When bees gather pollen, they can get it from any flower they may like. Geographic area and time of the year determine what flowers bees will find on their path.
If a specific flower grows in great numbers in a certain area, chances are bees living in the vicinity will almost exclusively collect that kind of pollen. This results in mono-floral honey – though there is always going to be a small percentage of other flowers’ pollen in it, bees are not that selective. Each and every mono-floral honey features its own distinctive aroma. Mixed-flower honey, on the other hand, has a more delicate flavour.
What bees eat – that is, pollen from many different flowers – will affect the sensory qualities of honey. For example, its texture can range from liquid to viscous. It may also tend to crystallise. Bees’ diet also affects honey’s colour, which is either a light or a dark shade of golden and amber. Sensory qualities also include flavour, which can be very sweet, slightly bitter, or anything in between.
According to the 2018 report on honey’s production and market trends carried out by Italian association Osservatorio Nazionale Miele, the most wide-spread honey types in Italy are those obtained from acacia, citrus, sulla, chestnut and linden.
Acacia honey has a very light shade of yellow, a delicate aroma and a liquid texture. Its high content of sugar prevents honey from crystallising and is the reason why acacia honey is so sweet in taste. This explains why is often used as a sweetener, replacing sugar in many diets.
Citrus honey has a light colour as well, but its scent has floral notes and a sweet taste. A few months after being collected, citrus honey starts crystallising, which thickens the texture and leads to the forming of grains of various sizes. In Italy citrus honey is mostly produced in Sicily and Calabria.
Sulla honey is the only honey in this list featuring a fast crystallisation rate. It has a creamed texture. It has a very delicate colour that changes basing on how crystallised honey is. In the liquid form, it doesn’t get any darker than straw yellow, whereas in the crystallised form it goes from white to a light beige. Compared to other kinds of honey, it is less sweet and so is not used as a sweetener as often. Its taste and aroma are very delicate.
Chestnut honey contains just as much fructose as acacia honey does, so it is just as slow at crystallising. The colour goes from reddish to brown. Both its aroma and its taste are bitter and intense. It is often served together with various kinds of cheese such as pecorino and ricotta.
Linden honey has a light amber colour in the liquid form – when the honey is particularly pure, it also shows some shades of yellow and green – while it becomes ivory or beige in the crystallised form. It features an aroma of medium intensity and a persistent taste.
The report of the Italian association also provides information on smaller productions - around twenty different kinds of honey. Therefore, it is true that climate change is making life harder for beekeepers, however one cannot deny that Italy displays a positively wide range of honey products.