Unfiltered honey vs. raw honey – Why Raw Unfiltered Honey is more than Just Raw Honey
Heat is the dividing line between raw unfiltered honey and processed honey. That’s the rule of thumb. All honey is raw honey until and unless you heat it.
But that is the short version. The long version is that there is, surprisingly, no official, government sanctioned definition of raw unfiltered honey. The United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has simply not come round to figuring that one out. That has left the matter in the hands of the National Honey Board, an association of honey businesses. And the Board has decreed as follows: raw honey is “honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat.”
Which means that raw unfiltered honey is honey as it exists in a beehive, period. If honey is ‘obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat’ it will still be raw but it will not be unfiltered.
A better way to look at it is to ask what all this filtering is about. Filtered honey is honey that has been literally sieved to remove anything suspended or mixed up with the honey. The stuff typically removed includes pollen grains, pieces of beeswax, propolis, air bubbles and even the occasional wing or two of a bee that got caught up in the bee harvesting moment. For the record, propolis, is a brownish substance that bees collect from tree buds for use a material to fill crevices, seal and varnish honeycombs.
Why Raw Unfiltered Honey Is Special
Raw unfiltered honey is special because it has its natural content of pollen grains and propolis and a few cramps of beeswax. Pollen and propolis are never a large component in any honey but they do have direct plant extracts with the full health or medicinal properties of trees. Actually, the fact that they are usually in such small quantities only makes them more valuable. Unfiltered raw honey is therefore honey at its most wholesome, with all the benefits, complex flavor and natural feel.
Raw unfiltered honey also looks different from filtered raw honey. Generally speaking, honey colors range from light, almost translucent, to dark brown. The color depends on the kinds of flowers the nectar was drawn from and the rule of thumb is that the darker the honey, the deeper or more intense is its flavor. Raw unfiltered honey throws a twist into that rule because it tends to be lighter colored – because of air bubbles and the other ‘impurities’ suspended within the honey. It also tends to be thicker, again for the same reasons.
The downside of unfiltered honey is that it is harder to package. It tends to be thicker and less fluid because it crystallizes faster. That makes it harder to pour into jars. Moreover, once packaged in jars, it can get mistaken for ‘lower quality’ honey because it does not look as dark brown as it really is. That is partly why most easily available honey is filtered, fully pasteurized honey. It simply looks better and is easier to package and serve, even if it is also not wholesome and therefore less potent.
Perhaps not surprisingly, raw unfiltered honey is mostly sold directly at bee farms, and even there, chances are most of the honey will still be filtered. Farms like the one that produce Crystal’s All Natural Raw Honey™ is unfiltered and never heated making it the most natural source of raw honey on the market today.