If you like to eat honey with breakfast, dessert, or tea, you can probably picture its bright color. You may think that all honey is the same but there are actually over 300 types of honey available in the United States with a wide range of colors. To learn more about what makes up the color, we talked to Annabella (age 14), Joseph (age 13), Luca (age 11), and Nico (age 9) Zgurzynski, who help with their family’s honey business, Country Barn Farm, in Glenshaw, PA.
It’s all about the flowers.
The biggest influence on honey color is the type of flower the bee visits to collect nectar. Each plant’s nectar has different minerals and molecules that change the color of the honey it produces. For the Zygurzynski bees, flower trees including black locust, tulip poplar, and basswood make summer honey with a light golden color. In the fall, dark brown honey comes from knotweed and goldenrod nectar. Big companies often blend different batches of honey together to get the amber color that people are used to. At Country Barn Farm, the beekeepers are proud of the subtle color variations from each hive, and label their bottles to show it.
Your taste buds will notice, too.
With the difference in color also comes a difference in taste. Lighter honeys are most common in grocery stores, but if you only eat from the light end of the spectrum, you’re missing out. Darker honeys have a strong flavor, like molasses. Nico, Joseph, and Annabella prefer the floral taste of clover honey. Luca says fall honey is the best.
Where is your honey from?
If you have honey at home, check the label to see where it was made. If the beekeepers can prove that 85% of the nectar came from a single flower source, that flower might be on the label too. Can you find more than one kind of honey to sample? Close your eyes and see if you can taste the difference!
Did you know?
In 2012, a group of bees in France started producing honey in strange colors like blue and green. It turned out that instead of nectar, they were eating the waste from a Mars candy factory, the producer of M&M candies!