Why You Should Buy Raw Unfiltered Honey
When searching for honey there are two key characteristics that we feel you need to look for – it should be raw and unfiltered. U.S. consumers like their honey to be liquid and crystal clear thinking that cloudy or crystallized honey has gone bad. In Europe and Canada there is much more acceptance of crystallized or creamed honey. As all honey will eventually crystallize, honey packers want the product to stay clear for as long as possible. In order to provide a clear honey product that stays that way on the store shelves, any existing crystals and particles must be removed as they will speed up crystallization. This is done by filtering and applying heat. Both, in our opinion, are detrimental to the benefits (and flavor) of honey.
The term “raw” refers to honey that has not been exposed to high temperatures. Honey contains over 180 beneficial compounds including antioxidants, essential minerals, enzymes and vitamins. These compounds can be damaged or destroyed by high temperatures and thus the efficacy reduced or even eliminated. Unfortunately, much of the honey found on grocery store shelves sees high heat (145F or higher) during bottling to prevent crystallization on the shelf. The heat destroys existing sugar crystals in the honey which promotes crystallization on store shelves. Large scale honey producers don’t want their honey to start to get cloudy while it sits in stores as consumers may shy away from buying it as they believe it’s no longer good. As a matter of fact, creamed honey (also called whipped or spun honey) is actually crystallized honey using a very fine crystal to provide a smooth feel in your mouth. In truth honey does not go bad, and the crystallization process can be reversed by sitting your honey jar in a pan of warm tap water. While there is some debate about what temperature to which honey can be heated and still be considered raw, most feel that 110˚F is the upper limit. We do not heat ours at all, which makes things like bottling more difficult but we feel the benefits are worth it. By not applying heat we maintain all of the wellness benefits of honey taken directly from the comb.
Unfiltered honey is honey that has been strained but not micro filtered. Straining removes any large particles from the honey such and wax or other bits that may get into honey during extraction. Micro filtering uses diatomaceous earth and multiple filters with the aim of removing any particles in the honey including pollen, as these bits can also speed up crystallization. One point of clarification is that pollen is not required by bees to make honey. It is a byproduct picked up bees as they harvest nectar. So even if pollen is removed from honey (as it is in much of the honey on store shelves) it is still honey. However, we believe there are wellness benefits associated with having the pollen remain in the honey, hence the reason we don’t filter and recommend unfiltered honey.
So they next time you’re out of the stick sweet stuff, be sure to look for raw and unfiltered varieties to make sure you’re getting all the benefits honey can offer.