Herbal tea and honey go hand in hand. Not only are they said to possess similar antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties, but honey also adds a depth of flavour that can bring any tea to life.
But to get the right flavour, you need to use the right honey. A light camomile goes great with an equally light honey, but add black forest honey or Manuka and that’s all you’ll be able to taste.
We’re not going to tell you that a good honey is like a fine wine and that it needs to be paired with the right food. That’s a cliche we’d rather not touch. But if you like honey then you can have a lot of fun experimenting with the different varieties, discovering what works best for your palette, your budget, and your favourite cuppa.
Flavours and Types of Honey
There are more than 300 varieties of honey on the market, but in this list we’ve included a mixture of the popular, the unusual, and the delicious to give you an idea of what you can buy and what additional flavours and benefits these varieties can provide.
A personal favourite of ours, thyme honey is produced from many varieties of wild thyme, which is a member of the mint family.
The honey is predominantly produced in Greece and is considered to be one of the best in the world, prized for its rich, full flavour and its apparent medicinal benefits. It has a high concentration of antioxidants like quercetin and rosmarinic acid, but most importantly it tastes great drizzled on pancakes or spooned into Greek mountain tea.
Thyme honey is produced very slowly and in small batches. A single bee colony feeding on thyme will produce four to five times less honey than one feeding on pine (a.k.a. forest honey).
Another herb-based honey, sage is much lighter in colour than thyme honey and contains fewer antioxidants as a result. It does still have much of what makes honey healthy, though, and has a delicate flavour that works well with most types of tea.
A lot of the sage honey found in Europe comes from Greece, as the sage plant is native to the Mediterranean and this is where it’s at its most abundant. But it is also produced on a larger scale in California (and a smaller scale in Oregon and other states) so our readers across the pond shouldn’t have an issue finding it.
Orange Blossom Honey
Orange blossom has a very subtle citrus flavour and it’s one of the cheaper “premium” honeys out there. It’s produced during the spring when orange trees bloom and is exported by all major orange-growing regions, from Florida to Spain.
It has a light colour, a deliciously sweet citrus taste, and it works great with pretty much anything.
Manuka is by far the most expensive honey we have come across, with small pots of the highest quality Manuka selling for upwards of £50.
Its taste leaves something to be desired as it has a strong antiseptic flavour, but it’s one of the healthiest honeys around, with studies showing that it can be used to combat the growth of gastric ulcers. A spoonful a day may help to improve your health and well-being, but we wouldn’t recommend adding it to tea or pancakes.
Manuka honey comes from the Manuka plant, which is indigenous to New Zealand. This means that every pot began life thousands of miles away.
This is a light-coloured honey that is gathered from heather flowers. It can have somewhat of a musty taste and is typically not as sweet or complex as other varieties, but a good quality heather honey is definitely something worth paying for, and legend has it that it can help clear the airways when you have a cold.
The world has gone avocado mad, so it only makes sense that avocado honey is making an appearance. Said to produce a buttery, creamy flavour, it’s actually still quite rare, especially here in the United Kingdom.
The biggest producers of avocados and avocado honey are in the Americas, but there are some producers in Spain, as well, and these sell small batches of this rare honey.
Wild Flower Honey
Wild flower honey is a catch-all term used to describe honey gathered from wild flowers. But don’t assume that the lack of a single source makes this an inferior honey, as some of the best local honeys you can buy have this label.
The taste, colour, and antioxidant quality differs greatly from provider to provider as it all depends on the region and its local fauna. But discovery is just another part of the experience and another reason we recommend trying this honey out for yourself.
This is a brightly coloured honey that matches its source in both colour and fragrance. It’s very mild and is also said to crystallise quickly, but it’s a great basic honey to add to drinks and desserts.
Also known as pine honey, black forest honey, or just “Honeydew”, this is produced from pine trees and, more specifically, the honeydew that they secrete. It is a very dark and rich honey which, like Greek thyme honey, is loaded with antioxidants and minerals.
Most of the world’s forest honey is produced in Turkey, but there are producers in many other countries.
Said to have a unique and somewhat bitter taste, chestnut honey is produced and consumed throughout Italy, but it doesn’t seem to be very popular elsewhere. It is made from nectar gathered from the flowers of the chestnut tree.
A popular type of honey that is produced and consumed from the United States to the Balkans, this is made from either white or yellow acacia and differs in colour from transparent to yellow. It is a very sweet honey but it can also be very expensive, as there is a huge demand and acacias are in bloom for a short period of time.
We’ve all heard about the supposed health benefits of eucalyptus and how this plant can help to ease respiratory issues, many of which are actually backed up by scientific research.
That bodes well for eucalyptus honey, which is the name given to any honey produced from any of the 500-plus varieties of eucalyptus. The colour is dark and it also possesses a rich flavour, but there is a medicinal, antiseptic quality to it as well.
The medical flavour is not as overwhelming strong as Manuka, but it’s certainly something you might want to consider taking direct by the spoonful as opposed to adding it to foods.
Some specific types of Eucalyptus honey include:
- Jarrah Honey: Only produced in Australia, this honey is said to be almost as potent of an antiseptic as Manuka.
- Blue Gum/Red Gum Honey: Antioxidant-rich varieties of Eucalyptus honey.
- Leatherwood Honey: Also produced in Australia, this one is native to Tasmania.
This one is not actually a honey, but a sticky-sweet alternative created with vegans in mind. There are many different recipes, but they all involve boiling dandelions, lemon juice, and sugar down to create a thick, yellow substance that looks a lot like honey and has a somewhat similar taste. And you’re also getting many benefits from those dandelions.
A highly sought-after honey in the US, tupelo has been held in high esteem and seems to be one of the more popular high-end honeys in the US right now. It is said to have a very distinctive taste and its high fructose content makes it one of the sweetest honeys.
There is a town in Mississippi called Tupelo. But rather than the honey being named after the town, the town is named after a plant and the plant lends its name to the honey.
Blossom Honey or Blended Honey
The cheap, basic honey that you will find in your local store is often produced from a blend of different honeys and can be sourced from a number of different plants. These honeys may simply be labelled as “honey” or as “blended” honey, but they may also use the name “blossom honey”, which basically means the same thing, but sounds less generic.
This is a completely different thing compared to “orange blossom” honey, and these basic honeys should not cost you more than a couple pounds for a small jar.