Is the honey ‘raw’?
This is a very commonly asked question! The true answer is: it depends.
The term ‘raw’ originated in the USA where the vast majority of honey is pasteurised (heated to 70C plus) and highly filtered to 5 microns in order to keep the honey very clear and stop crystallisation. The fine filtering is designed to remove pollen from the honey. ‘Raw’ honey, by contrast, does not get heated or filtered to this extent and still has all of the natural pollen content.
Crystalisation of honey is a natural process. All honeys, without heat treatment, will crystalise, or set, over time.
The speed at which this happens depends on the forage available to the bees and, as such, the particular ratios of natural plant sugars in the honey, as well as the temperature at which it is stored. Honey from oilseed rape, for example, crystalises very fast. We have to work quickly to extract this honey before it sets solid in the frames, but it does produce a classic set spring honey, floral and sweet. On the other hand, our Welsh summer honey comes from blackberry and willowherb and takes a long time to set.
We don’t pasteurise our honey but warm it gently, for as little time as possible, to around 40-45C, similar to the temperature of a hive. This is simply to enable us to move it from storage containers, through a filter, and then into jars or tubs for sale. We use minimal filtration, using a coarse 200 microns sieve. This leaves the pollen grains in the honey, one reason that our honey tastes so good.
In its true sense ‘raw’ means the honey is not heated or filtered in any way: the beekeeper takes a frame of comb honey, spins it to extract the honey under centrifugal force, and pours the resulting liquid, bits and all, into a jar. Trading Standards would not be too keen on this process, however we take huge care to look after our honey. After all, we’ve spent most of the year tending the bees and making sure that we have honey to harvest, so every drop is important to us.
The organic forest honey is pressed from the combs so it retains a lot of the natural pollen content as compared with conventional centrifugally extracted honey. The pollen gives the honey a lot of flavour and also some of the beneficial properties of forest trees. Pollen grains are high in protein and enzymes. The honey comes from a very diverse forest with hundreds of different tree species producing nectar and pollen that the bees feed on, each plant producing a range of compounds as well as sugars in its nectar.