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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Honey handling and storage


The combination of climate and flora will produce distinctive honey types. Different honeys have different aromas and flavours that derive from their plant source. In many countries it is possible to identify specific agro-ecological zones that produce specific types of honey. Blended honey is frequently less attractive to consumers, so may not command such a high price, as honey with a strong regional identity. These identifiable sources of honey may have unique marketability.   Honey consolidators and packers should be aware of the potential value of special types and flavours of honey and endeavour to keep them separate.


The methods used for extracting, processing and storing honey can profoundly affect its quality. The demand for clean pure, high quality honey that is not adulterated or contaminated is central for winning reliable, profitable honey markets. At all points in the harvesting, extracting, transporting, consolidating storage and packing of honey care must be taken to avoid the risk of spoilage or contamination that will reduce honey quality. These risks can be easily identified with a little thought and it does not have to be made a difficult or complicated process. The official name for this process is Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).


Exposure of honey to heat will damage honey irreparably, killing the medicinal components and raising the HMF (hydroxymethylfufuraldehyde) which is a direct measure of the age and quality of the honey. In some places honey is traditionally boiled, heated in the sun or extracted using fire or heat. All these processes will destroy the enzymes that are responsible for the medicinal value of honey. Pasteurisation and ultra-filtration of honey to prevent granulation will also destroy the subtle flavours and medicinal properties of honey.


Over time the subtle elements that give the fine flavours disappear leaving just a nondescript sweetness. Strong honey flavours last longer than the milder flavours. The flavour and quality of honey is affected markedly by the conditions under which it is stored. If the water content of the honey is too high then honey will be spoiled by fermentation. Honey is hygroscopic (that is, it absorbs water from the air). Consequently it must be stored in airtight containers to prevent spoilage. Storage at high temperatures will hasten the loss of quality of the honey and will speed up fermentation in high water content honey.


Honey should be stored in clean containers made of food grade materials which can include local natural materials. Metal containers (that are not stainless steel) or cheap, coloured plastic buckets are not good for storage as the acidity of the honey can cause the colouring or other chemicals to leak from the containers into the honey.




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