Honey Tasting: Meadowfoam from “Heavenly Honey”

A recent expedition with friends brought me to the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, an inviting place with the air of an old-time general store, which was full of locals getting their weekend espresso. Besides the tasty coffee, an adjacent shop sells a small number of excellent raw honeys. This is is where I obtained today’s subject: Oregon Meadowfoam Honey from “Heavenly Honey”.

I called distributor of this honey, Hummingbird Wholesale, and found that they contract with local beekeepers (whom they keep secret) located in Oregon and in the Columbia Gorge between Oregon and Washington. So actually both “Heavenly Honey” and “Honey Heaven” are Hummingbird brands. Besides the Meadowfoam, I have their spectacular Columbia Gorge Wildflower and a distinctive Snowberry. They also offer Star Thistle, Coriander, “Spring Nectar” (an early season wildflower), and Pennyroyal.

Tasting

This one is easy: vanilla and marshmallow, not in a subtle way, and the flavor lasts on your tongue. When you put this in your mouth you will wonder if it’s really honey. You could practically substitute it for a marshmallow on a S’more. My initial reaction to this honey was “wow, that’s amazing!”, but to be honest I find this honey’s sweet marshmallowiness rather cloying; after a few tastes I’ve had enough. You may feel differently and hurt yourself by guzzling the whole jar. For me this honey would make more sense paired with food or mixed in drinks where it will really stand out.

Where To Buy

Honey Tasting: Sidhu Farms “Wild Honey”

I came across this very unusual-tasting honey at the Ballard Farmer’s Market today. Sidhu Farms is located in Puyallup, Washington. Some of the berries they grow go into the tasty-looking jams laid out at their stand (blueberry, raspberry and strawberry). I immediately forgot about these when I saw the jars of dark honey sitting next to them.

The Sidhus keep around five hives in order to pollinate their own crops, and the honey is an added bonus. The honey I purchased was from hives that sat on a blueberry field backed by forest land. So apparently this is mostly blueberry honey with whatever else was blooming in the area (this fall). It’s color is dark amber, and it’s fairly thick.

Tasting

I struggle to describe this strong honey. It has huge berry character as soon as it hits my tongue, but it’s more like cooked berries or currant, and then the complex flavors keep going in a medicinal way like a cough drop that coats the tongue. It reminds me of my Mint honey from Italy, and comparing them side-by-side shows a lot of overlap. I prefer the Sidhu Farms honey, however – it’s strange in a fun way, while the flavors in the Italian Mint honey just seem wrong together (my daughter made a face like I had poisoned her when I had her try the Mint honey).

I imagine this honey will really stand out when paired with food or drink, instead of fading into the mix like a milder honey does. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on the pairing. If I hit on something nice I’ll edit this post. I figure this is a love-it-or-hate-it type of honey. If you get your own, let me know what you think.

 

Update: I tried putting this in my morning cup of strong Irish Breakfast tea (along with cream). I could smell the blueberries right away, and it tasted sort of like hot blueberry tea pie. Win!

Honey Tasting: Arboretum Wildflower Honey

My friend Tabitha has been telling me about this honey, which comes out once a year and disappears. This time she snagged me a jar! It’s collected right in Seattle, in the large green area known as the Arboretum, home to a wide variety of both non-native and native trees and plants.

This honey was harvested this year by the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association, probably at the end of the summer. I would love to know what was blooming at the time, but the label doesn’t specify what or when. It’s probably hard to say what, since there are so many kinds of plants and trees there. If I find out more I’ll edit this post.

Tasting

This is a very pretty tasting honey; it’s brightly sweet with only a touch of fruitiness like green melon, and it becomes floral in the back of your nose.

I rousted through my honey cupboard trying to find something that tasted the same, but nothing did. It’s bright and cheerful like Florida Orange Blossom, but not citrusy, and more floral. It’s sweetness is forward like that of Florida Tupelo, but it doesn’t have that fruity taste that Tupelo does. It’s gently floral, not assertively perfumy like Chilean Ulmo Tree honey. In any case, it’s a keeper!

Where To Find

If you would like to purchase this honey, you must go in person to the gift shop at the Graham Visitors Center, managed by the Arboretum Foundation. Find out more about the Arboretum.

Honey Flavors: Molasses

The honey aroma wheel I talked about in an earlier post has a “burned” category that ends in “Molasses / Burned Sugar”. This seems like an odd type of flavor to expect in honey, but in fact I have a few honeys that make me think of this.

  • Glory Bee Pure Honey from Belize: my friend Tizzy brought this back with her from her week in Belize. When we first tasted it we were taken aback by its distinct molasses flavor, and were suspicious that this was some sort of adulterated product. But as it has sat on my shelf it has begun to crystallize, so I’m thinking that it’s real raw honey after all. The flavor comes on warm and forwardly molasses-like. I’m hoping to contact the beekeepers and ask what flowers are involved in this unusual honey. Edit: see below!
  • Avocado Blossom Honey from Spain: the molasses flavor in this one is pretty obvious but is mixed with a syrupy fruitiness, perhaps the “cooked fruit” flavor mentioned on the flavor wheel.
  • Honeydew Honey from Italy: This is the Italian version of Honeydew honey, not to be confused with Beech Forest Honeydew honey from New Zealand, which is quite different. They share only their deep color and viscous thickness. Where the New Zealand variety is like musty malted milk balls (in a good way), the Italian version reminds me of the Avocado honey in that it combines a molasses background with a similar syrupy fruitiness, but it also has a distinct additional taste that I can recognize but not really describe, except to stab at “green” or “planty”.

The honeys in my collection that look the most like molasses don’t actually have a trace of molasses flavor: Knotweed and Buckwheat. These honeys can run almost to black. My jar of Knotweed from Pixie Honey (Olympia, WA) looks and acts exactly like molasses, in fact, but tastes nothing like it. I wish I could describe what it tastes like, other than to say it tastes sort of like Buckwheat honey. I’ll leave those honeys for another day!

Honey Details

  • Glory Bee Pure Honey, bottled by P. Ayuso & Family, Orange Walk Town, Belize.
  • Etruria brand Honeydew Honey, Italy, purchased at Chef Shop, Elliott Ave., Seattle.
  • Al-Andalus Delicatessen brand Avocado Blossom Honey, Spain, purchased at The Spanish Table, Western Ave., Seattle.

Update

I called the phone number on the bottle of Belizian honey and talked to the beekeepers, Fernando and Emeliana Ayuso. As it turns out, this is honey from flowers in a sub-tropical rainforest! Fernando says that his motto is “From the bees to me to you”, and that the honey undergoes no processing. He extracts it, lets it settle overnight and bottles it. They say that there are are eight to ten colors of honey in Belize, depending on the season. If you end up in Belize, you can call their number (605-4358) and get some of your own. Now I want even more to visit Belize than I did already.

Honey Flavor Wheel

I’ve been poking around the internet looking for a honey flavor wheel. There seems to be just one, but it’s from a good source: the International Honey Commission. Their “aroma wheel” is published as part of a 2004 article in the journal Apidologie, available as a free PDF (download it by clicking on the PDF on the right under the abstract):

Sensory analysis applied to honey: state of the art

This is an interesting if technical read, and goes into great detail about the application of modern tasting techniques to honey. A lot of work and experimentation went into the creation of their aroma wheel. The article stresses that sensory analysis by actual humans must accompany laboratory testing of honeys, since “small quantities of a highly aromatic honey (that are usually hardly detected in blends by common laboratory analysis) can considerably alter the organoleptic characteristics of a unifloral honey”.

Looking at the wheel, certain words stick out for me:

  • “Cat Urine” – I have smelled this in Buckwheat honey. But I like it anyway.
  • “Molasses” – a honey found for me by my friend Tizzy when she was in Belize tastes like this.
  • “Leafy Wood” – this brings to mind the wonderful Silver Sage honey I recently obtained from Cougar Canyon Apiaries.

I plan to use this wheel to become a better taster. Does anybody know a professional taster in Seattle who would like to taste honeys with me?

The International Honey Commission’s website consists of one informational page:

International Honey Commission

The journal Apidologie:

Apidologie