It’s easier to sweeten cold drinks with honey: Sugar often is difficult to dissolve. Photo courtesy National Honey Board.




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February 2005

Last Updated October 2012

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Honeys, Sugars & Syrups

Honey Types

Page 4: Popular Honey Varietals


This is Page 4 of a four-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.


Honey Varietals: Overview(Monofloral Honey)


Not all flowers have nectar that makes good honey; and bees other than honeybees make honey for food. but there are many hundreds of honey varietals. The flavor and color of honey are determined by the nectar source. The U.S. produced 171.7 million pounds of honey from 26 million bee colonies in 2003—from clear-as-water to dark brown, from very mild to very strong flavored, from delicately perfumed to pungent. (NOTE: New Zealand and Australian specialty honeys are included in this chart because they are now arriving in U.S. specialty food venues. Look for them.)

Crystallization depends on the proportion of fructose to glucose in the honey (each varietal has its own proportion); the higher the fructose, the less likely to crystallize.

As with wine, the flavor and color of honey can differ every year, even from the same location and beekeeper. While the same type of flower from a different region can produce a different region, even locally, as with grapes, a difference in the weather and “blossoming season” will make a difference in the honey.

Finally, it’s important to note that while some honeys taste exactly like their source—buckwheat honey tastes exactly like buckwheat—a honey does not necessarily taste like the fruit of the plant. Blueberry honey does not necessarily taste like blueberries, nor raspberry honey like raspberries, etc. Honeys are based on the nectar of the flower, not on the infusion of the fruit of the plant. Sometimes there’s a close correlation, sometimes not. Some fruit honeys are enhanced with extra flavor; read the labels carefully. Raw honey means that nothing has been added.  “Milky” is the classic honey flavor.

Different plants produce different flavors and colors of honey. Colors range from clear to black-brown. Photo courtesy National Honey Board.


Honey Varietals: Overview(Monofloral Honey)


There are hundreds of varietals in the U.S. alone. This list aims to feature those most frequently found at retail.

Honey Varietal Flavor Color
Acacia (Black locust tree) Mild, slightly tangy, floral, doesn’t crystallize Water white to pale amber
Alfalfa (generally blended) Nearly flavorless to milky, some has spicy notes White
Apple Blossom A hint of apple in the aroma Light to medium amber
Aster Flavor depends on region and species of aster; crystallizes quickly White to light amber
Avocado Fairly strong, buttery flavor Dark amber
Basswood Strong, zesty (becomes minty when mixed with a mild honey) Dark amber
Blackberry Delicate and sweet with a hint of fruit Very light amber
Black Button Sage Slightly herbaceous, slow to crystallize Medium amber
Black Locust Fruity, rare (the trees blossom only every few years) Pale to dark amber
Blueberry Fruity, blueberry aftertaste Medium amber
Buckwheat Strong buckwheat, malty flavor Dark brown
Blue Curl N/A N/A
Canola Delicate, low acid, crystallizes easily Light amber to white
Chestnut Strong, nutty, spicy, a bitter aftertaste (perfect with gorgonzola and parmesan) Dark brown
Clover Tangy and delicate; most labeled “clover” are actually blended; crystallizes easily Water white to amber
Cranberry Mild fruity flavor with tart aftertaste Medium amber
Eucalyptus —Yellow Box, Blue Gum, Red River Gum (U.S. & Australia) Mildly sweet, fruity aftertaste; some varieties have a slight menthol flavor Dark
Fireweed Mild, fruity, buttery Light to medium amber
Gallberry Tart wildflower flavor Dark amber
Goldenrod Robust flavor of wildflower and beeswax Light amber
Heather (Scotland) Slightly bitter with an aftertaste of burnt caramel Dark amber
Huckleberry Full-bodied Dark amber
Kamahi (New Zealand) Full-bodied, complex Light amber
Lavender Lavender floral Medium amber
Leatherwood (Tasmania) Strong and spicy Dark amber
Linden Spicy Pale amber
Lehua Buttery with lily-like overtones Crystallizes quickly and is made into a light golden cremed honey
Mint/Spearmint N/A N/A
Nodding Thistle (New Zealand) Delicate floral Light amber
Orange Blossom Hints of citrus-orange and orange blossom Light amber to dark amber
Pine Honey (Turkey) Molasses Dark amber
Poplar (Tulip Poplar) Strong Medium amber
Pumpkin Light with a hint of pumpkin flavor Medium amber
Purple Sage Mild flavor, slow to crystallize Water white
Rata (New Zealand) Mild, rich, almost salty White
Raspberry Will have a mild hint of raspberries; crystallizes as soon as it leaves the comb so is always sold in cremed form Cremed light
Rewarewa (New Zealand) Rich, malty Burnished amber
Rosemary Fragrant and herbaceous; great with cheese Pale amber
Safflower Milky flavor Amber to dark amber with a slight greenish cast
Sage Herbal notes Medium amber
Saw Palmetto Citrusy and herbal with woody overtones Medium amber
Silkweed Strong scent and flavor, spicy condiment honey Dark amber
Snowberry Butterscotch N/A
Sourwood Spicy ginger Medium amber
Sunflower Distinctive floral aroma; crystallizes easily Light to medium amber
Tawari Butterscotch Light amber
Thyme Herbal notes Burnt grass
Tupelo Medium, complex; slow to crystallize Golden amber with a slight greenish cast
Ulmo (Chile) Anise and violet N/A
Viper’s Bugloss (Borage) (New Zealand) Delicate flavor, floral bouquet Light amber
Wildflower Depending on flowers, can be medium-strong and tangy Medium amber
White Sage Clover-like flavor, elegant floral aftertaste Translucent yellow


Numerous other varietals are available. See

Some definitions courtesy of Wikipedia and the National Honey Board. The National Honey Board enhances the ability of U.S. honey producers to compete efficiently and effectively in the marketplace and to promote honey and honey products to the consumer.


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Books About Honey

Cooking With Honey Joy With Honey Covered in Honey
Cooking With Honey: Hands-on practical advise for cooking with honey. Click here for more information. Joy With Honey: 236 delightfully honey packed time tested recipes. Click here for more information. Covered in Honey: Discover the bounty of flavors with varietal honey. Click here for more information.



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