What’s the difference between fake honey and raw honey?
There is often confusion about the differences between raw honey, natural honey, pure honey, real honey and so-called ‘fake’ honey.
Put simply, raw, natural, pure, unfiltered, and real honey is essentially the same thing – 100% honey. This means is the honey in the jar was made by bees, not in a factory.
Fake honey 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 any bee honey at all, instead being manufactured of a mix of glucose syrups, inverted sugar solutions (from refined sugar) or corn, cane or beet syrup.
Now that we have explained what fake honey is, let’s look at the differences in pure, raw and real honey. There is a rough hierarchy of different bee honey types that are available to buy, with the top of the hierarchy being 100% genuine natural honey or raw honey.
What is raw honey?
Raw honey comes directly from the beehives and goes through minimal processing. In its truest sense, raw honey is taken directly from the honeycomb, untouched by human hands and with nothing added. This type of honey can also be called raw unfiltered honey.
Most honey sold as raw honey in Australia is minimally processed bee honey that 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 (FSANZ) 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 it still contains all the valuable natural properties of real bee honey, including the health benefits of this delicious, nutritious food created by nature. When a recipe calls for raw honey, this is the type they are recommending.
At Australian Beekeepers’ Honey, we only sell raw honey. Our honey is unpasteurised, offering you the highest quality pure Australian honey available.
From Manuka Honey to our raw table honeys including yellow box honey and ironbark honey (a favourite), to macadamia honey or our tea tree honey, you can be sure that AB’s Honey is real Australian honey from real Australian beekeepers!
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 likely to contain pollen grains, wax and propolis.
At ABs Honey, our raw honey has minimal processing. The honey we receive directly from our beekeepers is only 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 that 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, reducing the production cost and price;
- often has a high composition of water diluting the honey, again used to increase the volume of the product 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 unprocessed raw honey is that commercially 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 and to remove any “specks” from the honey – essentially to increase its 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 fine filtration to remove all the 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 to make the honey more liquid and speed up the process.
The honey pasteurisation process
Pasteurising is the heating of honey to a high temperature. This process destroys the natural properties of the honey and eliminates many of the phytonutrients of raw honey. Heating honey in this manner not only kills rich nutrients in the raw honey, but pasteurisation also 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 be 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 provides nature’s true benefits of 100% real nutritious honey.
What is minimal processing of raw honey?
In case you are wondering what is meant by minimal processing, it is the gentle low-temperature warming of the honey – just enough 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, bits of wax, 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, and 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 due to the fine textured crystals, particles of honeycomb and flecks of pollen. Depending on the variety of honey (the species of tree or flower the nectar was predominantly sourced from), raw honey may begin to crystallise during storage in the pantry. Some will begin to crystallise within weeks, such as Yapunya or Canola Honey. Others may take months (Macadamia or Tea Tree Honey), whilst others will take years (Yellow Box and many Eucalypt Honeys). The raw honey may start to cloud and crystallise, gaining a more granular texture which many people prefer, but that 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?”. Hopefully this post has helped you learn how to tell the difference between these and fake honey.
Now that you know the value of real 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.
AB’s Honey Manuka Honey which is the strongest raw Manuka honey for sale that we have found on the market. With a methylglyoxal content of MGO 900+, 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. Enjoy!