A Rarefied Treat That Offers a Delectable Education in Australia’s Ecology

Stirred into tea or spread on toast, T Australia puts some of the rarest and most delicious varieties of local honey to the test.

Article by Fred Siggins

Fresh honeycombsFresh honeycombs. Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

Australia is home to a dizzying array of honey styles, from the cheap supermarket stuff of questionable origin to brands with eye-watering price tags and a catalogue of health claims. We are lucky to have several well-protected unique species of bees and the flowers they love, making our corner of the world one of the great honey havens. Here, T Australia puts some of the rarest and most delicious varieties to the test.

Island Beehive, Spring Flora Honey

Ligurian honey bees, which originated in the Italian region from which they take their name, are regarded as one of the best honey-producing species thanks to their industry, fertility and gentleness. But as they were introduced to new environments, they bred with different bee species, exposing them to disease. Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia, is home to what is thought to be the last purebred and disease-free colony of Ligurian bees. The most traditional-tasting honey on this list, Island Beehive’s Spring Flora has a light, pleasant sweetness and a floral bouquet, making it perfect for everyday use. $4.90/80g, island-beehive.com.au

Nature’s Gold, Native Bee Honey

Australia’s native stingless bees produce some of the world’s rarest honey, generating about  one kilogram per hive per year, and they thrive only in the country’s tropical north. This honey is like no other, with a bright and citrusy-sour  smell that’s somewhere between kiwifruit and grapefruit, and an underlying red gum earthiness. Light and balanced, it’s the least sweet of this bunch and would be fantastic in a cup of Earl Grey or on crepes with lemon and sugar. $25/50g, naturesgold.com.au

Spilt honey. Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

Heritage Honey, Fennel

Tasmania might be best known for its lavender honey, but they do things differently at Heritage Honey in Hobart, where they make a variety of flower-specific products that allow each plant’s unique character to shine. Options include a funky leatherwood and milder stringybark, along with others made from the nectars of native plants. Arguably the most interesting is the fennel honey, which has a richly aromatic and herbal palate of toasted fennel seed that will turn a cup of tea into a serious flavour experience. And at just $0.024 per gram, it’s an absolute bargain. $6/250g, heritagehoney.com.au

Biosota, Exquisitely Unique Manuka Honey MGO 2000+

Sellers of manuka honey in Australia and New Zealand have long touted its healing abilities. Biosota’s MGO 2000+ is certified organic and has the highest level of MGO (methylglyoxal) — a compound shown to have antibacterial properties — that we could find. The company claims the product can help boost the immune system and even aid in conception. As this reviewer is not currently trying to get pregnant, I’ll leave that up for debate, but the honey itself is incredibly dark and rich, with a jamlike texture. The intensity of flavour — a rich fruitiness balanced by a lovely pithy bitterness — means that a thin scrape on toast is more than enough. $129/70g, biosota.com.au

Honey For Life, Super Active Jarrah Honey

Honey For Life measures the purported healing properties of its products not in MGO but in  TA (Total Activity), which is apparently “the measurement of the honey’s antimicrobial quality”. Super Active Jarrah Honey comes from the jarrah forest in Karragullen, just outside Perth, and has a TA rating of 50+ (the highest of all the company’s products). It gives off a deep eucalyptus smell, like the bush in autumn, and has a wonderful lingering woody sweetness that’s as Australian as a magpie’s warble. $25/260g, honeyforlife.com.au