Dark Honey vs. Light Honey: What Are the Differences?

Dark Honey vs. Light Honey: What Are the Differences?
Executive Summary
  • Honey gets its color from the plants and flowers the bees consume, and can range from colorless to dark amber.
  • The color of honey is measured on the Pfund scale, in which the color is compared to amber glass.
  • Dark honey tends to be more potent, have a lower moisture content, and have a unique flavor.


You may wonder what makes light and dark honey different, including what gives darker honey its unique look and texture? We’re here to lay it all out. 

Here’s what you need to know about dark honey versus light honey.


How Does Honey Get Its Color?

There are hundreds of honey types with a range of colors, textures, and tastes. When it comes to color, different kinds of honey can range in hue from nearly clear and colorless to dark brown. 

So what gives each honey its distinct color and taste? That comes down to the specific flowers honeybees forage on. Some flowers, such as clovers, produce lighter honey. Other flowers, like those from chestnut trees, make darker honey.  


How Is Honey Color Measured?

How do you know if honey is dark or light? It’s helpful to begin by understanding how honey color is measured.

The Pfund scale is a standardized way of grading honey color. 

A honey sample is placed in a wedge of glass and is then compared to a wedge of amber glass. The reading is the distance (in millimeters) the wedge with the honey travels to find its color match. 

What are the different honey colors according to the Pfund scale?

  • Water white: 0 mm to 8 mm
  • Extra white: 9 mm to 17 mm
  • White: 18 mm to 34 mm
  • Extra light amber: 35 mm to 50 mm
  • Light amber: 51 mm to 85 mm
  • Amber: 86 mm to 114 mm 
  • Dark amber: 115 mm to 140 mm


What Is Dark Honey?

Dark honey typically falls under the “dark amber” category of the Pfund scale. It is a dark amber to brown color and tends to be richer and thicker in texture than its lighter counterparts. Dark honey also tends to have a stronger, more robust flavor than light honey's milder taste. 

Here are some popular dark honey varieties:

  • Avocado honey: This honey, made from the blossoms of avocado trees, has a rich, buttery taste and molasses-like texture.

  • Buckwheat honey: Buckwheat flowers make this honey ultra-dark with a strong flavor and lasting aftertaste.

  • Chestnut honey: This almost-brown honey is known for its mildly sweet, unique flavor and low glycemic index (GI).

  • Coffee honey: With its dark amber coloring and coffee-tinged flavor, this honey is a favorite for coffee lovers. 

  • Heather honey: Made in Scotland and Greece, heather honey has a dark amber color and a slightly bitter taste. Many like to pair it with a good whiskey.

  • Manuka honey: Native to New Zealand, this rare honey is made from the nectar of Manuka flowers. The high concentration of beneficial flavanoids give Manuka it’s dark coloring. With a dark, creamy texture and a bold flavor profile with hints of toffee and caramel, enjoying Manuka honey is a one-of-a-kind sensory experience


What Are the Benefits of Dark Honey?

Dark honey tends to contain a higher concentration of antioxidants than light honey. 

Research from the University of Illinois found that buckwheat honey contains 20 times the antioxidants found in regular store-bought honey, such as those made from California sage. 

And that’s not all. Darker honey also typically contains more beneficial compounds, like essential vitamins and minerals, prebiotics, and more. 

For example, Manuka honey is best known for containing methylglyoxal (MGO), a powerful, naturally-occurring compound with antibacterial properties, and it isn’t found in other honey. Manuka also has extremely high antioxidant properties thanks to it’s high concentrations of Leptosperin. That’s thanks to the unique characteristics of the Manuka tree. 

The Manuka flowers contain DHA, the compound that makes MGO possible and gives Manuka honey its wellness-supporting abilities. 


Dark Honey vs. Light Honey: Key Differences 

Dark Honey Is Darker in Color: Obviously, dark honey is darker in color than light honey. To qualify as “dark,” the honey has to rate as “dark amber” on the Pfund color scale.

Dark Honey Tastes Stronger: Dark honey has a stronger flavor and a thicker, creamier texture. Because it’s often more beneficial for wellness, dark honey can sometimes taste slightly bitter, especially when you compare it to light honey's sweeter, milder taste. But this deeper flavor can have a major upside. Dark honey is a rare, decadent, and healthy treat. 

Dark Honey Has Added Health Benefits: The abovementioned beneficial compounds are generally more prevalent in darker honey, such as the MGO found in Manuka honey. 

Dark Honey Has Less Water: Dark honey tends to have a lower water content than lighter honey, meaning it’s often more potent and powerful per ounce. 

Many honey manufacturers harvest honey before the bees have had a chance to dehydrate it naturally. The honey must be artificially dehydrated to remove moisture, which can reduce its beneficial properties. 

At Manukora, we believe in letting the bees finish their natural process. We don’t harvest the honey until the bees have had a chance to properly cure and dehydrate it, allowing it to retain its incredible properties. We believe that by working with nature, we can have a more positive impact on the environment. 



Honey can have a variety of colors, textures, and tastes depending on the specific flowers honey bees use to make it. Dark honey is rated “dark amber” on the Pfund color scale, and it’s typically darker in color and bolder in taste than light honey. 

Dark honey also often has added health benefits, with higher levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, like the MGO found in Manuka honey.

So, which is better? That depends on individual tastes and what you plan to use the honey for. Light honey might make sense if you’re simply looking for a better-than-sugar sweetener for your daily tea. 

But if you’re looking to support your health and well-being, it’s hard to beat the dark deliciousness and unique benefits of raw Manuka honey. 

Ready to try Manuka honey for yourself? Explore our best-selling Manuka honey products here


What is the typical color of honey? Honey is classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture into seven color categories | The Honey Board

United States Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey | USDA

Types of honey by flower source and flavor; and where to get them | Local Honey Finder

Dark Honey Has More Illness-Fighting Agents Than Light Honey | ScienceDaily

Dynamics of the Cellular Metabolism of Leptosperin Found in Manuka Honey | PMC

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