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Honeys from around the world--share your favorites!

Some of you may know that I was fortunate enough to travel to Cameroon last month (for work). I had some wonderful food experiences (which you can read about on this thread:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/658732

But one of the true delights was a honey from the village of Bassafem (sp?), between Dschang and Yaoundé. It was deep and darkly colored, very complex in flavor with a taste of deep, dark caramel and chocolate, among other things. Since honeys by nature are such a delicious expression of the local biogeography, I only ever buy local OR regionally identifiable honeys (e.g. honeys from Indiana, from Pennsylvania when I visit my parents, sourwood honey at the local cookware shop). While I don't know what plants those Cameroonian bees were using, I do know that I am glad to have had the foresight to bring back a 4-lb, VERY WELL TAPED SHUT bottle of that honey. This also got me to thinking about what other honeys I should try or at least learn about from others. So, share with me tales of the wonderful honeys you have eaten and where they come and (if you know) the plants involved.

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  1. I've been doing the same thing: bringing back local honeys from places I travel. So far my favorite is coffee blossom honey I bought at a farmers' market in Kauai. It's very dark, almost molasses, and has a very faint coffee flavor. I haven't opened the honey I just brought back from Argentina, but in appearance it's just the opposite: pale gold.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I have a cousin that's a beekeeper on Kauai and he ages his honey for years and it turns dark and molasses-like. Is the honey you have from there aged?

    2. When I lived in Mexico D.F., my ladyfriend had a weekend home in Michoacan. She could cook. There was a tall, 50 cm, rectangular galvanized can, with a round lid, that was her honey (miel), on the kitchen floor. A day would not pass without miel as an ingredient in at least one meal. Michoacan and Queretaro have 100 foot eucalyptus trees and delicate orchids and a million plants in between, so the honey was a symphony of everything one could see.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Veggo

        Now I'm even more sorry that I did not visit the town known for its honey production the last time that I was in the Yucatan. It's between Campeche and Merida and now I can't remember why we decided not to go. Jipijapas made nearby, too.

      2. I love the idea of collecting local honeys as a souvenir--I may have to adopt that. Your Kauai honey sounds divine! I'll be waiting to hear what you think of the Argentinean honey as well. I just had a piece of Valdeon blue cheese with a drizzle of my Cameroonian honey. MMMMMMMMMM!

        And Veggo, love the descripition of honey as "a symphony of everything one could see". Is honey a much used ingredient in Michoocan? I confess to no knowing as much about Mexican cuisine as I should!

        1. From the coffee growing area in highland Chiapas, Mexico
          From the coffee growing area in highland Cajamarca, Peru

          1. I'm also a honey collector.
            my all time favourite was one I found in Western Ontario in 1978 - a Buckwheat honey. I brought it back to England and savoured every last mouthful. Other buckwheat honeys have never compared to this one.

            4 Replies
            1. re: smartie

              Try a buckwheat honey from the high mountains of Bhutan!

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Thanks for the tip, Sam. I'll pick up a case on my next trip to my neighborhood Bhutan-R-Us megastore.

                1. re: Veggo

                  Picture the steep mountain sides over deep river valleys as dark green interspersed with beautiful, thin, irregulary shaped terraced areas, mid-season for rice at about panicle initiation and when the rice plants are light green and the mustard and buckwheat fields are filled with small yellow and white flowers, respectively.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Sounds idyllic, wish I were there. My view at this moment is of my neighbor's garbage cans on the curb. I'm guessing some of the mountainous regions in Mexico that I picture so vividly are not dissimilar.There is an interesting chapter in 'Outliers" about rice growing, BTW. Not new to you, but to me and others. Some parts of the world that are isolated do pretty well for themselves. World class honey is but one example.

            2. Very dark evergreen honey from the Black Forest.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pikawicca

                Thyme honey from Grece that I eat with 10% fat yogurt.

                It's divine and reminds me of my time in Crete and driving through the mountains getting giddy from the fragrance of thyme and oregano.

              2. I'm a really big fan of Dutch Heather Honey. It might be nostalgia, because that's the type my grandparents always had, but I still like that one best. The texture always was a bit crumbly, but still spreadable. And the taste was so rich!

                2 Replies
                1. re: theseBoetz

                  As fun as it is to read about and imagine the international honey varietals, there are some fantastic regional honeys from the USA.

                  Take California, since you're already there. My Dad just swung by Bates Nut Farm (near San Diego) and picked up a jar of Avocado honey for me, presumably from the Temecula region where so many of the State's avocados are grown. It's deep, smooth, and buttery, all characteristics I associate with avocados.

                  I'm in MN, which is the 5th largest honey-producing State in the country. You can find Buckwheat honey produced in the north and west regions of MN that is out of this world. The apiculture (beekeeping) wing of the Ag-Hort building at the MN State Fairgrounds has a fantastic map of the USA depicting the main honey varietals by State, and it's amazing to see how many different monofloral (single source) honeys are available here.

                  I've also tried White Honey and Macadamia Honey, both produced on the Big Island of Hawaii (see www.volcanoislandhoney.com for info).

                  Am about to head to the Southern Hemisphere, and I'm eager to explore more of the many great honey varietals in New Zealand. Manuka honey is even darker and more complex than Buckwheat. Tawari and Kamahi honeys are simply to die for. Check the monofloral products page at www.airborne.co.nz to see examples of the other honeys in NZ.

                  Note: This reply is meant for fcpjap60!

                  1. re: moeraki

                    My first thought when reading the title was also avocado blossom honey from Fallbrook, CA.

                2. It is such a treat to read these posts from well traveled, seemingly well educated, and polite people. These sincere observations and opinions are so interesting....and in great contrast to many of the foul mouthed, rude comments found at other sites. Anyway, I live in California, haven't traveled so my honey experiences are limited to orange blossom and clover honey. Being that I haven't tasted other more exotic flavors, I have to admit that I love them anyway.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: fcpjap60

                    As noted above, there are more exotic *local* honeys available in California. If there's a large farmers' market near you they undoubtedly have a local honey producer. I see you're in Fresno, which is a huge fruit growing area, so there must be bees! I think I remember seeing honey at the CSU Fresno ag. dept. store.

                    If you ever get to the Bay Area, Marshall Farms (from American Canyon near Napa) is a lot of farmers' markets. They have a huge range of both single-variety honey (pumpkin blossom, star thistle, etc.) and single location honey (I was amazed that the honey produced from two different gardens at the Culinary Institute of America tasted different). You can taste them all and really get a feeling for the wide range of flavors honey can have.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I love Marshall's wild blackberry honey. Whenever I get the urge for a dessert, I just have a small spoonful of that honey - very satisfying of my sweet tooth:-)

                  2. I agree with Repartee: thyme honey is very good.

                    Another favorite:
                    Black locust blossom honey from Long Island.

                    1. As we travel up and down the East Coast USA, we have find the premium Sourwood in the Blue Ridge, and Tupelo in FL, but the best everyday honey (one without the clover taste) is the honey from the Piedmont. A nice mix of Red Maple, Holly and Tulip Poplar. Sometimes it gets a little bite to go with the smooth on the palette feeling if the bees get into some raspberry. Easy to find at NC and VA farmers markets or local based stores. Don't be fooled by the darker color, this is honey that you will enjoy everyday, and prefer to use in your cooking.

                      1. My favorite honey is miele di castagno (chestnut honey), an artisan Italian honey made from the nomadic bees of Tuscany. The one I favor is made by a certain Tuscan apiculturist who transports his beehives to seasonally flowering zones and the protected national parks along Tuscany's Etruscan coast . When I'm in Italy I eat chestnut honey drizzled over a slice of Pecorino Toscano cheese served with fresh pears at my cousin's table but the molasses like aroma and flavor of this honey goes really well with my morning oatmeal in the States.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: per me

                          If you love miele di castagno (chestnut honey) with its slightly bitter notes, you'll also want to try miele di corbezzolo (strawberry bush honey), the rare bitter honey from Sardinia. Despite the name (its fruit resembles strawberries somewhat), the plant is a type of arbutus that blooms late in the fall. The honey is dark, thick, caramelly and, yes, both bitter and sweet at the same time. There is nothing else like it.

                        2. Did I say my favorite honey was miele di castagno (chestnut honey) from Tuscany? Can you have two favorites? If you can my other would be millefiori Italian honey infused with black truffles. There should be a warning on the label of this honey that says "Extraordinarily Addictive".

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: per me

                            Try a drizzle of that truffle honey over a good mellow blue cheese like Cashel blue. Out of this world!

                            1. re: plum

                              ...or any hard cheese. We did a two hour impromtu tasting of cheese, truffle honey and balsamic vinegars in Florence a couple of years ago. Had the truffle honey on parma and a few other harder cheeses...so good I made a huge tray for staff when I got home to Alberta.

                          2. Oh - I would love to buy honey like what you brought back from Cameroon! What a wonderful find.

                            There are some amazing middle eastern honeys - Sidr honeys are dark and intense and rich. Quite expensive (around $40 per kilo) but like nothing else. Every time I visit Kuwait I bring back a kilo jar, and ration it out over the year - a spoonful when you are feeling down is the perfect pick-me-up. I've also found honey from coriander, cucumber blossoms, and so-called "black seed" which I think is nigella/kalonji (this one tastes strangely savoury but is supposed to have great health benefits).

                            Does anyone know anything about Balkan honeys? When I was living in Belgrade, I could go to beekeeper festivals. There was a wonderful Montenegrin honey from the flowers of a berry very like to American blueberries. Also, they had stalls at the markets there that sold "medical honey" good for different conditions. I used to buy a "medical honey" that was light, creamy and very camphorous. I am not sure if that was the taste of the honey itself or if something was added to it. It was good for colds. I would love to buy it again but have never seen it in the US. Does anyone know if it's available online?

                            1. My friend Trevor and I are way into honey. He is more of the collector than I am but we are in for the Mead (honey wine) we make from it. Every year on the first Saturday in Aug. we hold a class/demo/tasting for national mead day

                              http://www.beertown.org/events/meadday/

                              He brings out his collection of around 60+ varietal honeys from around the world. We try and enlighten people to the wide array of flavors from different varietal honeys; what to look (taste) for in a good mead making honey and what to avoid. We’ll have them try the honey a mead was made with then sample the mead. It is always s a lot of fun, educational, and a great way to kill a Saturday afternoon.

                              Oregon pumpkin honey is one of my favorites. Medium amber in color light spicy notes of cinnamon and allspice with a rich undertone or Snowberry that when made into mead take on a tropical/pineapple flavor. Oregon meadowfoam is always a crowd pleaser; it tastes just like toasted marshmallows.

                              Trevor has some really hideous honeys as well. The worst of the worst is this Italian Pine honey (you do not want to know how the bees get nectar from a pine tree) that smells much like cat urine or he has a domestic chestnut honey that tastes great to start but very late in the pallet ends up a face cringing bitter, unlike his French chestnut which is dark and rich).

                              If you are at all interesting in finding some great/interesting honeys start at

                              www.honeylocator.com

                              but remember to support your local beekeepers, which you can usually find at your farmers markets.

                              Cheers!
                              Matt

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: matt_maples

                                Italian vs French, well don't discount the Italian chestnut honey yet. There is a nicely balanced chestnut honey available at www.cosituttimarketplace.com worth a try. Paired with pears and pecorino you can't go wrong.

                              2. For years I have been buying Mole Creek Leatherwood honey from Tasmania. I believe it was recommended by Maida Heatter in one of her cookbooks. One sniff and I entered into a life-long relationship with this wonderful aromatic honey.

                                Recently, when I brought it to the table, my guests teased me for serving the ultimate non-locavore product. I plead guilty - but I love this honey and intend to continue buying it, even though I know there is very nice honey produced right here in Massachusetts.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Pumpkinseed

                                  Leatherwood is one of my favorites, too. Great with Fage/Total yogurt.

                                2. I am ALMOST afraid to publish this, but honey from Pitcairn Island is my favourite and not just because of the taste. I loved the Mutiny on the Bounty story and this of course is where the mutineers landed and lived. They have no airstrip and only a ship every three months. The honey (ordered online) takes months to get to you. It is from a wonderfully protected bee population far from the maladies killing bees world wide. I love the fact that I am buying a product from Fletch Christian's progeny. It also supports an economy with nothing much else in it (they do carve and have some tourists I understand). I love how exotic the whole enterprise is and I think that makes it taste even better! And, yes it is very tasty. It is produced in very small amounts. My real favourite less exotic honeys though all seem to come from New Zealand and are never cheap.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: foodiesnorth

                                    Wow, I had no idea there were so many amazing honey types out there! I'm going to have to get started learning more about these.

                                    I live in tiny village in France and there is a apiculteur a few blocks from my house. He makes many types, and my favorite is just "honey of the forest," which come from his hives in the Fontainebleau Forest, because it is so dark and rich and complex. It doesn't even taste like "honey" to me.

                                    But could someone explain something? Why, for example, is that honey so dark while other honeys he makes (like a springtime flower one) are light yellow and almost a solid, rather than a liquid... what makes for all these differences? Surely it can't just be the types of flowers the bees get their pollen from? Or can it?

                                    1. re: anakalia

                                      Clover flowers almost always produce light white honey.
                                      Darker flowers, like dandelions, goldenrods, and fall asters, produce an amber honey, more flavor, less finesse than clover.
                                      Buckwheat, although a white flower, produces a dark well flavored honey.
                                      Pine trees are the source of honeydew, from aphids, and bees can make a pungent honey from this. Not for the timid.
                                      Most honey will become solid over time. (A few tropicals and Tasmanian do not).
                                      Some overprocessed blended honeys (like Billy Bee, a McCormack product) won't turn solid because of micro filtration and flash pasteurization. A local product won't do this.

                                      My favorite? Water white clover honey from the Peace River valley, in northern British Columbia and Alberta. The most delicate yet full flavored cloverhoney. If I can't get it, I'll still be happy with a pot of buckwheat, smeared on toast.

                                  2. My favorite honey from around the world comes from right here at home - sourwood honey.

                                    http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/...

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Leepa

                                      Jayt90: Thanks! So, if the honey turns solid after a awhile, is that a bad thing? Does it mean its no longer at its best? Or doesn't it matter?

                                      1. re: anakalia

                                        If honey crystallizes it's still good and can be liquified by warming in a hot water bath. I read recently, though, that repeated reheating will diminish the subtle flavors and aromas in the honey. Honey doesn't spoil, though. There are reports of finding honey in archaeological sites in Egypt that's still good.

                                        1. re: anakalia

                                          As Ruth says, most honey will crystallize over time. One or two tropicals will not. If your supermarket honey stays liquid, it has been overprocessed. Too much heat or pasteurization will diminish the flavor and make the honey darker..
                                          Pasteurization is not necessary, as germs can't survive in supersweet honey.
                                          The type of crystal starter used by the apiarist is important. On its own, the honey will be coarse. If a small amount of finely crystallized honey is seeded into a vat, a nice, fine crystal honey will develop, in a few months.

                                      2. Thanks for the post nofunlatte, it and the replies generated were very interesting and informative. I never thought about all the different cultures that make and use honey and the differences there would be around the world. I also love the idea of searching out regional specialities to bring home with you.

                                        1. Great thread! I also collect honey from every place I visit when traveling for work, if it looks like an interesting local honey.
                                          It's fun to taste and cook with different honeys, but meadmaking is where it comes down to the crux! The need to buy 5 gallon buckets of honey to make a typical 15-20 gallon batch of mead (hardly worth it if you only make a few bottles at a time -- mead likes to age in the bottle for years, decades.....) makes using only exotic honeys too expensive. But by making a blend, you can make the really exotic flavor and aroma notes stand out by blending 1-3 lbs. of exotic honey as about 5-10% of the mead. If you brew carefully, and tenderly preserve the character of your honey when brewing, exotic honeys can be an exceptional addition to mead.

                                          Our local bulk honeys here in Colorado are simply clover, alfalfa and 'wildflower' (a bit of a misnomer, 'wildflower' really means whatever the bees happened to be near, and varies greatly by honey packer).

                                          I've had the privilege to taste and brew mead with orange blossom, fireweed (a favorite), star thistle, mesquite, tupelo and a few others. But reading this thread.....wow!

                                          I'm now building a list. Has anyone here ever actually tried Yemeni Sidr honey? I've heard taste reports.......what about the (in)famous honey of the Bekaa valley of Lebanon, where the bees frequent Cannabis plants?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: danbob

                                            Sidr honey was our staple when we lived in Saudi Arabia. It's very good, but certainly not worth the atmospheric prices I've seen posted online recently. I've never heard of Lebanese "cannabis honey." Drugs are really frowned on this part of the world, so I'd be surprised to find a flourishing pot crop here. Lebanon has, unfortunately, become rather lawless in recent years, so anything is possible, I suppose.

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              I have a weakness for Oak honey (I think is has the same orgin as fir and pine honeys, via sapin) So far I've only bumped into the spanish brand sold by Villa Vella, but others undoubtely exist.

                                              This actually bring up and intersting question on honey. For most of us, in the developed world all of the honey we consume is produced by the same sort of bee, the only variable in the honey are the nectar and conditions. There are, however literally hundreds of thosands of species of bees in the world and a fairly large number of them produce honey in amounts siginficant enough to be of use to man. The question I am wondering is this, if two different species of bees are getting nectar from the same flowers in the same source, will they yield signifcantly different kinds of honey? I seem to recall reading somehwere about bees that made very sour honey that lived somwhere near goyaz brazil, but whether this was a function of the bees or of the necatar I don't know.
                                              Finally a small world of cation for those who are going wild honey hunting, courtesry of one of my plant professors. Apparently some Amazonian native flowers produced nectar with nasty thigs in them, and honey made by bees from that has been known to cause liver damage.

                                              1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                I am a clover honey lover. I know it isn't the fanciest honey, but I have used it since I was little.

                                          2. Hi all,
                                            I am new to this website but I see we all have a common interest in varietal or other honeys.
                                            I live in South America and have recently found two varietals which I believe are 100%, one is that made from onion flowers and the other one from olive flowers which I know is 100% derived as nothing else grows in the area.
                                            Can someone tell me if they have tasted these types of honeys and if they could be commercialised.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: honeyfan

                                              Can you describe the color, aroma, and taste of these honeys? And maybe compare it to another honey we might know, such as orange blossom?

                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                Jayt90,
                                                The olive honey is clear, light amber in colour and is quite thick. The taste is sweet and a faint taste of eucalyptus but you can taste the influence of the olive flowers (remember I am a fan not an expert taster).
                                                The onion honey is viscous, dark with a less floraly note, almost a molassses flavour. I do not believe they are adulterated as the onion honey I purchased at an organic market.
                                                Sorry I have never tasted orange blossom honey.

                                                1. re: honeyfan

                                                  Thanks. Both sound good and worth pursuing. Buckwheat honey seems to be similar to the description of onion honey. It is difficult to find in a 100% version, but delicious..

                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                    I purchased some buckwheat honey just north of Whistler BC last year but I find the onion honey to be a bit sweeter. I guess I will have to get some samples and have them tested for sanitary regulations etc before I get serious in buying quantity for export etc or even getting more involved in the business.
                                                    Thanks

                                            2. Picked up an amazing "foret" honey by the side of the road near Avignon, France. It was the most amazing honey I've ever eaten. I was only sorry I didn't buy more. I'm inspired by this thread to buy novel and indigenous honeys everywhere I go.

                                              1. New Mexico mesquite honey and Maine wild blueberry honey, and of course my wife, she is a real honey too.
                                                Seriously though, the Maine wild blueberry crop is in peril due to a dearth to honey bees, there is a virus that is killing the honey bee in North America and the invasion of the killer bees impact the honey bee as well. Imagine.

                                                1. I've had a wonderful, perfumed Grecian honey, dark rain forest honey from Central America, and various U.S. honeys such as buckwheat, local clover, wildflower, sourwood....hands down, for me, still, is the wonderfully sassy Tupelo. Love that stuff!

                                                  1. From the Bee Folks last summer I got some cotton honey which was very light, tangy and straight forward. I also bought some Scottish heather honey which was the antithesis: complex and herbal with flavor after flavor coming forward.