The Journal | #Fortnums

Things You Never Knew About Honey

Things You Never Knew About Honey

If you’ve ever taken the time to wander through our magnificent honey collection on the Ground Floor of our Piccadilly store – or indeed, browsed them here – you’ll have noticed that we have quite an assortment of the sweet stuff from the world over.

Our Dungeness Woodsage Honey, for example, is made from the sweet nectar harvested from wild wood sage and viper’s bugloss on the edge of Dungeness beach, while our distinctly dark Zambian Forest Honey, is harvested from bark hives in the Miombo Forest of Northwestern Zambia.

Then, of course, there’s our own glorious London Honeys, produced in Fortnum’s rooftop hives all over the city, including atop our own building in Piccadilly.

You might know that honey comes from bees, and is made is hives. So far, so obvious. But why are they all so different from one another? Why are some perfectly spreadable and others stubbornly unspreadable? Let’s get stuck in.


Why Do Honey's Differ in Colour?

Our honeys are quite distinctive in colour - ranging from water-white to beautifully dark. This is all to do with what the bees bring back with them on their foraging expeditions to the plants that surround their hives.

Nectar is one aspect that determines what colour the honey will be. For example, our Zambian Forest Honey is sourced from hives made from tree logs deep in the forest alongside the Zambezi river. The bees forage from tropical forest tree and plant species with dark nectar, resulting in the near black colour and beautiful, smoky taste – incidentally, that pairs exceptionally well with soft cheeses.

Additionally, honey that is harvested in spring may differ in colour and texture to that of summer honeys due to the increase in brassicas growing during springtime. Brassica nectar has a naturally high glucose content which means that the honey will set more easily, whereas the same honey harvested in summer will remain clear. The natural glucose levels in each honey are very important in determining their colour, taste and texture.

Our beekeepers have exceptional knowledge of their surrounding areas, from what plants the bees will forage to the colour of the nectar of each plant.

Set, Creamed and Runny Honey

Alongside different shades, honey can be either creamed, set or runny. All honey made by honeybees begins as a clear or ‘runny’ honey. Set and creamed honeys both appear a cloudy, cream colour. The setting of honey is entirely natural, and occurs when it is kept between 12 - 16 degrees, causing it to crystallize.

It is also dependent on the glucose levels within the honey. Set honey has not been altered in any way but occurs entirely naturally, and has a stronger aroma and taste due to its higher sugar concentration. Creamed honey on the other hand is a man-made process by which the honey is whipped to form a delicious velvet texture, perfect for spreading on toast or baking into muffins.

Runny honey is simply clear honey that has not set or been creamed – it appears clear and is perfect for using as a sweetener, drizzling on lamb chops or wild mushrooms.


F&M Store


You may have bought a clear honey some time ago that now appears thick and cloudy – this naturally occurring change happens when a honey becomes crystalized. Over time the water content in honey will naturally absorb sugar, causing crystals to form and make the honey thick and cloudy. Both set and creamed honeys are made by the same process of crystallization - honey naturally sets due to high glucose levels and temperature, and when honey is creamed it triggers crystallization, causing it to become wonderfully smooth. All honey's naturally crystalize over time.

Crystallization can also be halted by freezing honey as the crystals can’t move to crystallize. If your favourite Fortnum’s honey has naturally crystalized you can place it in warm water on a medium to low heat and stir it until the crystals dissolve.


Bees have small glands on their abdomen that secrete wax to build the structures in which they store their honey, this is known as honeycomb. A bee needs to eat eight to ten kilos of honey to secrete one kilo of wax to build their hive. Our beekeepers begin the hive with one sheet of wax and the bees build naturally upon that themselves.

When the honeycomb is removed from the hive the honey is either spun out of it and it is replaced back in the hive for the bees to fill back up or the honey is simply eaten as it is from the comb. Known as ‘virgin honey’, our honeycomb is exceptional honey in its purest form. Our delicious honeycomb can also be found in our honeycomb ice cream at The Parlour.


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