What exactly is Manuka Honey?
Manuka Honey comes exclusively from New Zealand because that’s where flowering Manuka trees grow. To get Manuka Honey, beekeepers must move their hives into areas where the Manuka is the predominant vegetation type when the Manuka is starting to flower, typically spring to early summer depending on the region within New Zealand.
We watch closely as the season approaches and time the placement of their hives to maximize their exposure to the Manuka nectar flow. Even with all of this work, it’s still impossible to get 100% pure Manuka Honey out of a hive because there will inevitably be some non-Manuka nectar that the bees will get into. While fascinating creatures, the bees don’t listen very well, and we can’t tell them to only work the Manuka flowers.
Despite that, there are some techniques you can use when harvesting the honey to segregate honey coming from different areas of the hive to increase the concentration of Manuka Honey in a given batch. As experienced Manuka Honey producers with our own extraction operation, we’re quite good at maximizing our results.
What’s the fuss with Manuka Honey?
It's not hard to find someone singing the praises of Manuka Honey these days. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson credit it for their great complexions, while tennis star Novak Djokovic says it gives him a boost on the court.
There’s good reason for that. Doctors and researchers (as far back as 30 years ago) have found that Manuka Honey has unique bioactive properties not found in traditional honey. Scientists believe the bioactive properties support and boost the body’s own immune system, resulting in benefits ranging from fighting off the common cold, to wound care treatment for antibiotic resistant skin infections.But how do you know if you have genuine Manuka Honey?
While taste and color are our initial indicators, we need a scientific result. For that, we send samples from each of our batches to independent laboratories in New Zealand, and they test the honey for dietary Methylglyoxal.
Methylglyoxal: Manuka Honey’s Secret Ingredient
Dietary Methylglyoxal, abbreviated as MG or MGO, is a naturally occurring organic compound found in high concentrations in Manuka Honey. Test results are given as mg/kg, and the concentration of MG directly correlates to the health and wellness benefits of Manuka Honey. Typical tests come back anywhere from 100–250 mg/kg at the time of harvest, and then this concentration changes over time as a precursor organic compound in the honey (dihydroxyacetone, or DHA) converts to MG.
(Because of Manuka Honey’s tendency increase in activity with age, our Manuka Honey is stored for 1—2 years prior to being packed, labeled and shipped out. We like to think of our great Manuka Honey like a fine wine.)
Unfortunately, there are dishonest sellers who misrepresent the bioactivity of their honey. As a result, the New Zealand Government’s Ministry for Primary Industries has stepped in to regulate the labeling of Manuka Honey.
There are only two way proper and legal ways to label Manuka Honey:
We label our honey with the actual MG results, and choose not to participate in the UMF organization, which is mostly marketing hype, and is heavily influenced by one of the large Manuka honey packers. If you see anything else on a label of honey purporting to be Manuka Honey, it’s likely illegitimate. Watch out for sellers using labels such as Active XX+, Bio-Active XX+, NPA XX+ (Non Peroxide Activity), Total Activity XX+, K-Factor XX+ as they most likely are not selling true active Manuka honey.
Ask Where Your Honey Comes From
With unscrupulous sellers trying to pass-off counterfeit New Zealand honey, you'd be wise to ask where your honey comes from. Bees & Trees works with Oritain, an independent New Zealand laboratory, to certify the geographic origin of our honey. Oritain takes soil samples from our apiary sites and then matches these same markers in the honey produced from those sites.
This geochemical fingerprinting allows us to have independent certification of the geographic origin of our honey. Not just that it comes from New Zealand, which they can prove, but that it comes from a certain region in New Zealand, effectively putting a pin in the map. We think this is pretty cool science.
Blended Honey: Think Twice About What Happens Between the Hive and the Jar
The reason we’re able to make this additional investment in protecting the quality of our honey, while the big corporate players in the Manuka market are not, is because of a key aspect of their so-called production process: blending.
Much of the Manuka Honey sold under the big name labels is purchased in bulk from honey producers all over New Zealand. The honey is then blended to achieve a certain MG or UMF rating. Notice how producers will sell a 250, a 400, and a 550 MG honey, but never, say, a 430.
Most of the honey going into these “production batches” is probably Manuka Honey, but it doesn't need to be. Under the blended model, the goal is the rating number.
This is one of the reasons the primary package choice for a lot of Manuka Honey brands is a brown opaque plastic container. By using this package, these brands avoid the questions that would arise as different jars of what should be the same honey sitting on a retail shelf showing distinctly different coloring.
Our Manuka Honey is packed by extraction batch, hive-to-jar. No blending. No additional process steps. Our honey may have some variation in color and texture from batch to batch. Granulation of honey is natural and varies from batch to batch based on a number of factors related to the season. The way the bees make the honey is the way we give it to you. This ensures our honey has all the wonderful health benefits you'd expect, in addition to the added bonus of being a marvelous tasting gourmet food.
What you Need to Know when Buying Manuka Honey
Whether you're buying our Manuka Honey or someone else’s, we want you to be informed. To find a brand you can trust, you should check for the following criteria:
Our Promise to You
At Bees & Trees, we will always work diligently to produce what we think is the world’s finest jar of honey.
We do all of this so that we can provide you with a great-tasting, health-boosting honey in which you can have ultimate confidence.
PS: If you have any questions at all, ask us anything.