Why is one type of honey darker than others?

We tend to think of honey as a very unique color. It’s so iconic that we use “honey” as a descriptive term for something blond or golden. However, there are many variations in the shades of honey. From dark brown to light translucent colors, honey is far more diverse than the caramel liquids we’re used to in the mainstream.

What is the difference between light honey and dark honey?

Color is one of the ways in which natural honey is classified. The color does not determine the quality, but as the description of the product sold.

Light-colored honeys are usually sweeter and have more subtle floral aromas. Dark honeys generally have stronger molasses and malt flavors.

Some typical light-colored honeys are willow grass, sage, and tart wood. Blueberry, avocado and buckwheat have more stable, opaque shades.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies honey as follows:

  • Dark amber
  • Amber
  • Light amber
  • Extra light amber
  • White
  • Super White
  • Water white

These hues reflect a measure of the strength of a honey variety on a scale called the pound scale, which the honey industry uses to determine color.

The scale has an amber glass wedge for comparing honey samples. The distance the sample must be removed from the amber base is in millimeters. Assign a millimeter range to each category. For example, the average size of eucalyptus honey is 58mm, making it a light amber honey.

What does black honey mean?

The minerals contained in the viscous syrup come from the composition of the soil and other environmental factors that affect the source of nectar. Water, soil and air quality provide minerals for the nectar on which honey depends.

The minerals contained in honey can affect the final presentation of the product. The mineral content of pale honey is approximately 0.04%. Dark honey contains about 0.2%.

Mineral levels and antioxidant properties were positively correlated. This means that darker honeys – honeys with more minerals – contain more antioxidants than lighter honeys. Some honeys have antioxidant levels comparable to tomatoes and sweet corn. A jar of dark honey is by no means bad honey.

What affects the color of honey?

Honey hue is determined at every stage of the honey process, from source to storage. You may receive darker honey for the following reasons:

  • Floral source for your nectar,
  • Heat during processing and/or storage,
  • The floral source of your nectar,

The color of the pollen grains can have a big impact on the hue of the final product.

When the bees tend to the hive, they put pollen grains on their legs, which inevitably mix with the uncovered honey. Some pollen, such as that of lilies, has dark red granules with a distinct color that may change color. Honey extracted from lilies mirrors the grain.

Due to seasonal changes in flowering, bees from the same hive and foraging in the same area can produce honey of different colors. If one flower blooms at the beginning of the honey stream and another at the end of the season, the same bees will produce honey of different colors and flavors.

Heat exposure during processing or storage

Heat plays an important role in darkening honey after harvest.

The amino acids and main sugars in honey – fructose and glucose – caramelize when heated. This activity is called the Maillard reaction. It is also present in other foods. For example, this reaction can cause the meat to brown.

During the processing and storage of honey, the liquid is exposed to heat. Processing methods exist to stabilize honey and maintain quality, color, taste and composition for consumers. If not applied properly, they can reduce the color.

To prevent honey from crystallizing or fermenting, manufacturers pasteurize the liquid at high temperatures. During pasteurization, honey may be exposed to high temperatures that trigger the Maillard reaction.

In terms of heat, storage is also an issue. Storage means that honey is exposed to low temperatures for a long time.

If honey is stored in a high temperature place, it will have a caramelization effect.

Generally, these effects are correlated. Color change will be quick when pasteurized, but slower when stored.

What is black honey good for?

From how you process your honey, how you store it, and the flowers your bees feed on, many nectar-making factors can affect its color.

Dark honey generally has higher mineral content and higher levels of antioxidants. However, if your honey turns darker after it comes out of the hive, temperature could be the culprit. The color of the honey does not determine the quality, although it can indicate the expected flower or flavor.

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