Bee different: Single-origin honey is wowing palates and docs
The term single-origin is typically used for teas, coffees, and chocolate. The idea is that their flavour is likely to be more pure, less adulterated, because their core ingredient comes from one, high-quality source.
It’s hard to imagine how one would organise a single-origin honey. Bees can’t be told where to shop for pollen. But, single-origin honeys are out there, and they’re getting increasingly popular.
Essentially, these are honeys produced by farms where bees are allowed access to just one type of flower. The honey they produce ends up being single-source or mono-floral rather than the regular poly-floral kind.
Options out there currently include honeys with the distinct flavour of tulsi, neem, acacia, eucalyptus, jamun, litchi, mustard or coriander.
When your source is the nectar of a single type of flower, other factors also come into play. Based on temperature and humidity, the honey can get floral or fruity notes, woody or smoky undertones, spicy or nutty hints. It can look as clear as water or as dark as molasses.
It is up to the apiarists or beekeepers to limit where and when the bees can feed, so mono-floral honey is more work, and more expensive than regular honey.
“Each type of mono-floral honey also takes on the nutritional characteristics of the nectar of its corresponding flower or plant, provided it is not heat-treated, pasteurised or fine-filtered,” says Sudarshan Rao, founder of HoneyRus, which offers a range of mono-floral honeys. “So, while making buying decisions, what matters most is whether the honey is really raw or not.”
At HoneyRus, the pale brown acacia honey is sourced from single-origin hives in Kashmir, and sold as a delicious hack for liver detoxification. “Jamun honey can also be used externally, to heal skin and treat scars,” says Rao.
Raw honey in general is a nutritious substitute for sugar and has excellent anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, says Seema Singh, head clinical nutritionist at Fortis Hospitals. “Eucalyptus honey has traditionally been used as an expectorant. Manuka honey is now widely being used in the West in beauty products, because it nourishes the skin,” she adds.
Consumers are typically young, health-conscious buyers who enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. “I really like the jamun, neem and tulsi honeys because they’re not as sweet as regular honey and have a different mouthfeel,” says Dhiraj Shetty, 24, an insurance sales executive who, for the past year, has been starting his day with a glass of warm water and jamun honey.
Deepak Subramani, 35, an entrepreneur from Mumbai, says the range of varieties lets him choose honey depending on its viscosity and flavour profile, something he had never thought possible. “I like how you can taste the floral notes in the Himalayan Flora honey I get from Under the Mango Tree,” he says. “I use honey with more fruity notes with bread and toast instead of jam, and I also use them in cakes.”
The variety of complex flavours can be an acquired taste, says Satyajit Hange of Two Brothers Organic Farm, which recently introduced three types of mono-floral honey to the market: coriander, acacia and mustard. “Variants also change depending on weather conditions and availability of flora.”
“To avoid mixing of nectar sources, you have to have enough of the predominant food source, so the bees don’t look elsewhere for food and have enough to forage on within a small radius,” says Rao. His HoneyRus, too, offers 20 variants of mono-floral honey, based on what is seasonally available. Among the seasonal varieties is an interesting nutty drumstick flower honey.