What’s the difference between fake honey and raw honey?
There is a lot of confusion about honey and the differences between raw honey, natural honey, pure honey, real honey and so called ‘fake’ honey.
Put simply, raw honey, natural honey, pure honey, unfiltered honey and real honey is essentially the same thing – 100% honey. What this means is the honey in the jar was made by bees – not in a factory.
Fake honey, however, refers to a honey-like product that has been modified with flavours, fillers, dyes, and sugar. In fact, some fake ‘honey’ may not even contain bee honey but rather glucose syrups, inverted sugar solutions (from refined sugar) or corn, cane or beet syrup.
Now that you know what fake honey is, let’s look at the differences in pure, raw and real honey. There is a rough hierarchy of different honey types with the top of the hierarchy being 100% genuine natural honey or raw honey.
What is raw honey?
Raw honey comes directly from the hives and there is minimal processing. In its truest sense raw honey is honey taken directly from the honeycomb, untouched by human hands. This type of honey can also be called raw unfiltered honey.
Most honey sold as raw honey in Australia is minimally processed bee honey which maintains all the natural goodness of honey. According to the US National Honey Board, raw honey is defined as:
“honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat.”
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSAMZ) defines honey (not what is raw honey, just what is honey) as:
“the natural sweet substance produced by honeybees from nectar of blossoms, which bees transform themselves within the beehive into honey.”
Raw honey contains flecks of pollen, royal jelly, propolis and small particles of wax suspended in a viscous honey liquid; and is not adulterated by the addition of other ingredients or substances, or the removal of components beneficial to people.
The minimal processing of raw honey ensures that it still contains the valuable properties of natural bee honey. This includes all the health benefits of this delicious, nutritious food created by nature. When a recipe calls for raw honey this is the type of honey they are recommending.
At Australian Beekeepers’ Honey, we sell raw honey. Our honey is unpasteurised offering you only the highest quality pure Australian honey available.
Is raw honey the same as unprocessed honey?
Unprocessed or unpasteurised honey is essentially raw honey in its purest form, taken directly from the honeycomb and is likely to contain pollen grains, wax and propolis.
At ABs Honey, our raw honey has minimal processing with honey received direct from our beekeepers gently filtered to remove debris.
Now that we know what raw honey is, let’s look at fake honey.
What is fake honey?
Fake honey is the term used for honey-like products that contain non-bee products, such as glucose syrups, inverted sugar solutions (from refined sugar) or corn, cane or beet syrup.
Many of the honey products being imported into Australia are in fact, not honey. In 2016, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC), tested honey imported from Asia proving it to be C4 sugars (likely corn syrup) rather than the honey sugar classification of C3. Check out “When Honey Isn’t Honey” for the full report.
While fake honey may look like raw honey, the key difference is it is made in a factory, rather than by nature. Fake honey also:
- contains a mix of bee honey and cheaper cane or other syrups, added to increase the volume of the honey, reduce production cost and price;
- often has a high composition of water, diluting the honey, again used to increase the volume of the ‘honey’ and hence profits, and
- has added artificial or synthetic ingredients such as dyes and flavour enhancers.
Fake honey will not have the natural flavour, texture and aroma of real honey. In fact, fake honey can have a sour odour or no smell at all and usually contains refined sugars.
Most importantly, fake honey does not have the same health benefits of pure honey.
What about commercial honey?
The honey you find in the supermarket ranges from raw honey through to fake honey, which as we noted may not contain any honey at all!
The key difference between most of the commercially produced honey sold in the supermarkets and raw honey (unprocessed honey) and is that commercial produced honey has been heated to very high temperatures and filtered to a very low micron level. This is done to slow or stop the crystallisation process to and to remove any “specks” from the honey – essentially to increase the honey’s shelf life and aesthetics.
Unfortunately, these treatments also have a negative impact on the honey.
The honey filtration process
Filtered honey is honey that has had a process of filtration ro remove all the fine particles that are found suspended in raw honey. These include pollen grains, wax and propolis. More often than not, heat is also used in the process of filtration as it makes the process quicker by allowing it to pass through the filter faster as it is in a more liquid form.
The honey pasteurisation process
Pasturing is the heating of honey to a high temperature. This process destroys the natural properties of the honey, eliminates many of the phytonutrients of raw honey. Heating honey in this manner not only kills rich nutrients in the raw honey, pasteurisation reduces the flavour and original heavenly scent of genuine honey.
Pasteurisation and filtration are used to make the honey look cleaner and more attractive on the shelf. This process also reduces the honey viscosity due to the honey being warmer, making it easier to handle and package.
In many ways, pasteurised honey no longer has the elements that make it raw honey, making commercially produced honey a refined facsimile of real honey.
Real honey from Australian beekeepers
Raw honey is produced by beekeepers such as AB’s Honey in Brisbane.
When you buy honey from AB’s Honey and other beekeepers you can bee sure, the honey has been extracted from local Australian hives and minimally processed. Raw or Real honey retains the natural ingredients of honey (pollen, wax, propolis and royal jelly) and thus providing nature’s true benefits of 100% real nutritious honey.
What is minimal processing of raw honey?
In case you are wondering is meant by minimal processing, it is the gentle low temperature warming of the honey. This process allows the honey to flow sufficiently enough for bottling – without removing any of its goodness.
In this process a light straining may also be used to remove larger particles that may have been collected at the time of extracting the honey. Particles include leaves and other non-honey debris.
Minimal processing does not change the natural composition of the honey. It maintains all the natural health benefits and nutritional value. It also maintains the delicious taste, the wonderful aroma and texture that only comes with 100% natural, pure raw honey.
How to recognise raw honey
Compared to commercially produced honey, Australian raw honey may have a slightly cloudy appearance as it contains fine textured crystals, particles of honeycomb and flecks of pollen. Depending on the variety (the species of tree the nectar was predominantly sourced from) of honey, raw honey may begin to crystallise during storage in the pantry. Some will begin to crystallise within weeks such as Yapunya or Canola. Others may take months (Macadamia or Tea Tree), whilst others will take years (Yellow Box and many Eucalypts). The raw honey may start to cloud and crystalise gaining a more granular texture which many people prefer; however it won’t change the flavour or nutritional value.
How to test if your honey is fake or raw
Here are four simple ways to test if your honey is fake honey or raw honey.
- Drop a teaspoon of honey into a glass of water. Fake honey will immediately start to dissolve, whilst raw honey will drop to the bottom of the glass intact.
- Place a drop of room temperature or cooler honey on your finger, If the ‘honey’ spreads then it is fake honey. If it holds its composition and remains a drop, then it is raw true honey.
- If you have had your honey for some time and it remains a syrup then it may be fake honey. Most real honey crystallises over time.
- Finally, dip an unlit matchstick into your honey. Remove it and strike it to see if it will light. A matchstick dipped in raw honey will light with the flame burning off the honey. A matchstick dipped in fake honey will not successfully strike. This is because there is too much moisture in the ‘honey’.
Quality Australian raw honey
People often ask “what is raw honey?”. They may also ask “what is real honey”, “what is natural honey” or “what is pure honey”. This post has explained the difference between these and fake honey.
Now that you know the value of raw honey, if you are looking to buy raw honey online, we encourage you to only buy natural honey products produced and supplied by beekeepers across Australia.
The products available for sale Simply Honey online honey store are sourced from AB’s Honey, renowned beekeepers and packers of exclusively Australian, exceptional quality raw, real and natural Australian honey.
You may wish to try AB’s Honey Manuka Honey which is the strongest raw honey for sale that we have found on the market. At 900+ methylglyoxal, it is a premium quality Australian Manuka Honey offering a range of health benefits.
If you’re looking for real raw honeycomb we have this available too.