What is Manuka Honey?
Manuka honey is becoming a well known product around the world, but what actually is it?
Manuka Honey is:
- A floral honey produced from bees collecting the nectar of the Manuka tree.
- An authentic product of New Zealand that must be certified.
- Different to regular honey.
Manuka (New Zealand Tea Tree)
The word Manuka (pronounced mah-noo-kah) refers to the Leptospermum Scoparium tree, or the New Zealand Tea Tree. Manuka 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 Manuka tree. Manuka honey is produced by bees pollinating the Manuka tree flowers and collecting the nectar as they go. This special tree only flowers between 2 - 6 weeks in the summer making Manuka honey an extremely rare honey to produce.
Authentic Manuka honey comes from Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Genuine Manuka 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 Manuka is the Champagne of honey.
It is well known some of the highest quality Manuka 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 Manuka 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 Manuka tree nectar.
New Zealand has strict guidelines in place to authenticate Manuka 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 Manuka Honey is ‘MPI Certified’, you know it’s genuine. Find MPI’s helpful infographic here for more details.
Manuka 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 (i.e. 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.
Manuka honey, on the other hand, is from a single floral source (the New Zealand Manuka 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 Manuka honey different to regular honey and give it it’s unique healing properties.
Quality Manuka honey comes from hives placed in remote regions
Beehives destined for Manuka honey are often placed in remote regions where the Manuka tree flourishes and is dense in population. This increases the chance the bees will collect nectar from the Manuka 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 Manuka forests and producing high quality Manuka honey. Beekeeper Bryce explains this in our film found on our homepage here.
What is special about Manuka honey? A special combination of MGO and UMF
Unlike other honeys, Manuka honey contains an antibacterial compound called methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO is the key natural marker found in Manuka 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 Manuka honey jars is the UMF number. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor and is an additional grading system that appraises natural markers found in Manuka 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 Manuka Honey has a high grade of UMF (20+) and high levels of MGO (850+) meaning it is full of immune boosting and antibacterial properties
Manuka 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 Manuka honey.
If you have Manuka honey at home, find our recent blog post here that might answer some of your questions on Manuka honey textures.