Thursday, 16 April 2015

Let’s Talk About Honey, Honey! – Part 1

Photo by Juan Debono

Growing up, we all learn that Malta’s geographical position is so strategic that empires and civilisations fought over us incessantly. What we should also keep in mind is that, through their differences, one thing united them: they all dubbed us ‘the Land of Honey’.

Malta’s endemic bee population produces some of the tastiest and healthiest honey in the world, yet the majority of people still don’t know the basic facts about this sweet food we’re so renowned for.

So we decided to chat to Jeanette Borg, project leader of the Merill Rural Network, to get to the bottom of the honey jar once and for all.

What is honey? And why is it important?

“Honey is natural syrup containing fructose, glucose and a variety of natural sugars, and it’s the only natural food in the world that contains all the ingredients needed to sustain life, including water. It also contains pollen, and companies selling honey are now obliged to specify the presence of pollen as an ingredient under EU legislation.

“Throughout history, honey has been known to be a natural remedy for many ailments, and it’s been proven, tried and tested by men and scientists the world over that it actually is. These properties mostly come from the phenolic compounds that make it antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-carcinogenic.

“Honey’s properties have not been recently discovered however and, while prehistoric man had no idea of the chemical composition of honey, even he knew that this was indeed the nectar of the gods. Cave paintings in Spain actually show him gathering this sweet food some 8,000 years ago.”

Are mānuka and wild thyme honey the only good kinds?

“What’s important to keep in mind is that Maltese bees do not produce mānuka honey, yet, at the same time, the best place to source good honey is locally – and this is where certain misconceptions arise.

“First of all, we must understand that Maltese beekeepers harvest honey in early and late summer, and in late autumn; and we must always take into consideration the flora available around the beehives and the natural rainfall. After all, no rainfall means no flora, which in turn means no food for the bees, and, ultimately, no honey.

“For example, in 2013, the rainfall was so poor that the honey harvest was negligible. As Merill, we had to tell our clients that we didn’t have any available, and it was tough – both for them and for us. Sales are what keep us going as that revenue goes straight back into our projects. But, even so, we’re people with solid principles, and while we’re committed to supporting and working with Maltese farmers, we want our products to be of the highest standards every time.

“Yet, if Maltese people keep asking for mānuka honey, which is not produced in Malta, or wild thyme honey, which is produced in very limited quantities, then we risk pushing beekeepers to lie about their products… Having said that, I think sometimes people prefer lies to the truth about a product that’s being sold, however, we will never sell a jar of spring honey as a wild thyme one.

“Even so, quantities are what they are, and demand is much greater than the supply. And that’s what makes Maltese honey so covetable: it’s a rare delicacy full of natural nutrients with an origin that is almost always verifiable.”

So, if it’s not mānuka or wild thyme honey, what kind of honey is it?

“In early summer, the honey harvest is produced from spring multi-flora. This usually has a golden yellow hue.

“In late summer, we start getting wild thyme – among other flora – and the colour of this is usually golden amber.

‘In late autumn, we get autumn flora honey, such as carob and eucalyptus. The colour of this is often brownish amber.

“What’s important to keep in mind is that the same bee can produce differently-coloured honeys, depending on what it manages to find while it’s foraging. Yet, just because a honey is not strictly wild thyme or mānuka, doesn’t mean it’s less nutritious or pure.”

Click here for "Let’s Talk About Honey, Honey! – Part 2"

Do you have any other questions about the honey you’re buying or the products we sell? Then feel free to drop us a line at or to call us on 2141 1388.
photo by Edward Ellul
Interviewed by Iggy Fenech

1 comment:

  1. It is best to keep your honey at room temperature whatever flavor or color your honey is.
    Why is Honey Different Colors