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The purity of Australian honey



Like the proposition greatly. What do you think it will take?
How complex is assessing honey for source flora species?
And for Australian Tea Tree honey -

What percentage of the honey content needs to be from that tree?
Is it ok that it is collected by European honey bees that can range for many kilometres seeking flowers, or should it only be collected from native bee hives?

Tellingly most native plants only flower for very short periods of time. No doubt there is no such thing as pure brush box or stringy bark honey. The bees would starve for 10 or more months a year.

It would be useful to hear more from those that know to cut past the branding and hype.

Appreciate also the detail provided by phbriggs2000.


As a general statement it is ‘easier’ to make a small quantity of product and sell it at a market or region than it is to mass produce and distribute it nationally or internationally. Recipes/methods do not seem to scale to industrial levels which is why so much grocery food is ordinary compared to the market suppliers.

Products like honey that do not spoil are an anomaly but suppliers and groceries are up against the consumer who usually has a budget and will usually buy what they deem as cost effective or good value although sometimes we will opt for a product we really like regardless of price - within reason.

When I see a jar of honey for $5, $7 or $15 I am most likely to take the $7 one on the basis that the cheapest is usually marginal but the most expensive asks an exponential price for minimal ‘better’. This is psychology and business not honey per se. Just because honey might be considered a pure product does not mean it is a simple business to supply and sell it to the consumer market.


They move the bees to the areas they want to collect from. While perhaps not pure in the sense that a bee will tackle any nectar it can find, if you buy yellow box honey the bees have been placed in an area where the yellow box is very plentiful and is flowering thus the honey derives it’s flavour from the yellow box and is consistent in that taste across a number of different producers.

So if you put bees near as an example orange orchards you will get the honey flavour that is strongly orangey citrus. Many orchards and other farmers who rely on pollination for crop yields take advantage of the bees and use apiarists to ensure higher crop yields. Of course apiarists are concerned for the health of their bees and only supply their bees to crop producers who will not use insecticides during bee placements. Depending on what is cropped the honey may be blended to achieve a more general flavour and then typically is labelled as just honey.

The only time of the year that honey is not produced is in winter and that occurs only in cold areas as the bees are not tolerant of cold. During this time the boxes, frames, etc are repaired and made for the start of the next season. If you live in more tropical climes bees are active all year.


I think that it is very sad that Australian companies mix their honey without telling the consumer what they are purchasing.

Am in a fortunate position to purchase from local beekeepers and there is no comparison to the stuff in the supermarket and theirs. It may be a little more expensive, but it keeps a local industry going and eating a quality produce at the same time.

Even the Chinese consumers who can afford it, like to buy our products to take home when they come to visit, so that says much for their own foodstuff at home.


How to tell at home if the honey you bought is pure or adulterated :


Some of those tests can fail pure honey. Depending on the nectar harvested some honeys are lighter in colour (some almost clear) or very much darker and thickness can vary as well (can be more runny or can be very thick). Staining/marking a cloth or blotting paper…sure can and lighter honey can do it faster. Some of the staining can occur because of the pollen that can naturally be found in honey.

That’s why they couch their words very carefully with “it may” used frequently in their sentences. The jar pops on opening? Well yes it may mean fermentation it may also mean the jar has a good seal and the honey was heated slightly before filling the jar to make it flow more easily on the cold day it was bottled. Some honey has a very strong flavour that some mistake for fermentation but is the result of the nectar that the bees harvested or that it has been left for a long time in the hive before harvesting.

I have never personally tried the burning match one but I have certainly had honey catch on fire when left too long on a fire while trying to make honey caramel for popcorn. I think that test relies on the normally relative high moisture content to other solvents eg extra liquid glucose or fructose that might be used to “extend” the honey but if the honey is older, and or less moist I would imagine the match test could fail to recognise pure honey (but as I have never tested it I could be in error on that one).

I am not sure what they are testing for with the vinegar but if sucrose was added to honey it doesn’t foam, glucose or fructose is probably a similar outcome (remembering that honey has two sugars in it, those being glucose and fructose). I would expect something like a bicarb or other alkaline agent would cause the foaming but I am not sure what they would add of that nature to honey that would allow that reaction.

An old tale about the purity of honey was if it crystallised it wasn’t pure or it had gone off. But it isn’t that, it is a natural process that can even occur in the hive. Temperature, the ratio of glucose to fructose (caused by the nectars the bees are harvesting), and the presence of pollen are reasons for the glucose to crystallise out. To have a read about it So another word of warning if you find glucose crystals in your honey it doesn’t mean the honey has been adulterated, it is more likely the bees that made the honey hit on flowers that produce more glucose.

But your point about honey, that it can be adulterated is well taken and yes it happens even being done by dodgy bee-keepers none of whom I am acquainted with thankfully. I can trust my producers to provide me with excellent product that every year astounds me with the variety of colours, flavours and smells that abound in them (what a wonderful thing bees produce).


I love the English language - ‘3. The flame test…pure honey is inflammable’

inflammable: easily set on fire
flammable: easily set on fire


We have a large block with mainly native plants and not so native weeds. Something is always flowering and there are many many bees on sunny days.

It is frustrating to know someone else is getting the benefits of all the work I put into my garden! If it was a neighbours chooks the law is clear, but bees are free to roam and steal?

I foresee me getting my own hive which should eliminate all of the above problems. So bee it.

For the rest - you must go to the supermarket!


Probably should apply the “Blake Little” honey test … for example …

Careful googling, though I believe his art is tasteful …


It is safer to use “not flammable” and “flammable” to avoid this common misunderstanding; it could save lives. Or even “might catch fire” and “will not catch fire”??


Quite so, that is industry practice. If you look at the signage at fuel stations and other places where fire is a risk you will see they always use “flammable”.


Bees normally cover distances of up to 2km to find their food and by doing so they pollinate a lot of plants, most likely also whatever you have in your garden or on your large block. Saying that, it’s in your own best interest to welcome the normally harmless creatures. Bees are harmless unless they are disturbed, you are in their flight pass or you are covered in fly spray. So please be Bee-Tolerant. :slight_smile:


Great logic. Totally agree with the benefits. Have not been stung for many decades either.
As much as European honey bees are now part of our life:

  1. They can compete with and displace our native bees and other insects that seek out pollen in our environment. We also have a diverse range of birds too that seek out this food source. Does this matter? If you make your living from European bees it is probably ok. If you need your exotic fruit orchard polinated European bees maybe more effective. If you prefer a manicured landscape of only selected exotic plants and graceful deer over less orderly native bush and diverse fauna. Others may lament the invasion of European bees nearly as much as the rabbit, fox and cane toad.
  2. Australian law and legal precedent owes much to past events, decisions, conflicts and leaders. The sensibility or relevance of many current recognised legal opinions or determinations may not make sense measured against today’s world. European bees housed and managed in a commercial hive are legally able to roam free across the land. Chooks that free range and have a domestic coup for night time safety do not have this entitlement. Which is morally correct!

To make it more interesting. Too many European bee hives in an area is also a problem. Lower yield and increased risk of disease spreading. There are registration requirements for bee keeping or hives. There may also be regulations concerning separation of hives. There may be some restrictions for some of us in Australia being able to establish or own a hive.

So the pollen in your garden plants is treated similar in law to the water and sunshine that falls on your roof. You have no absolute right of ownership to any, however the government is able to regulate or not how you might use and access any of these resources on your property.

Despite all the great discussion about the quality of honey, there is another discussion needed as to whether we should also put an environmental rating on all food products. That includes consideration of all environmental incomes including water use and efficiency of how the product is produced. Perhaps honey would score better than most other food stuffs?


The Capilano saga appears to be at an end. A hard north turn by new owners is on the horizon.


I wonder what this will mean for their future honey production? Will they be sending all their product to China, or using and selling more blended honey from China?


It looks like sending Australian honey to China to capitalise on Australia’s high quality, clean and green image there. The planned investment is not dissimilar to the Chinese investment in the milk and other food industries.


Even if it is to send the product out, this may also mean more imports of non-Australian product to meet the market needs here. Truly a double edged sword as it cuts no matter which way it goes.


Typically for the Australian agricultural industries, higher exports means higher Australian production to meet increased demand. The Australian honey industry shouod be no different (increase hives, coverage to increase honey production)…creating higher employment potential and reducing trade deficit with China.

Many companies already export to China, and appears Capilano is riding the same wave. These other company exports hasn’t resulted in increase in foreign honey imports.


I could imagine a Chinese controlled/focused company would more than just consider importing cheap honey and re-exporting it under its newly acquired Aussie label in tandem with whatever they did for our local market. We shall see how they go, won’t we.


If they did this, their Chinese market would dry up overnight. As outlined above, Chinese consumers are very specific in relation to requirements and any food scandal (which China has reguoarly) kills the product/demand.

This is why things like Aussie milk powder, baby formula etc are in high demand and command significant premium over their local products. Only 100% Aussie has premium status…made in Australia with imported ingredients doesn’t.