New Zealand Honey: A Taste of Nature’s Sweetness
New Zealand honey has gained global recognition and appreciation for its taste, exceptional quality, and remarkable health benefits.
It is one of the greatest reflections of New Zealand’s pristine environment, diverse flora, and rich cultural history.
The unparalleled combination of natural resources, sustainable beekeeping practices, and rigorous quality control measures contribute to the creation of a unique culinary treasure, which belongs as much in the medicine cabinet as on a good slice of toast.
In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of New Zealand, honey, uncovering what makes it special, why Manuka honey is so sought after, and the reasons behind its premium price tag. Join us on a journey through the rolling hills, lush forests, and vibrant apiaries of New Zealand as we delve into the sweet nectar that has captivated the taste buds and hearts of honey enthusiasts worldwide.
And, of course, you can buy a premium selection of delicious Manuka Honeys!
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What is special about New Zealand honey?
New Zealand honey stands out for its exceptional taste, quality, and unique characteristics, owing to several factors that contribute to its distinctiveness:
- The pristine environment and diverse flora: New Zealand’s isolated location in the South Pacific has resulted in a largely unspoiled natural environment. This pristine setting, combined with the country’s diverse and unique flora, provides bees with a rich and uncontaminated source of nectar. The variety of flowering plants, many of which are native to New Zealand, imparts distinct flavours and properties to the honey.
- Unique honey varieties native to New Zealand: The country is home to some exclusive honey varieties, such as Manuka, Rata, and Kamahi, each with its own flavour profile and health benefits. These honeys are derived from the nectar of native New Zealand plants, making them truly unique and highly sought after.
- High-quality production standards and regulations: New Zealand has strict regulations and guidelines governing honey production, labelling, and export. Beekeepers follow sustainable and ethical beekeeping practices, and honey is produced, extracted, and packed under stringent quality control measures. This ensures that New Zealand honey maintains its high quality and safety standards.
- Cultural significance and history of honey production: The indigenous Māori people of New Zealand have long valued honey for its culinary, medicinal, and cultural uses. The Māori’s traditional knowledge and practices have been integrated into modern beekeeping, enhancing the quality and uniqueness of New Zealand honey.
Why Manuka honey is so special?
Manuka honey is particularly special and highly prized for several reasons, which set it apart from other types of honey:
- Unique origin: Manuka honey is derived from the nectar of the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), native to New Zealand and some parts of Australia. The Manuka tree has a short flowering period, making the honey produced from its nectar relatively rare and exclusive.
- Exceptional health benefits: Manuka honey is renowned for its powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. The honey contains a naturally occurring compound called methylglyoxal (MGO), which is responsible for its strong antimicrobial effects. These properties can aid in wound healing, digestive health, oral hygiene, and overall immune system support.
- Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) and Methylglyoxal (MGO) ratings: Manuka honey is assessed for its potency and purity using the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) and Methylglyoxal (MGO) rating systems. These ratings indicate the concentration of MGO and other bioactive compounds in the honey, providing consumers with an assurance of quality and authenticity. The higher the rating, the more potent and valuable the Manuka honey is.
- Versatility in traditional and modern medicine: The health benefits of Manuka honey have been recognized by the indigenous Māori people for centuries, and it has been used in various traditional remedies. In recent years, scientific research has validated many of its medicinal properties, leading to Manuka honey being utilized in a wide range of applications, from wound dressings to skincare products.
Does New Zealand have the best honey?
New Zealand indeed has some of the best honey in the world, thanks to the country’s unique combination of factors that contribute to the exceptional quality of its honey:
- Cleanest air: As per the World Health Organization report, New Zealand has some of the cleanest and safest air on the planet. The pristine environment with low pollution levels positively impacts the health of bees and the purity of the nectar they collect, resulting in the honey of exceptional quality.
- Respect for the land and environment: The Māori people have a long history of respecting and valuing the environment. The concept of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship of the land, is ingrained in the culture and traditions of New Zealand. This respect for nature and the environment is reflected in sustainable and ethical beekeeping practices, which contribute to the production of high-quality honey.
- Unique honey varieties and flavours: New Zealand is home to exclusive honey varieties, such as Manuka, Rata, and Kamahi, derived from native plants. These honeys offer distinctive flavours and health benefits that are highly sought after by consumers worldwide.
- Awards and recognition: New Zealand honey has consistently won numerous awards and accolades at international competitions, showcasing its exceptional quality and taste. The recognition from experts and industry professionals further solidifies New Zealand’s position as a producer of some of the finest honey in the world.
Why is New Zealand honey so expensive?
New Zealand honey, particularly Manuka honey, tends to be more expensive than many other types of honey due to several factors:
- Rarity and exclusivity: Some honey varieties, such as Manuka, are derived from the nectar of native New Zealand plants, which have limited flowering periods. This makes the honey produced from these plants relatively rare and exclusive, which increases its value.
- Strict quality control and production standards: New Zealand enforces rigorous regulations and guidelines for honey production, labelling, and export. Beekeepers follow sustainable and ethical beekeeping practices, and honey is produced, extracted, and packed under stringent quality control measures. These high standards ensure the honey’s quality, safety, and consistency, but can also lead to increased production costs.
- Costs associated with maintaining a clean and sustainable environment: New Zealand’s pristine environment and clean air contribute to the high quality of its honey. However, maintaining this level of environmental purity requires ongoing efforts and investments in conservation, pollution control, and sustainable practices, which can drive up the costs of honey production.
- High demand and reputation for excellence: New Zealand honey’s unique qualities, health benefits, and exceptional taste have created a high demand for the product in the global market. Coupled with the limited supply of certain varieties, like Manuka honey, this demand contributes to higher prices.
- Shipping and export costs: Since New Zealand is geographically isolated, the costs of shipping honey to international markets can be significant. These additional costs are often factored into the final price of the honey.
What is the best honey in New Zealand?
While Manuka honey is the most famous and researched type, other New Zealand honey types include Beechforest Honeydew honey, Kamahi honey, Rata honey, Rewarewa honey, and Nectar (or blossom) honey, have also been studied for their health benefits and unique flavours. Which of these you find the best is going to depend on your tastebuds and of course, the source you find based on seasonality and beekeeping skill.
- Beechforest Honeydew honey is a probiotic and has higher antioxidant levels than nectar honey.
- Kamahi honey is creamy and has a sweet caramel or toffee flavour,
- Rata honey has a maltier taste and is known for its antibacterial properties.
- Rewarewa honey is known for its rich flavour and has unique potential health benefits.
Finally, Nectar (or blossom) honey and Honeydew honey can be combined, and they have similar potential health benefits, but Honeydew honey is usually darker and less sweet. When purchasing New Zealand honey, it is important to ensure you are getting the real thing, and for Manuka honey, look for jars with the UMF™ grading.
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New Zealand Honey FAQs
What makes New Zealand honey unique?
New Zealand honey is known for its high quality and unique flavour profile. Manuka honey, in particular, is famous for its antibacterial properties and is sought after all over the world.
What are the health benefits of New Zealand honey?
New Zealand honey has many health benefits, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It is used for wound healing, digestive issues, and as a natural sweetener.
How should I store New Zealand honey?
New Zealand honey should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. It can be stored at room temperature, but refrigeration can help extend its shelf life.
What is the importance of honey in Maori culture?
Honey has been an important part of Maori culture for centuries. It is used for both medicinal and ceremonial purposes and has a special significance in Maori mythology. The Maori word for honey is “mānuka”, which refers to the honey produced by the mānuka tree.
Cara Hayes is an experienced natural health practitioner with a Masters in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of Sydney. She has been writing for New Zealand Honey since 2020 and loves manuka in her morning tea.