Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Like our busy little ladies of Hive#3, I am a longtime foodie and would therefore like to share the following tasting tips from Lurie Garden in Chicago's Millennium Park. In her Laura Ekasetya’s article “Why honeys taste different and how you can learn to appreciate them,” she provides tips on how to refine one’s own palate to taste and identify the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in raw honey. Follow these tactics to develop a better appreciation for the taste nuances of 100% raw Hawaiian honey varietals, which as noted in my previous blog post, can vary between harvests and hives. These taste differences are especially important to single-estate honey producers, such as Pualani Bee Farm, as we are focused on working harmoniously with our colonies of bees and their natural foraging tendencies to produce the highest-quality, artisanal honeys.
[Pualani Flight of Bees I: A Dip in the Honey Jar gift set includes three 100% raw Hawaiian honey varietals, ʻOhiʻa Lehua Honey, Christmas Berry, and Tropical Wildflower. Now available in 2 oz. and 9 oz jars, this flight of honey varietals is the perfect tool for individual or group honey tastings. Photograph: Pualani Bee Farm]
Like the appreciation and tasting of fine wines, 100% raw Hawaiian honey varietals reflect the uniqueness of Hawaii's seasons, the location of the hives within specific micro-climates and geographic settings, and, of course, the characteristic traits of the bee colonies in each hive. By conducting the following simple tactics, the “terroir” of the bee yard (and the individual colonies making the honey) can be discerned while tasting a small selection of different varietals in a single seating.
1. Observe the color of the honey in the light. What color is the honey? Challenge yourself to try to use descriptions that the color reminds you of, such as “dark chocolate” or “polished walnut”.
2. Smell the honey. Does it smell bright and citrusy or maybe dusty and sweet like a dried flower arrangement? Does the smell remind you of anything? [An interesting note here: one of Pualani Bee Farm’s honey enthusiasts noted a slight smoky quality to the 2019 multi-estate honey varietals, suggesting this might be indicative of residual volcanic impacts on local plant life due to the 2018 eruption. The 2020 harvests, on the other hand, no longer have this trait. We might therefore suggest that the lack of a smoky quality reflects the clearing of volcanic elements from our lower atmosphere and the now unhindered freshness of our air in the lower eastern rift zone!]
3. Note the texture of the honey. What texture and consistency does the honey have? Is it thick and smooth or maybe clear and runny? Tropical honeys tend to be thin and runny due to the high humidity of those regions. Desert wildflower honey tends to be thick, so thick they are actually difficult to extract. Has the honey crystallized? Nearly all real honey will eventually. The tiny pollen granules in the honey and sometimes other particles such as dust and resin allow the crystals to form in the super-saturated solution of sugars. Some varieties such as black locust honey never crystallize while others such as linden honey crystallize within a few months. [Another interesting Pualani factoid: Ohia Lehua honey crystallizes almost immediately due to the high levels of glucose and low levels of fructose content.]
4. Taste the honey. Actually tasting the honey is obviously the best part of becoming a honey connoisseur. The best way to taste honey is to gather some toothpicks or small tasting spoons. Take about half a teaspoon of honey and taste it. Is it immediately bright and astringent on the pallet? Or is it warm and super-sweet? Let the honey melt on your tongue. Try to breathe through your nose; it will heighten the tasting experience. Now you can pick-up on the more subtle tasting notes. Hazelnut? Caramel? Burnt caramel? Lemon? Lemon rind?
Ekasetya advises to taste a few honeys in a row but not too many, which can get confusing. Take breaks to cleanse the palette by eating some crackers, apple slices, or plain almonds, and by drinking water before starting again. Once more familiar with each tasting, begin experimenting by pairing specific honey varietals with various foods, whether drizzling it on various cheeses or nuts or matching honeys in your cooking to compliment spices being used.”
[Pualani Flight of Bees I: A Dip in the Honey Jar gifts set with Hawaiiana packaging offers the diverse tastes of classic 100% raw Hawaiian honey varietals, inviting family and friends to gather for self-indulging honey tastings.]