Honey Tasting Tips

While attending the Heirloom Expo 2016 we discovered there would be a honey competition, that is to say, a contest for the best tasting honey. Since we are at or near honey harvesting time, it’s appropriate to share a few tips if you plan to have your own honey tasting this fall.

Honey tasting is fun, but more complex than you might expect. To keep it light, you can score the results from “best tasting” to “not so much.”

Set up your honey tasting table as a blind taste test. Numbered containers, and a place to write notes.

Set up your honey tasting table as a blind taste test. Numbered containers, and a place to write notes.

Judging 

Judges (or all participants) can number a paper plate like a clock, place dabs of honey on each corresponding number, and taste away! Or set it up for each judge like this:

Water and crackers for palate cleansers, along with a honey tasting wheel to distinguish flavors.

Water and crackers for palate cleansers along with a honey tasting wheel to distinguish flavors.

The Taste Test

Tasting spoons are used to keep things sanitary. If you want to get really serious you can score on 5 attributes for each honey: aroma, flavor, primary taste, texture, and finish.

Score cards for each honey, or just keep it simple and go with your gut.

Score cards for each honey, or just keep it simple and go with your gut. Available points are listed next to each attribute.

Honey is as complex as wine. A harvest changes from year to year. Flavors range from earthy to floral, from spicy to caramel. This tasting wheel from UC Davis below comes in handy for identifying flavor traits. It lists options you are familiar with like “cinnamon” and “clover” while offering unusual suggestions like cat pee, barnyard, burnt sugar, and sweaty.

Get your own tasting wheel from UC Davis.

Get your own tasting wheel from UC Davis.

The Results

Give everyone time to assess all the honey samples, then rank the top three, or a top choice. Some judges prefer light, floral honeys while more sophisticated palates might enjoy the darker, more crystallized honey samples. It’s like preferences for milk or dark chocolate. There’s no wrong answer, but rather a way to identify what you like best.

Whatever your preference, it’s a great way to bring your community together to share in the delicious bounty of nature. Honey changes with the seasons and is never the same twice (at least not in an urban garden setting). Celebrate this year’s vintage, nature’s golden nectar.

Always dress the part.

Always dress the part at your honey tasting.

And don’t forget the costumes! Dress up, swarm together with friends this fall, and get buzzed on the sweetness of honey.

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