A Celebration of Honey
It's National Honey Bee Day this week, an awareness day and celebration of bees. To celebrate we are looking at the different types of honey and what honey you can find at our hotels.
Local honey can be purer and more natural than honey from those transported from across the sea - from how they can be kept unblended and untreated. The UK has a wide variety of beehive locations, especially in rural areas with their biodiversity and wildflower densities.
Raw honey is simply honey that hasn’t been pasteurised, heated significantly above 35°C, or processed. It’s just pure honey the way nature intended it to be. Pasteurisation helps improve its shelf life but also kills the beneficial yeast and enzymes found in raw honey. The temperature of a beehive is about 35°C, and many ‘raw’ kinds of honey are heated slightly to about 38°C, but this isn’t enough to kill the beneficial enzymes in the honey.
Not all honey is the same; like wine, there are a huge number of variables and factors that have an impact on the final flavour, colour and texture. Everything from which plants and flowers the bees have been harvesting to how the beekeeper processes the honey will change things. The soil also plays an important role – lavender honey from Croatia will taste different to lavender honey from the south of France, for example.
Soft Set Honey - This beige, creamy, thick honey isn’t made from a specific type of plant – it is simply processed differently. Liquid honey is blended with a small amount of crystallised honey with a very fine grain, resulting in a velvety texture and pale opaque colour. This doesn’t impact the flavour, but it creates a product that is perfect for spreading.
Wildflower Honey - If bees have access to a large variety of different flowers around their hive, then the resulting honey is often called wildflower (or ‘polyfloral’), as the beekeeper cannot be sure which plants the colony is harvesting. This doesn’t mean the honey is inferior in any way; it simply means that it’s derived from a combination of different nectars, each with its flavour profiles and characteristics. The flavour can vary from batch to batch, but overall they are usually boldly floral, pleasantly sweet and ideal for a huge variety of uses.
Blossom Honey - Blossom honey simply refers to honey that is made from the nectar of plants, and is what the vast majority of honey you’ll see on shop shelves are classed as. Also sometimes known as nectar honey, it covers almost all single-variety honey produced by beekeepers.
Heather Honey - Heather honey comes from – you guessed it – purple heather. It is regarded as one of the most distinct varieties in the UK, with the majority of it coming from Scotland where moorlands are often covered in striking heather plants. Dark amber in colour with a semi-set texture, it has notes of smoke, toffee and stone fruits, which makes it one of the most popular speciality honey around.
Acacia Honey - Acacia honey is very light and delicate and will stay in a liquid state for years before crystallising, which makes it fantastic for drizzling or stirring into drinks. The colour can range from pale yellow to almost clear (depending on the type of acacia the bees have been feeding on) and it has a prominent floral flavour that goes particularly well with cheese.
Herb Honey - If beehives are placed near vast swathes of a particular herb – most commonly rosemary, thyme or lavender – their honey will become naturally infused with its flavour. A lot of this honey comes from the Mediterranean, and while it’s delicious simply spread on toast or drizzled over desserts it’s also well-suited when cooking meats such as lamb or chicken. You’ll also find honey that has been infused with various herbs after being harvested – these will have a much more prominent herb flavour and can easily be made at home by simply submerging rosemary, thyme or lavender into a jar of honey and leaving it for a few weeks.
Manuka Honey - Manuka honey is the crème de la crème of all honeys – and has the price tag to match. A truly specialist product, all manuka honey originally came from New Zealand, where the indigenous manuka bush grows, although some are now produced in Australia as well. The nectar from this bush has antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it highly sought after, and there are different categories of manuka honey depending on how antibacterial it is. It is dark, thick and herbaceous, tasting unlike any other honey out there. Many people simply eat it by teaspoon to soothe a sore throat, but its unique flavour also makes it a fantastic addition to toast.
Kent creamed honey is a spring cherry and apple blossom honey typical of the Kent region.
Dorset summer honey is made with summer blossoms from sweet chestnuts, lime trees and wildflowers.
Scottish ling heather honey is aromatic and rich in colour.
At Chicheley Hall Hotel they have their own bee hives, and when there is surplus honey the hotel uses it in its cooking. The bees also help support the hotel's ecosystem, helping to pollinate the hotel's fruit trees and bushes.
Many of our hotels including Broome Park Hotel and East Sussex National Resort serve real honeycomb on their breakfast buffet for guests to enjoy. The honey is provided through a local company that works directly with beekeepers to hand select the best honey.