- Manuka honey is monofloral and comes from the nectar of the Manuka bush, native to New Zealand.
- Honey color is categorized according to the Pfund Scale. Manuka tends to fall under the “dark amber” category.
- Manuka honey color can depend on many factors, including the hive’s location, weather patterns, the bees’ diet and behavior, and beekeeping practices.
Prized for its unique taste and abundant wellness benefits, Manuka honey is one of the rarest and most valuable kinds of honey in the world. But what gives this honey its distinctive dark color? And does all Manuka honey have the same hue?
Let’s take a look at color variation in Manuka honey and talk about how it happens.
What Gives Manuka Honey Its Color?
Manuka honey is made by Western honeybees that forage on the flowers of Manuka trees (Leptospermum scoparium), which are native to New Zealand.
One thing that gives Manuka honey its unique darker color is that it’s a monofloral honey. That means it’s produced predominantly using the nectar of one type of flower. Manuka flowers possess a powerful antibacterial compound called methylglyoxal (MGO), which stays potent even as that nectar is transformed into Manuka honey.
The result? A dark, rich honey that’s rich in wellness-promoting properties.
Manuka honey is known for its golden to dark brown color and delightfully earthy, rich taste. It’s less sweet than your common grocery store honey, as well as more viscous, giving it a firmer, caramel-like texture.
How Is Manuka Honey Color Tested?
Honey can have a wide range of colors, depending on the bees' diet and how the honey is processed. Many kinds of honey, including Manuka honey, are color tested using the Pfund scale, a standardized way of measuring honey color.
Essentially, a sample of honey is color-matched against glass wedges in varying shades of amber.
There are seven different honey color categorizations, including:
- Water white
- Extra white
- Extra light amber
- Light amber
- Dark amber
It’s important to note that each color grade has a range of shades. So, just because two types fall into the “light amber” category doesn’t mean they’re the same color — it just means they both fall within the same category on the Pfund scale.
What Color Grade Is Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey usually falls under the “dark amber” category, meaning it qualifies as dark honey. These are generally thicker, creamier, and darker in color than lighter varieties. Another interesting thing about dark honey is that it often has more beneficial compounds than light honey (like the occurrence of MGO in Manuka honey).
However, it’s important to note that not all Manuka honey is necessarily dark brown. Some Manuka products may have a lighter color. Ours here at Manukora, for example, has a dark caramel-like hue.
Is Darker Manuka Honey Better?
It is not necessarily the case that lighter Manuka is less potent than darker varieties. It comes down to MGO level and authenticity testing.
As long as the product is properly tested for its potency and is authenticated according to the markers set out by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), you should be getting a genuine Manuka honey product.
We rigorously test our Manuka honey to verify its authenticity and MGO level. Plus, we test to ensure every single batch of our honey is free of pesticides.
All of our products come with a QR scan code where you can see exactly where the honey comes from, get the results from its testing, and even meet the beekeeper who helped produce it.
What Causes Color Variations in Manuka Honey?
Honey is a bit like fine wine. Its taste, color, and consistency can be affected by geographic, environmental, and weather factors.
Of course, high-quality Manuka honey should have some color consistency. But you may still find slight variations in hue, depending on the company, its hive locations, and the year the honey was produced.
Color differences can be caused by:
Location and climate: Conditions in different regions of New Zealand vary, potentially causing slight changes in Manuka honey color. For example, one hive location might have a hotter microclimate, while another may experience colder weather with heavy rains.
Weather: Seasonal rainfall, sunlight, and general weather conditions can impact Manuka flower production, not to mention honey color.
Other nectar sources: While bees that make Manuka honey mostly feast on Manuka flowers, they may also forage from a few other plants, resulting in distinct honey colors.
Nature and behavior: Sometimes, even the same hives will create different colored honey year after year due to slight changes in nature and colony behavior.
Age of the honey: Speaking of honey being like fine wine, as Manuka honey ages, it gets darker, and its flavor deepens over time.
- Beekeeping practices: Beekeeping practices can have an impact on the color of the honey. For example, many beekeepers harvest honey before the bees can cure and dry it fully. Then they need to artificially dehydrate the honey, which can affect its color, not to mention damage the honey’s naturally-occurring beneficial compounds.
At Manukora, we allow nature to take its course and let the bees do what they do best: Cure and dry the raw honey until it’s just right. We believe working with nature through ethical beekeeping creates a more plentiful, delicious, and sustainable harvest.
Our raw Manuka honey has a rich, creamy taste and is packed with naturally occurring beneficial compounds to support your health.
Manuka honey is not always the same exact color. There may be variations in Manuka honey color from one hive to the next or even within the same hive from year to year. Ultimately, Manuka honey color can depend on several factors, including the hive’s location and climate, weather patterns, the bee’s diet and behavior, and even beekeeping practices.
The good news is most reputable companies do test their Manuka honey for proper color, consistency, and authenticity, ensuring you get a genuine product.
Ready to try Manuka honey for yourself? Explore our best-selling honey products here.
Looking to learn more about this super honey and the bees responsible? Check out our blog for everything you need to know.
Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview | PMC
What is the typical color of honey? Honey is classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture into seven color categories | National Honey Board