Honey FAQ : Is there any ‘Quick Test’ we can do at home to test the genuineness of honey?

     Unfortunately there is no quick test to check honey genuineness at your end! Honey Sommeliers are trained in sensory analysis to detect a good quality monofloral honey from its visual appearance, taste, aroma and odour and also for defects. This takes a number of years training and goes hand-in-hand with the technical analysis testing by scientific laboratories as illustrated in the Codex. There are other new techniques such as NMR and fluorescence microscopy however these are still in their infancy and not proven to be accurate.

Heather Hill Farm Honey Sommeliers

TA activity (total enzyme activity)

    As discussed, Scottish Heather Honey has been compared to Manuka in terms of its antibacterial effectiveness for wound treatment (read here). It is high in phenols, flavonoids and has a high mineral content as dictated by its terroir and the plant nectar. However, there are a number of companies attempting to trademark it via the TA activity (total enzyme activity) etc. in attempt to compare it to Manuka.

TA Rating on honey

    This is quite frustrating as it can be misleading to the consumer due to their knowledge of the tests behind it. For example, the TA level is the total enzyme antibacterial activity level that kills bacteria by producing hydrogen peroxide when the enzymes reacts with oxygen. One would presume this is against a range of bacteria, however it is only calculated by an inhibitory growth test on an agar plate of one bacteria only – Staphylococcus aureus – which lives in harmony on the skin and in the human body, but only causes problems when the immune system is suppressed (e.g. secondary respiratory disease), hormonal changes (e.g. skin/acne diseases) or as an antibiotic resistant strain if the body has been in contact with overuse of antibiotics (e.g. MRSA – medically resistant S. aureus).

    The TA test has only been carried out in vitro on an agar plate against one bacteria strain only. It has not been proven invivo within the human body with the exception of application on wounds to prevent sepsis.

    In general consumers will therefore assimilate TA testing as a medically certified universal antimicrobial remedy (i.e. antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial) but this has not been clinically proven. Notwithstanding, honeys contain a plethora of phenols and flavonoids as dictated by the plant nectar. These are phytochemicals produced by the plant to attract pollinators, detract predators and ensure the healthy immune system of the plant itself. These will vary for each individual plant and also where it grows. Research has shown that these have anti-inflammatory,antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties and promote cardiac health by affecting LDL cholesterol, but again these tests have mostly been invitro and only a few done in invivo in mice or transfused cells only. Manuka honey has only been medically certified for wound healing only – nothing else.

The main constituents attributed to honey’s antimicrobial activity and their mechanism of action. Direct inhibitory factors affect cellular mechanisms (blue), indirect inhibitory factors have a wider ranging effect on the bacterial cell (green).

No honey are made equal

    All honeys – if produced, extracted and stored correctly have their own unique holistic qualities and each are unique and worthy in their own right. However, in no way can they be a cure to cancer or disease unless clinically proven. As you will appreciate, this frustrates us as everyone is now attempting to market their product as the cure to all which is misleading to the consumer. It becomes marketing for profit rather than adding real value and transparency to the consumer.

    Our aim is to sustain our cultural and natural heritage, the honey bee and its essential work in pollination by producing exceptional honeys an preserves where everything in our chain – from our natural landscape, terroir, bees and processes to our people are taken care of – this is imperative as it affects the quality, natural benefits and flavour of our honey. Every point of our production and supply chain must be coherent to maintain this quality.

    When you buy from TreeLife you are buying single origin honeys and preserves direct from a small artisan producer with a short, fully transparent production chain. Likewise our Connoissuers Honeys are meticulously sourced direct from small artisan producers like ourselves who adhere to the same quality production methods and core ethos. We are not a mass producer.

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