All About Honey
Honey is the most popular and well known product of the beehive, but there is a lot more to it than just being a tasty sweet treat.
If you’d like to know more, scroll down to read our FAQ or contact us about hosting a honey tasting presentation at your workplace or special event!
Humble Bee Raw Honey
We keep our honey simple; extract it from the comb, then bottle it. Extracted in small batches, we separate it by apiary and the time of year it was produced. We make sure our honey never gets hotter than it would in a beehive to preserve its flavour and medicinal value. We don’t run it through fine filters to remove pollen or crystallized honey. This does mean our honey will not stay liquid for long, but we hope you’ll enjoy experiencing the full spectrum of flavour and texture our raw honey has to offer!
Our honey is currently available at:
- The Mustard Seed, 460 York Blvd., Hamilton, ON.
- Caniche French Bakery, 346 Wilson Street East, Ancaster
- Cannon Coffee Co. 179 Ottawa St N, Hamilton
- Denninger’s Foods of the World, all locations
- Detour YHM @ Hamilton Airport
- Dundurn Market, 346 Dundurn St East, Hamilton
- Grupetto Cafe, 24 King Street West, Dundas
- Mickey McGuire’s Cheese, 51 King Street West, Dundas, ON.
- Pale Blue Dot, 240 James Street North, Hamilton
- Ward IV Coffee Bar, 1441 Main Street East, Hamilton
- Work Progress, 337 James Street North, Hamilton
- Black Creek Community Farm, 4929 Jane St. Toronto
- Select Metro Stores, in the local food section
Contact Us for wholesale enquiries in the Greater Hamilton Area.
How do bees make honey?
- Bees collect nectar from flowers, and process it into honey by adding enzymes, reducing the moisture content, and sealing it up in individual air-tight cells in a honeycomb when they are finished processing it.
How do the bees bring the nectar back to the hive?
- Bees have 2 ‘stomachs’, the 1st is called the honey crop, and this is where they store the honey on their flight back to the hive. If they are going to consume the honey, it travels into the mid-gut where the bees can use it to fuel their flight muscles.
How many different kinds of honey are there?
- Every flower produces a different colour and flavour of nectar. This means that every honey will taste slightly different depending on where the bees have been gathering nectar. So really, there are as many different types of honey as there are nectar producing plants. Even honey from the same hive will taste different every year since the mixture of flowers available for the bees to forage on varies with the weather.
What does it mean if honey is labelled as ‘Buckwheat Honey’, or ‘Clover Honey’?
- When honey is produced predominantly from one type of flower, it is called a ‘monofloral’ honey. These honeys will express the unique character of the plants they were produced from. Different flowers bloom at different times of the year, and in different areas, it is possible to move your bees into an area where a large amount of one type of flowers are to produce a monofloral honey.
Ok, so what about ‘Wildflower Honey’?
- Most beekeepers do not separate their honey depending on floral source, since it is a lot more work. So when you see adjectives like ‘wildflower’ or ‘summer blossom’ it means that the honey is from multiple different floral sources (multifloral). However, there is still a fair bit of variation in flavour even between spring, summer, and fall honey. Honey produced in spring and fall tends to be darker gold in colour, while summer honey is usually lighter in colour with a milder flavour.
Does honey ever go bad?
- Honey is a perfect food, meaning that it will never spoil when stored in an airtight container. Edible honey has been recovered Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years. Over time honey will crystallize (harden), and the flavour will degrade, but it remains safe to eat. Honey is also hygroscopic, meaning that honey exposed to air will absorb moisture from the atmosphere. If it absorbs enough moisture, it will eventually ferment into alcohol.
Why does honey crystallize (harden)?
- Honey is a supersaturated solution, with less than 18% water and ~80% sugar. Normally you can only dissolve sugar into water at a ratio of 2:1, while the bees manage to get it to 4:1 or more. At this level of saturation, the solution is not stable, and the sugars will precipitate out to form crystals. Storing your honey in a warm place will slow crystallization, while storing it in a freezer will prevent crystallization.
How do I turn my honey into liquid again?
- Adding energy in the form of heat will liquefy crystallized honey. It is best to warm it gently (no microwaves!) to preserve the beneficial enzymes in honey. We suggest putting the jar in a hot water bath until fully liquefied, or leaving it in the oven with just the oven light on (do not turn on the element!).
Why doesn’t honey go bad?
- It is impossible for microorganisms to grow in honey, since it has 4 different ways of killing microbes:
- Osmotic Effect: honey is a supersaturated solution, so any bacteria that come into contact with honey are desiccated.
- Acidity: honey can be more acidic than lemon juice, and many microorganisms can not survive this high level of acidity.
- Enzymes: one of the enzymes bees add to honey is called glucose oxidase, which releases hydrogen peroxide when it comes into contact with water (like in your saliva). This is why you get that ‘tickle’ in the back of your throat after eating a spoon of honey.
- Various Phytochemical Factors: these are compounds that are already present in the nectar of plants that the bees collect. Most floral sources have not been researched to isolate what compounds are present or how potent they are, with the exception of Manuka honey (paying for that research is part of the reason Manuka honey is so expensive!). However, this topic is gaining more attention and there are early reports that other types of honey are even more potent than Manuka in terms of antimicrobial activity.
What’s the difference between Pasteurized, Unpasteurized, and Raw Honey?
- Pasteurized honey has been rapidly heated to high temperatures, and then rapidly cooled down again. This is generally only done by large packing companies that import honey from overseas. The heating will degrade the honey, but extend the amount of time that will stay liquid while sitting on a stores shelves. It is generally also micro-filtered which removes trace pollen and contaminants.
- Unpasteurized honey has been heated, but not to the high temperatures of pasteurized honey. There is no standard definition beyond this, so the quality can vary greatly. It is generally filtered through a fine filter (50-200 microns) to remove wax and honey crystals.
- Raw honey is never heated, and generally not filtered, or only run through a coarse filter (400 micron or larger) to remove wax and contaminants. Because of this is tends to crystallize quickly after being bottled, however it can remain liquid for several months. Raw honey will contain trace pollen and therefore the additional nutrients it provides, as well as retaining its full medicinal properties and the volatile compounds that impart flavour. However, there is no legal definition of ‘raw’ honey, so quality and processing methods may vary by producer.
How do I know where my honey was made?
- If a honey contains imported honey, it has to say so. This information will be found on the side or back of the label in small print: “A blend of Canadian and………… “
- Canada No. 1 Grade Honey does not mean that the honey is 100% Canadian, it could be as little as 10% Canadian honey
- Ontario No. 1 Grade honey does mean that the honey is 100% Ontario produced and packaged honey, made by a beekeeper that does not sell outside of the province.