Manuka Honey is made from the flowering Manuka trees nectar, a native New Zealand tree. The Manuka tree has a white flower, sometimes tinged with pink.
In the Taranaki region, the Manuka trees bloom from mid-December to mid-January, depending on the season. The hives are moved to the area just ahead of the start of the flowering of the Manuka trees so the bees are in place and ready to forage as the nectar becomes available.
Honeybees forage for nectar when the weather is good. Warm temperatures, with daytime highs in the 70s, and nighttime lows above the mid-50s, are required for the plants to present nectar at the flower. Rain or high winds can keep the bees from getting out to forage, so weather conditions are critical during the 4-6 weeks that the Manuka is typically in flower each year.
Bees forage specifically for the nectar of the Manuka flower to make honey. Pollen is also collected as a food source and stored separately from the nectar. Forager bees collect the nectar and pass it on to younger hive bees upon returning to the hive. It begins by moving the nectar to honeycomb cells, depositing it along with the enzymes the bees produce. The incoming nectar is about 70% water, which must be evaporated down to 20% or lower to turn the nectar into honey. The nectar is mostly sucrose, which is broken down by the bee's enzymes into glucose and fructose.
The bees evaporate most of the moisture from the honey by rapidly beating their wings over the honey cells, aided by the warm temperatures (95 degrees) within the hive. Then, as the honey is dried, the bees produce wax and cap the cell to prevent it from reabsorbing moisture, thereby protecting it from mold and preventing fermentation.
The flowering, weather forecast, and the progress of the honey-making in the hive are closely monitored through the summer. Then when the timing is right, the process of moving the hives out of the Manuka sites and harvesting the honey begins.
The honey boxes are removed from the hives and transported to the processing facility. Grouped by harvest area, the honey is weighed, tagged, and cataloged. The boxes are stored in a "warm room," which simulates the inner hive temperature to keep the honey liquid for extraction. Extracting the honey from the comb involves three basic steps, piercing the wax seal on each cell, spinning at high speed to force the honey out of the cells, and filtering the wax from the honey. After extraction, it is ready to be packed into jars.
There are many types of Manuka honey adulteration, such as adding colorants to make the honey appear a specific color, corn syrup, cane syrup, beet syrup, rice syrup, honey from flowers other than Manuka, and many more.
Honey is the world's third most adulterated food product; it would take a whole book to go through all of the issues and history of honey adulteration.
In addition, often, the country of origin of the honey is mislabeled.
Check out the documentary series Rotten on Netflix; the first episode is about honey; it is an excellent way of understanding many of the issues surrounding honey.
Check out our Farm-To-Bottle Project to learn about the importance of true traceability.
Every batch of Manuka honey should be third-party tested for various compounds such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, heavy metals, antibiotic residue, adulterants, and country of origin.
Look for companies that provide the test results on each batch and the testing methods used to ensure they are the correct ones.
Most manuka honey is packaged in soft plastic to save money on shipping and packaging costs. While many of these soft plastics claim to be BPA-free, they often have other components that can be just as unhealthy. We contacted a number of companies selling Manuka honey in plastic, and none of them properly tested their containers to make sure there was no leaching. So, avoid buying manuka honey and other liquid foods and beverages in soft plastic containers.
Labeling of Manuka honey products can be very confusing, and finding a properly labeled one can often be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Often seen on the labels of Manuka Honey products are abbreviations or terms such as MGO (Methylglyoxal), NPA, DHA UMF, MG, and others.
Some companies have even started making up fake certifications and measurements that have no real meaning, such as "Bio Active 15+", "High Active," "Active 15+," or "K Factor 16," which are intended to make you think they are certified or tested correctly, but in fact, they are nothing more than words and numbers on a page created by the company.
So, just because a jar says Manuka Honey and lists lots of fancy numbers or terms does not mean it is a good product. Marketing can conceal a lot of issues with a product.
So what do various measurements and numbers mean?
There are only two legitimate ways to label Manuka Honey, MG/MGO or UMF.
MG/MGO (Methylglyoxal) - Manuka honey should either be labeled with the actual MG test results (in mg/kg) or with a correlated rating on the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) scale. The UMF trademark must be on the jar if they use a UMF rating instead of the actual MG test result.
Honey labeled with the UMF logo and rating is also tested for two additional chemical markers (HMF & Leptosperin). The relationship between MG & UMF is as follows (after threshold HMF and Leptosperin levels are met):
When you see anything else on a honey label purporting to be Manuka honey, you should steer clear. Examples of what continues to show up on labels include “Active”, “Bio-Active”, “Total Activity ”, “K-Factor ” plus a number typically ranging from 5+ to 20+. When labeled this way the company is trying to intentionally mislead the consumer into thinking they are getting a high MG (or legitimate UMF) honey when in reality they are typically getting a very low concentration, or low activity (i.e., low MG value) honey. The label must use the MG/MGO (or Methylglyoxal) letters on the label or it is not an actual measurement of that.
Active 15+ - Not a regulated term (great marketing, though) and can be put on anything. It does not tell you what the actual MGO or UMF levels are.
KFactor conveys the purity of honey by measuring the percentage of pollen in it, which is manuka pollen. It does not measure MGO and UMF. KFactor is a great marketing term, but not a measure of a honey's potency.
Manuka honey is the ONLY honey in the world with meaningful levels of MG. The amount of MG in a Manuka honey determines its value. If your honey has low levels (or no levels) of MG, it really shouldn't cost you more than any other table honey.
DHA (Dihydroxyacetone, different from the essential fatty acid DHA found in fish, Docosahexaenoic acid) - Some honey will also mention other scientific/compound disclosures, including DHA. While DHA is a precursor compound to MG, it cannot be correlated to the MG level and does not tell you the potency of the honey. So, putting DHA on the label is just another attempt to fool you. The same can be said for disclosures about pollen count or pollen percentage—they aren't accepted standards for measuring the activity of Manuka honey.
NPA (Non-Peroxide Antibacterial Activity) - This is present in many types of honey, the NPA activity of Manuka Honey is measured by its MGO activity. Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA) values are not directly measured by the lab but are calculated from the measured methylglyoxal concentration in the honey. The calculation is based on published data comparing the NPA and methylglyoxal concentrations measured in a range of honey samples. These calculated values are not accredited by IANZ and do not imply that the honey is or is not manuka honey. Companies listing NPA instead of MG or MGO activity could be mixing several types of honey, so it is not a good idea to rely on this measurement, stick to looking at the MG/MGO measurement. Listing NPA activity on the label is another trick companies often use to make a Manuka Honey appear more potent than it actually is or to cover up for a product with very low levels of MG/MGO.
Make sure that the company can provide third-party test results on each batch, not just one batch, confirming the claims on the label, or you should not trust them. Not every batch may measure the same potency, one of many reasons you should not trust a company that tests one batch and uses that test result for all of their batches. Click the button below to see a good third-party test result.
True Manuka Honey only comes from New Zealand, from the flower of one particular species of Manuka, Leptospermum Scoparium.
Australian "Manuka" honey comes from a variety of Leptospermum species. These will have different bioactive compounds and varying levels of them. It is not comparable to true New Zealand Manuka Honey.
In an article written by the UMF Honey Association, they leave the reader asking a simple question:
"Why have some operators in the Australian honey industry decided to adopt the name ‘Australian manuka’ for Leptospermum honey, given that the honeys are distinct, and those differences are readily detected by consumers? The decision to do so is clearly not supported by science, is misleading and, at worst, could be cynically viewed as an attempt to deceive consumers."
Any company claiming to sell Australian Manuka honey is full of s**t.
As with sourcing any product, the first and most important thing to consider is how it affects the people growing or harvesting it and the environment. No matter how good a finished product is, if it causes suffering to the people producing it or damages the environment, it is not worth it. There is no reason to compromise on these areas. Corporations often try to make us feel as if we need to choose. They are wrong. We should never sacrifice our ethics to save a few dollars or make things easier.
When it comes to Manuka honey, it is essential to know exactly where your honey comes from. You should buy from companies who own their own hives, not companies who buy through middlemen.
Knowing who cares for the hives and harvests the honey is the only way to find out if the honey is produced ethically. If companies are buying from many suppliers and mixing honey from different sellers, you will not be able to find out the ethical practices of the individual apiaries.
If the honey is blended from various suppliers or vendors, there is simply no way to track this. Ideally, each bottle of honey should have a batch or lot number that allows you to trace it from hive to bottle. This is incredibly important with Manuka Honey.
You want to buy honey from companies and apiaries that are not giving the bees antibiotics, corn syrup, or overworking them.
In addition to supporting charities and groups that are working towards saving the bees, we only buy and sell herbal and other food supplements grown and harvested without using these pesticides.
While you may not always be able to know whether the foods you buy are grown without these pesticides, there are some simple everyday steps you can take to reduce the use of these.
Number two, urge your local hardware and garden supply store to stop selling products containing those ingredients.
With the collapse of bee populations worldwide, knowing that you are only buying honey from companies that are good stewards of the bees and the planet is so important.
We searched for a long time to find a source of Manuka honey that met our ethical, sustainability, quality, and efficacy standards. After a nearly six-month search, we finally found a small company that did all the right things. Their model fits perfectly with what we believe.
Bees and Trees Manuka Honey is a true Hive to Bottle honey. They own their own hives, and each has a unique RFID chip so they can monitor and keep track of each hive. Each bottle of honey can be traced back to the actual hive it came from. This means you know exactly where your honey came from. It is not a mix of various countries, batches, and origins. When Manuka Honey is mixed together from lots of suppliers and batches, it is much easier for it to get adulterated and contaminated. Using a hive-to-bottle product, you always know where your honey comes from. It's100% pure, high MGO Manuka Honey from the Taranaki region of New Zealand.
With all of the issues facing the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, it is important that beekeepers care for their bees and do not overwork them or subject them to harsh conditions or environments.
The bees are not put in areas with heavy pesticide or herbicide use. Bees & Trees is region-specific honey produced in Taranaki, which is on the west-central part of the North Island. The areas they produce their Manuka honey are remote even by New Zealand standards. Much of the land either borders on or is part of publicly-owned native forest reserves.
The hives are consistently inspected to ensure they are free of disease, and the queens are strong. Did you know a single, healthy hive can grow from 10,000 bees in the winter to over 50,000 bees during the flowering seasons?
The bees are not given unneeded antibiotics and are not treated with harsh chemicals just to increase production. The bees are not fed corn syrup or foods that are not part of their natural diet. The bees are not overworked and are allowed to rest during the winter. They work with organizations that are trying to protect and save bee populations. It is incredibly important that any company that produces honey or other bee products treat their bees well and take good care of them.
As with every product, proper quality control is essential to producing a great product. The first step in making great Manuka Honey is having control of your own supply and taking great care of your bees.
Since they have their own hives and control the process from hive to bottle, they do not have to worry about many issues facing companies who buy from brokers or middlemen and use mixed batches of products.
This does not mean that they do not need to test the product, though. Every batch of their honey is third-party tested. Since they test each batch individually, you will see different MGO numbers on different batches, which is a sign that they are not using different brokers or middlemen to standardize the batches, nor are they faking the testing or using one test and using it for all batches.
They extract the honey and bottle it in glass jars (not cheap soft plastic) at their facility, unlike most Manuka honey companies who buy a finished product and have it bottled for them.
Complete transparency and control from hive to bottle and multiple third-party certifications and tests are done on each batch. How many other Manuka Honey companies can say that?
Manuka Honey has tremendous potential to help so many people. However, that promise can only come to fruition if a product is pure and potent.
If you want to experience all of the nourishment that Manuka honey offers, you need to ensure you are getting Manuka honey that is pure and potent.
We are proud to be working closely with Bees & Trees to provide you with a Manuka honey that brings you all of the health benefits that Manuka Honey is known for, while helping to improve the environment and ensure that bees will be around for generations to come. If you have any questions about manuka honey, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to get you the answers you need!