September is National Honey Month, which was originally set up to celebrate the beekeeping industry in the US but unfortunately, according to research commissioned by Food Safety Network, up to 76% of honey found in US grocery stores is either fake or has been processed to the point that majority of food laws around the world would prevent them from being labelled as honey.
“Honey-laundering” as it is commonly known within the industry describes a duplicitous phenomenon of making chemical modifications, making it hard to trace where the honey came from or diluting real honey with syrup derived from plants, like high-fructose corn syrup or beet syrup.
Most importantly, fake or highly processed honey has no pollen in it. Removing the pollen hides any traces of where the honey was produced.
Pollen acts as a “fingerprint” - it allows scientists to trace where the bees came from, proving the country of origin.
What’s the point of making fake honey?
To put it simply, the reason for making fake honey is because it is cheaper, easier and quicker to produce for a large marketplace with an insatiable sweet tooth compared to the time and labour required to produce real honey.
A bee produces 1 tablespoon of honey in its lifetime - it’s estimated that a beekeeper will need at least 500 hives in order to be considered profitable.
Beekeepers in the United Kingdom have been hit particularly hard. The UK received 47% of Europe's honey imports from China in 2018, but a Honey Authenticity Project lab analysis of 11 supermarket brands found that none complied with EU labelling standards.
This is a growing problem and one that doesn’t seem to be easy to readily fix as it is very hard to discern the real from the fake. What you can do to ensure your honey is real, is to buy it from a trusted seller with transparent processes.
Quick tests to tell if your honey is real or fake:
Real honey is not sticky if it is rubbed between your fingers, however, fake honey is sticky due to the sweeteners added
Real honey is quite thick in texture, whereas fake honey is very runny
Real honey has a mild and often floral scent. This smell can change with heating and cooling, however fake honey often has no smell at all,
When heated, real honey will quickly become thicker, not creating any foam. Fake honey, however, will produce bubbles and will never caramelise.
The bread test
Spread honey on a slice of bread. Real honey will harden within around 60 seconds. Fake honey will never harden, making the bread moist instead due to added moisture.
Dip a matchstick in the honey. If the honey is real, it will easily light after being immersed, however fake honey will stop the match lighting because of the moisture levels.
What honey should I be buying?
Manuka honey is revered around the world for its high levels of antibacterial activity due to its floral origin, in New Zealand. It is made by bees that pollinate the flowers of the manuka bush. These flowers bloom just once a year, lasting for two to six weeks.
The lesser known Yemini Sidr honey rivals the Manuka in terms of its antibacterial and nutritional properties hails from the Middle East and is nicknamed “the Manuka honey of the Middle East”. Honey connoisseurs maintain that the Yemeni product deserves a global market, however, decades of political instability have meant turbulent growth and limited outside reach.
What makes Yemini Sidr honey so unique?
Sidr honey comes from the Sidr tree, which has other common names like Christ’s Thorn, Jujube, or Lote tree.
The Sidr tree is an ancient tree, mentioned four times in the Qur’an. In Sura Saba, it is mentioned as an earth tree while in other Sura it is mentioned as a paradise tree (Sidrat al-Muntaha). According to some traditions, Jesus’ crown of thorns was made from the branches of this tree.
The tree is found growing in the deserts of Yemen, Ethiopia, Libya, Sudan, India, and Pakistan. It's first mentioned in ancient Arabic texts for its healing powers.
Unlike many others, Sidr honey is harvested only in the winter season using traditional methods and manual labour. No pesticides, chemicals or fertilisers are used to grow these trees and the honey extraction process is carried out using simple tools, a little smoke and some sharp knives. The honey is then poured, unheated and raw, into containers, which preserve its nutritional value and sent to the local markets.
Depending on the process of harvesting, the cost of this honey can vary, as it is sometimes harvested by machines in countries such as Iraq, Oman, Kazakhstan and Morocco, making it cheaper, however, Yemeni Sidr honey is the purest and highest grade available due to the quality of its Sidr trees, manual labour and the environment. It has also been found to have a PH that is the same as the PH of the human body, which helps it to be absorbed and processed by the body very quickly. Difficulty in transporting this monofloral honey also adds to the cost and is one of the reasons why it’s scarce.
“Yemen Sidr honey is very rare as it’s not easy to come by hence why it’s luxurious,” Says Adon, founder of Zakai Honey, exclusively available on jjungl. “It’s also proven to kill the bacteria that causes chronic sinusitis, where the mucous membranes in the cavities around the sinuses become inflamed and swollen, which is why we have created a lollipop version of our supreme Sidr honey, the first ever to do so in the UK.”
With the availability of more and more luxury honey brands to choose from, and with the promise of the new, exciting variation available in the UK from the Middle East, there really is no excuse to continue to buy flavourless, tasteless, generic, cheaper brands that add zero benefits other than give you a toothache.
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