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Gourmet honey is a term that usually means a premium quality honey. Connoisseurs often use this description when referring to a type of honey produced from a particular flower source or one that is indigenous to a particular region of the world. Gourmet versions of honey are usually labeled as all natural and pure. The term is also used to describe different honey products.
Bees create honey using nectar that they gather from flowers. Just as gourmet wine is associated with specific vintages that have unique qualities based on region of the world and time of year in which grapes are harvested, the distinctiveness of the flowers used to create honey can determine its gourmet status. There are many varieties available, including monofloral honey, which comes from a single flower source, and wildflower honey, which is blended from multiple wildflower sources.
Monofloral honey is a popular type of gourmet honey due to the distinctive flavor and colors that the flower type gives the honey. Manuka honey, for instance, only comes from New Zealand and Australia. Bees producing this honey feed on the Manuka bush, a native shrub of the region. The honey produced has a strong taste and has been described by users as having a smoky medicinal taste.
Another monofloral honey type is chestnut honey. This forest honey is only produced in in Italy by bees gathering nectar from chestnut trees. The gourmet honey is usually said to have a rich amber color and an intense spicy nutty flavor, which is less sweet than other honey varieties. Yet another monofloral offering is lavender honey; its premium version is primarily produced in France by bees feeding in lavender fields. The resulting honey is opaque in color with a floral sweetness.
Although it is blended from multiple flower sources, polyfloral or wildflower honey is also often considered a gourmet product. The combination of flowers used in the honey can give it a distinctive texture and flavor that cannot be replicated by honey produced in another region of the world. A New Mexico wildflower honey, for instance, could feature nectar from desert flowers such as cactus or the Mesquite shrub. Versions that represent flowers that bloom in different seasons, such as summer blends or spring blends, are also prized gourmet varieties due to the differences in smell as well as flavor, color, and texture that these honey blends can have.
Premium quality honey is a pure product, meaning it has not been blended or altered with any other substances, such as corn syrup or molasses. Quality honey is also generally classified as honey with a water content of no greater than 18 percent. This lower water content prevents fermentation, which can spoil the honey. Some honey aficionados also generally consider gourmet honey to be that which has only been minimally heated and strained; this nominal processing allows the honey to retain most of its vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants without significantly affecting the flavor potency.
Gourmet honey products, however, may also include products that are not pure honey. Commonly available products of this variety include infused honey, a honey featuring spices and herbs. Creamed honey is another gourmet product that is whipped to spread like butter and features a creamy texture.
Honey is abundantly produced in most parts of the world. In the United States, grocery stores and supermarkets usually carry a wide range of locally produced and commercially made honeys. To purchase more specialized gourmet types, however, such as those only found in certain regions of the world, gourmet stores and online shopping usually provide the most variety.