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First Place: Landon Moore, Texas

Varietal Honey Essay Varietal honey is honey that comes from a single source.

1 This honey has a flavor derived from the source flower and can even have a similar scent.2 In general, lighter colored honeys have a more subtle taste and dark honeys are more intense.3 Varietal honey has been compared to wine, in that honeys produced in different years can be distinguished, even if they come from the same flower and location. This is due to slight temperature and rainfall differences for the flower that in turn cause small changes to the resulting honey’s flavor.4 This phenomenon is called terroir5 and is responsible for the individual taste of each honey harvest. Varietal honey’s unique flavor, based on local flowers, and sometimes rarity, has made this type of honey very valued and frequently quite expensive. In America, more than 300 of varietal honeys are produced.6 One example of a unique varietal is blueberry honey. This type is often produced either from honey taken after bees pollinate a field of berries, or from wild blueberries, especially in the Northeast. It is a light-colored honey with a mild fruity and buttery taste.⁷ A rarer varietal is Avocado honey. It is produced only in California and Florida. It has a dark amber color and strong rich taste.⁸ A more widespread (but still regional) type is cotton honey. It is produced across the South in the many cotton fields. This honey is very pale with a mild and subtle taste.⁹ One of the more famous varietals is orange blossom honey. It is produced in parts of a few states mainly California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. It is a very pale honey with a strong floral scent and distinct citrus taste.¹⁰ It is frequently made from multiple citrus species, but purely Orange honey can be found, often from California.¹¹ One final example of a varietal honey is the ubiquitous clover, one of the most popular types of honey. It is grown all over the United States and produced from several species of clover, most commonly Red, (Trifolium pratense) Alsike,
(Trifolium hybridum) Crimson, (Trifolium incarnatum) and White (Trifolium repens).12 These are often blended together, but are sometimes found as distinct types based on the species. All produce a mild and sweet, light-colored honey. The aroma is often compared to grass, plums and hay.12 Certain varietal honeys such as Manuka are authenticated before going to market. Manuka honey is produced from the tree Leptospermum scoparium which grows in New Zealand and small parts of Australia. There is some dispute between these two countries over the honey, as New Zealand wishes to trademark the name “Manuka Honey.”¹3 Despite the controversy, most high quality Manuka honey comes from New Zealand. Its rarity and unusual taste make it highly valued. Additionally, Manuka honey has been found to have several health benefits.¹4 ¹5 It can help heal burns, soothe wounds and has been found to destroy bacteria, even antibiotic resistant bacteria, making it even more highly sought after. All exported New Zealand Manuka honey must be authenticated in a laboratory approved by a government agency, the Ministry of Primary Industries. During the authentication, a sample of Manuka honey is subjected to a two part test that looks for five markers of true Manuka honey.16 In the first part of the test, dissolved honey has the pollen removed via centrifuge and its DNA is compared to the DNA of the tree, Leptospermum scoparium.17 In the second stage, the sample is tested by a machine called a mass spectrometer in a complicated process called liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.18 After the honey is authenticated, the MGO (Methylglyoxal) level of the honey is usually determined. MGO is a chemical compound that contributes extensively to Manuka honey’s
antibacterial properties.19 The MGO rating is a number equivalent to the milligrams of MGO per kilogram of Manuka honey.20 Manuka honey is also usually given a “UMF” (Unique Manuka Factor) quality rating based on the amount of over two thousand chemical components that exist in real Manuka honey.21 These test further show the quality of the Manuka honey and prove its genuineness. Another rare and valuable varietal is Tupelo honey. It comes from the White Ogeechee Tupelo tree, Nyssa ogeche, which grows only in a small area of Florida and Georgia.22 As with Manuka, Tupelo honey is also authenticated by pollen analysis. Tupelo honey is light amber with a greenish cast. 23 It has a complex, floral taste compared to many other flavors, such as pears23 with a cinnamon-like scent.24 Due to an unusually high fructose content, Tupelo honey is much less prone to granulate than other honeys.23 Tupelo honey is difficult to produce, (and consequently, often expensive) since it requires exact timing to avoid adulteration with other trees’ nectar, as there is a narrow window when the Tupelo is the principal plant in bloom.25 Tupelo honey is highly unique and therefore greatly loved and promoted by the locals where it is produced, to the extent there is an annual Tupelo Honey festival in Wewahitchka, Florida.26 Varietal honeys are some of the most distinct and valuable honeys there are. They have tastes that vary greatly from other types and even from the same type produced in different years. Because they are so distinguished by their origin, they are a source of pride for locals and are frequently protected from adulteration or substitution. Whenever one has the opportunity to sample some of these highly varied and unique honeys, it is always worth it.
Bibliography i 1. American Honey Tasting Society, “Notes from a Honey Sommelier Honey: Different Flowers, Different Flavors” (Reprinted from American Mead Maker Magazine 2016), “Varietal honey also known as uni-floral or single-origin is produced from primarily one type of flower,” https://www.americanhoneytastingsociety.com/single-post/2017/04/12/notes-from-a-honey-sommelier-honey-different-flowers-different-flavors 2. National Honey Board, “Honey Varietals,” “Their shades range from nearly colorless to dark brown, while flavors go from subtle to bold; even the aroma of honey may be reminiscent of the flower.” https://honey.com/about-honey/honey-varietals 3. National Honey Board, “Honey Varietals,” “As a general rule, the flavor of light-colored honey is milder, and the flavor of darker-colored honey is stronger.” https://honey.com/about-honey/honey-varietals 4. National Honey Board, “Honey Varietals,” “Varietal honey may be best compared to wine in terms of climatic changes. Even the same flower blooming in the same location may produce slightly different nectar from year to year, depending on temperature and rainfall.” https://honey.com/about-honey/honey-varietals 5. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Terroir,” “the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character,” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terroir
6. Arrington, Debbie, The Seattle Times, “A taste of honey — and the words to describe it,” August 27, 2014, “American honey comes in more than 300 varietals, based on the nectar source.” https://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/a-taste-of-honey-mdash-and-the-words-to-describe-it/ 7. National Honey Board, “Honey Varietals,” “Moderately fruity in flavor with a delicate, slightly buttery finish,” https://honey.com/about-honey/honey-varietals 8. National Honey Board, “Honey Varietals,” “the avocado is the source of a unique honey that is dark amber in color with a smooth, velvety texture and rich flavor,” https://honey.com/about-honey/honey-varietals 9. National Honey Board, “Honey Varietals,” “The honey is white to extra light amber with a good, mild flavor,” https://honey.com/about-honey/honey-varietals 10. National Honey Board, “Honey Varietals,””a white to extra light amber honey with a pronounced aroma of orange blossoms. It has a sweet, fruity taste with a flowery perfume aftertaste,” https://honey.com/about-honey/honey-varietals 11. Honey Traveler, “Orange Blossom Honey,” “In California a higher proportion is more common because of lack of competition by other plants at nectar flow time,” https://www.honeytraveler.com/single-flower-honey/orange-blossom-honey/ 12. Honey Traveler, “Clover Honey, “the most important for honey production are White or Dutch Clover, Alsike Clover, Red Clover and Crimson Clover… Its aroma is delicate, sweet and flowery with hints of freshly cut grass or hay; suggestive of spicy cinnamon and plums.” https://www.honeytraveler.com/single-flower-honey/clover-honey/ 13. Fuller, Janet Rausa, Epicurious, “What’s the Buzz About Manuka Honey,” “It’s made by bees that pollinate the Leptospermum scoparium tree, aka the manuka or tea tree, which grows primarily in New Zealand. The flowering tree also grows in Australia, but not as widely.,” https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/what-is-manuka-honey-is-it-worth-the-cost-article 14. Science Daily, “Honey could be effective at treating and preventing wound infections,” January 31, 2012, “Manuka honey could help clear chronic wound infections and even prevent them from developing in the first place, according to a new study.,” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120131205919.htm 15. Carter, Dee A., Blair, Shona E., Cokcetin, Nural N., Bouzo, Daniel, Brooks, Peter, Schothauer, Ralf, and Harry, Elizabeth J., Frontiers in Microbiology, “Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative,” April 20, 2016, “As well as inhibiting planktonic cells, honey can disperse and kill bacteria living in biofilms. Biofilms are communities of cells that are generally enclosed in a self-produced extracellular matrix and found adhering to surfaces, including wounds, teeth, mucosal surfaces, and implanted devices. Microbes resident in biofilms are protected from antimicrobial agents and they can cause persistent, non-resolving infections. Manuka honey disrupts cellular aggregates (Maddocks et al., 2012; Roberts et al., 2012) and prevents the formation of biofilms,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837971/#B56
16. Howse, Steve, Depree, Dr Gary, and Tourna, Dr Maria of Analytica Laboratories, New Zealand Beekeeper, “How Do Labs Conduct the MPI Manuka Tests?” June 2017, “The proposed definition includes testing for a combination of five attributes (four chemicals and one DNA marker from mānuka pollen) to distinguish mānuka
honey from other honey types, and to identify monofloral and multifloral mānuka honey,” https://www.analytica.co.nz/media/2tforhwj/mpi-manuka-attribute-test-how-testing-is-conducted.pdf
17. Howse, Steve, Depree, Dr Gary, and Tourna, Dr Maria of Analytica Laboratories, New Zealand Beekeeper, “How Do Labs Conduct the MPI Manuka Tests?” June 2017, “after being dissolved with water the sample is spun in a centrifuge. The pollen forms a pellet in the bottom of the tube as it spins, and the rest of the dissolved honey can then be poured away… the purified DNA is washed off the column and is available for analysis.” https://www.analytica.co.nz/media/2tforhwj/mpi-manuka-attribute-test-how-testing-is-conducted.pdf
18. Howse, Steve, Depree, Dr Gary, and Tourna, Dr Maria of Analytica Laboratories, New Zealand Beekeeper, “How Do Labs Conduct the MPI Manuka Tests?” June 2017, “the diluted honey is put into small vials and analysed on the mass spectrometer. Liquid chromatography is used to separate the various compounds found in the sample, before the concentration of those compounds is measured by the tandem mass spectrometer” https://www.analytica.co.nz/media/2tforhwj/mpi-manuka-attribute-test-how-testing-is-conducted.pdf 19. Mountain Valley Honey, “What is MGO in Manuka honey? Methylglyoxal explained,” February 15, 2021, “Methylglyoxal which is the organic compound responsible for Manuka honey’s strong antibacterial properties,” https://mountainvalleyhoney.co.nz/articles/what-is-mgo-in-manuka-honey-methylglyoxal-explained/ 20. Mountain Valley Honey, “What is MGO in Manuka honey? Methylglyoxal explained,” February 15, 2021, “The MGO rating that you will find on many labels shows the amount of methylglyoxal in the honey. For example, there is at least 83mg of methylglyoxal per kilogram in Manuka honey with an MGO 83+ rating.,” https://mountainvalleyhoney.co.nz/articles/what-is-mgo-in-manuka-honey-methylglyoxal-explained/ 21. Unique Manuka Honey, “Four Factor Quality Assurance Test,” “Real New Zealand mānuka honey contains over 2,000 unique components that contribute to its complex flavour, texture and its sought after health food status. The UMF™ Four Factor Quality Assurance Test assures the Potency, Authenticity, Shelf Life, and Freshness of honest mānuka honey and verifies the genuine UMF™ number of each batch.,” https://www.umf.org.nz/ 22. Honey Traveler, “Tupelo Honey, “Tupelo honey is a high grade honey produced in a small region in North Western Florida and Southern Georgia from White Ogeechee Tupelo trees.,” https://www.honeytraveler.com/single-flower-honey/tupelo-honey/ 23. Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, “Tupelo Honey; Ark of Taste,” “Pure tupelo honey is light amber in color; some note a green cast. It has a pear-like and hoppy aroma and a coveted flavor that fans describe as mild, delicate, buttery, floral, like cotton candy and rosewater. Because of its unusually high fructose content (versus sucrose), tupelo honey will not granulate.,” https://www.fondazioneslowfood.com/en/ark-of-taste-slow-food/tupelo-honey/ 24. Honey Traveler, “Tupelo Honey, “The aroma is cinnamon and floral.,” https://www.honeytraveler.com/single-flower-honey/tupelo-honey/ 25. Smiley Honey, “Tupelo Honey Explained: 5 Key Benefits That Make It Special,” “To produce Tupelo honey, beekeepers must strategically position their beehives so that the bees primarily collect nectar from the Tupelo blooms.,” https://www.smileyhoney.com/blogs/wellness/tupelo-honey-explained-5-key-benefits-that-make-it-so-special#:~:text=Achieving%20honey%20from%20a%20single,diluting%20the%20target%20nectar%20source. 26. Tupelo Honey Festival, “Home,” “Under the great mossy oaks of Lake Alice, people come from all over the world to the small community of Wewahitchka, Florida each spring to taste and take home this locally grown rare, delicious delicacy.,” http://www.tupelohoneyfestival.com/
i I have included whenever possible the name of the original author, the title of each article, the source where it was found, date published (if listed) along with a quotation of the relevant section for each notation.

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