5 Unusual Types of Honey around the World

photography by: jarabeekeepers.org/ Wikimedia Commons

Reading time: minutes

An aromatic tea sweetener, a popular breakfast condiment and even a widespread ingredient in cosmetic products, those are only a mere fraction of what makes honey so ubiquitous. Secreted by bees from a flower nectar, this sweet syrupy liquid can feature many colors and flavors, as evident by the myriad of honey types throughout the world, five of which are particularly exceptional.

Mad Honey, Nepal

Thanks to its extremely low water content that serves as an anti-bacterial function, honey is considered as one of the planet’s safest food products. However, there is one type of honey known as Mad Honey that as its name suggests, can literally challenge your sanity, at least temporarily. The substance behind this oddity is named grayanotoxins, a type of neurotoxin that is abundant in the nectar of a rather abnormal genus of plants, called rhododendrons.


Home to an ample population of rhododendrons, especially the yellow azalea and common rhododendron, the Nepal’s Himalayan range provides the ideal habitat for these craziness-inducing plants, and so, the country, alongside Turkey, is the world’s largest producer of Mad Honey. Unlike a generic kind of honey, this Nepalese rarity is crimson-hued and tastes slightly bitter. It usually takes two tablespoons of the red syrup and 25-40 minutes of waiting until a light headed and euphoric sensation can be felt, described by some as similar to weed effects.


A Mad Honey overdose however, has far lesser pleasant outcomes, ranging anywhere from hallucinations, nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness to even death in very rare instances. Nonetheless, ironically it is the way this honey is harvested that makes it truly deadly, as Mad Honey hunters are forced to make a perilous journey across vertical cliffs to find the precious syrup, which is then extracted from the world’s largest hive. Both its limited geographical context and the entailed risks are reflected in a hefty price tag, but if nothing deters you, then this honey is even available online.


Honey Hunters of Nepal by Eric Valli (6)

Pitcairn Honey, the Pitcairn Islands

Nestled in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, Pitcairn is amongst the world’s most remote inhabited islands, as the airport-less archipelago is located almost 700 kilometers from the nearest populated place, French Polynesia’s Mangareva Island. With merely 50 residents, this British overseas territory is the least populous national jurisdiction anywhere on Earth, and as such, poses a real challenge to anyone who lives there, almost all of whom are the descendants of the MS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives.


Up until just recently, the isolated community’s main source of income consisted mostly of the UK governmental aid, as well as a small percentage that came from selling locally made crafts. In order to mitigate some of the islands’ sheer dependence, the British government funded a 1998’s program where bees were reintroduced and beekeepers were trained, ultimately prompting a local honey industry.


A nectar from passionfruit, guava, mango and roseapple flowers coalesces into a scrumptious honey, bestowed with an exceptionally high quality due to the absence of any diseases and pesticides that affect bees elsewhere. Curiously, the amber colored delicacy is regarded as the favorite kind of honey by the British royal family and particularly, by Queen Elizabeth II. If by now you’re overly enticed, you’ll be glad to learn that Pitcarin Honey can be purchased online and also in some of London’s most exclusive food stores.



Honeydew Honey, New Zealand

One prevalent misconception about honey is the assumption that all of its types are made entirely by bees harvesting the nectar of flowers, when in fact, not all sorts of honey are either made by bees or sourced from flowers. One type in particular that defies this common belief is the honeydew honey, available all around the world, with New Zealand being one of its major producers, while the area around Nelson Lakes in the southern island accounting for most yields.


Honeydew honey is primarily made of a liquid secreted by the digestive system of aphids and other scale insects which feed on sap. The honeydew is then collected by bees and transformed into a nutritional syrup that largely substitutes the nectar-based honey. Unlike its floral counterpart, honeydew honey tends to be darker, less sweet and incredibly fragrant. While the New-Zealand version is made of black beech’s sap, silver firs and pine trees are also a common source.

Honeydew accumulated on a leaf

photography by: Dmitri Don/ Wikimedia Commons

Coffee Blossom Honey, Guatemala

Globally deemed as the most popular stimulating drink with over 2 billion cups of it consumed every day, coffee also has an unexpected sweet by-product that became a highly desired premium item for honey enthusiasts. Nestled in the heart of Guatemala’s western highlands, Huehuetenango region is home to dozens of coffee farms, renowned for their exceptionally high-quality black gold.


As a flowering plant, coffee shrubs rely on insects for pollination, and so, in recent decades, Huehuetenango’s coffee farmers and beekeepers have been engaging in a literally fruitful collaboration. The multiple apiaries that have been placed within coffee plantations greatly enhanced the annual yields, while also generating a secondary source of income for the farmers, the coffee blossom honey.


The precious golden liquid is thicker in texture, slightly darker in color and its mildly sweet flavor is reminiscent of brown sugar, citrus, peach and even vanilla. Hilariously, the presence of caffeine in the nectar of coffee flowers is also translated to a pinch of caffeine in the honey itself, in fact, bees are said to become more vigilant after consuming it, with their nectar-collecting skills being enhanced.

A bee collects nectar from coffee flowers

photography by: Forest and Kim Starr/ Flickr

Elvish Honey, Turkey

It is no secret that honey is a pricy product when compared to other sweeteners, but if you ever wondered how much expensive it can actually get, well, it turned out that a lot, mind-bogglingly a lot. This sweet world record apparently belongs to a rather unusual honey, known as Elvish Honey, that originates from the Saricayir valley around Artvin city, in northeastern Turkey.


Discovered as recently as 2009, the honey was found by a local man named Günay Gündüz, who noticed swarms of bees making their way in and out of crevice that led to an 1,800-meter-deep cave. Accompanied by a crew of well-equipped climbers, Günay descended all the way down the cave where he came across a series of hives hanging on the walls.


After harvesting 18 kilograms of the precious syrup, samples of the wild honey were sent to a lab in France where its rich minerally content was revealed. Soon after, the honey’s first kilo was sold in the French stock exchange for a whopping 45,000 euros, and while the price has dramatically decreased since then, it is still well beyond the reach of most people, costing around 5,000 euros per one kilo.


Despite its ridiculously high cost, Günay is not apologetic about it and firmly insists that the honey’s gargantuan price tag is justified given its harvesting entails an entire group of professional mountaineers for merely a couple of kilograms. Furthermore, the honey’s origin from medicinal plants’ nectar alongside its cave-based high mineral content contribute a great deal of value too.
The honey is sold in 170-gram and 250-gram jars, and it’s up for you to decide whether it worth its notorious price, that’s of course if you have the funds to purchase it.

Professional climbers harvesting the world’s most expensive honey

photography by: Az Önce Oldu