spread a layer of honey on a bread slice. If your honey is real, you may feel the bread slice get a bit harder when you take a bite. Fake honey makes bread softer.
How to know honey is pure? Besides the density, aroma and taste, high quality honey can be recognized by touch. It feels fine and is easily absorbed by the skin when you gently smear it. Fake honey doesn’t have these qualities, it has a more rough structure. If it doesn’t soak into the skin and forms tiny granules, you could be using a low quality product. On the other hand, absorption tests can be done with bloating paper or a piece of cloth. Pour a few drops on some bloating paper. Good honey won’t be absorbed by it, nor will it leave any stains on your clothing. Low grade products would do quite the opposite.
High grade honey has a pleasant taste that begins to disappear after a few minutes upon consumption. Cooling and heating may change the taste a bit. If the honey is mixed with additional sugar or something similar, its sweet taste would last longer.
The last method you could apply to tell if honey is real is through fire. That’s right, you may not have heard this, but 100% authentic organic honey tends to be somewhat flammable. Grab a dry matchstick and dip it into your honey. Strike the stick into the match box. If the honey is real, the matchstick will light up effortlessly, and the flame would keep burning off the honey. Adulterated honey may prevent the matchstick from igniting, because it contains impurities like moisture.
With these useful tips, you now know how to recognize real honey from fake one. This is an ancient anti-aging food with numerous health benefits and broad use in cooking, so it’s definitely worth it if you try to acquire pure organic honey made by bees collecting nectar from wild flowers and other plants. Nature has granted us an incredible gift, let’s not waste it!