Why You May be Tasting Honey All Wrong
Amina Harris is the director of the Honey and Pollination Center for the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, operating out of UC Davis. Harris has a “pretty sweet” job according to many – her occupation includes curating a honey library and holding honey tastings. Harris considers herself a “sensory scientist” and hopes that people will understand that honey has so much more flavor than just sweet. Not surprisingly, Harris’ main focus is to create a comprehensive “Honey Flavor Wheel.”
In an article featured on CivilEats.com, Harris’ Honey Flavor Wheel will help people to better understand the wide range of flavors and characteristics of honey. While individuals will generally consider honey to be nothing more than sweet, Harris hopes her work will open their taste buds to other flavors such as ash, baked bread, sassafras, and cassis. While the Honey Flavor Wheel is an important part of Harris’ work, it is just one entry point into the very complicated world of honey Harris is in.
Another important aspect of Harris’ work is teaching individuals how to tell the difference between raw, authentic honey and treated, pasteurized honey simply by the way that it tastes – with the growing number of “authentic raw honey” imposters, this may be a key skill in the future. Harris’ ultimate goal, however, is to better educate the public about honey, how it tastes and more importantly, how it is made to draw attention to the growing issue of honeybees populations decreasing across the world.
It is no secret that the recent bouts with Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, and the decreasing populations of honeybees have made the bees and the substances they produce a very hot topic. All of the reports of bee populations suffering and the need to support bee colonies has also shown an upswing in home beekeeping operations. What many people may not realize is that honeybees from different geographical areas produce honey that all taste differently based on the available floral.
Harris’ hope is that by producing the Honey Flavor Wheel, more individuals will be interested in tasting and understanding honey that comes from different geographical areas and, through that interest, they may also take up the interest of learning about honeybees and how they can be helped. “I love honey. I love the honey bees. I am more and more fascinated by bees, insects, pollinators–you name it. I love learning and I keep learning,” said Harris and she hopes that others will share this enthusiasm.