Mānuka honey, what is it?

Mānuka honey, what is it? 

Mānuka honey is becoming a well known product around the world, but what actually is it? 

Mānuka honey is:

  • A floral honey produced from bees collecting the nectar of the Mānuka tree 
  • An authentic product of New Zealand that must be certified
  • Different to regular honey 
  • Packed with healing benefits and antibacterial qualities
  • Read on to find out more

    Mānuka (New Zealand Tea Tree) 

    The word Mānuka (pronounced mah-noo-kah) refers to the Leptospermum Scoparium tree, or the New Zealand Tea Tree. Mānuka is the Māori name and the most common term when referring to this special tree (including in English). Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, were the first to discover the Mānuka tree. Mānuka honey is produced by bees pollinating the Mānuka tree flowers and collecting the nectar as they go. This special tree only flowers between 2 - 6 weeks in the summer making Mānuka honey an extremely rare honey to produce.

     The Mānuka tree (Leptospermum Scoparium) in flower

     

    Authentic Mānuka honey comes from Aotearoa (New Zealand)

    Genuine Mānuka honey can only be produced in Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. It’s similar to how sparkling wine can only be called ‘champagne’ if it comes from the Champagne region in France (a region well-known for producing the best sparkling wine). So you could say, New Zealand Mānuka is the Champagne of honey.

    It is well known some of the highest quality Mānuka honey comes from what Beekeepers call ‘The Golden Triangle’ of New Zealand. The triangle spans from Taranaki on the West Coast, across to the wild East Cape and to the top of the North Island in Northland. To identify New Zealand Mānuka Honey, there is a special combination of naturally occurring compounds (more on this below) and a unique DNA marker which only shows if it’s from New Zealand Mānuka tree nectar. 

    New Zealand has strict guidelines in place to authenticate Mānuka honey which are set by the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). Only MPI approved laboratories can test and confirm the honey’s authenticity, so if your Mānuka Honey is ‘MPI Certified’, you know it’s genuine. Find MPI’s helpful infographic here for more details.

     

    Mānuka honey is different to regular honey, but how? 

    The majority of honey found on the supermarket shelf is honey that is produced from a wide variety of floral sources (ie flowers)  such as acacia, clover or other wildflowers. Generally, this type of honey comes in a golden, translucent and syrupy form which is the result of heavy processing and filtration. 

    Mānuka honey, on the other hand, is from a single floral source (the New Zealand Mānuka tree) and is often referred to as ‘raw honey’ due to the low amount of processing and filtration. It’s these two qualities that make Mānuka honey different to regular honey and give it it’s unique healing properties. 

    Quality Mānuka honey comes from hives placed in remote regions

    Beehives destined for Mānuka honey are often placed in remote regions where the Mānuka tree flourishes and is dense in population. This increases the chance the bees will collect nectar from the Mānuka tree flowers. It also ensures the hives are far away from urban areas that can contain pollutants. The East Cape in the North Island is an area that is particularly famous for dense Mānuka forests and producing high quality Mānuka honey. Beekeeper Bryce explains this in our film found on our homepage here. 

     

    Beehives are placed in a remote area on the East Cape where the Mānuka tree flourishes 

     

    What is special about Mānuka honey? A special combination of MGO and UMF

    Unlike other honeys, Mānuka honey contains an antibacterial compound called methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO is the key natural marker found in Mānuka that indicates potency and purity. A higher MGO number means more antibacterial activity (stronger product). You must look for the MGO number on the label to ensure it has been tested for this important compound.

    The second quality mark you might see on Mānuka honey jars is the UMF number. UMF stands for Unique Mānuka Factor and is an additional grading system that appraises natural markers found in Mānuka honey. MGO is a key part of the UMF rating system; the higher the MGO number, the higher the UMF rating.
    In addition to MGO, the UMF quality system also appraises other natural markers in the honey for additional assurance of quality and purity.. For more information on UMF, visit UMF Honey Association.

    This Manukora Raw Mānuka Honey has a high grade of UMF (15+) and high levels of MGO (500+) meaning it is full of immune boosting and antibacterial properties

    Mānuka honey is a special honey that is rare and extremely hard to produce. It contains unique healing properties that require care and dedication to retain. A true immune booster, it is worthy of investment for all of the health benefits it contains. Just look out for quality and authenticity marks when purchasing your New Zealand Mānuka honey.

    If you have Mānuka honey at home, find our recent blog post here that might answer some of your questions on Mānuka honey textures.

    References: 

    Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)

    Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association