How do I choose good Jarrah Honey?
Once you have tried good Jarrah honey it is unlikely you will ever want to use another variety of Active honey again. But how can you have confidence that the Jarrah honey you are buying online or at a shop or farmer’s market is high quality or even the real stuff? We here at Forest Fresh know a lot about Jarrah honey from our long association with WA honey industry and our unique scientific approach to selecting the product we sell. Sadly, have seen some low-quality product and suspect promotional information in the market, so we would like to share a few tips on what to look when buying Jarrah honey.
If buying Jarrah for the first time online or in a shop, you don’t have much information, but you should still be able to make an informed decision.
The most important bit of advice is that a high TA value does not necessarily mean it is high quality Jarrah honey; low quality Jarrah can also have a high TA (more on this below).
You may also be able to see the colour and texture of the honey (if it is in a clear jar), and you can tell something of the quality from these attributes. If you are at a market, you may be able to taste a sample. Jarrah has a very distinct flavour, so don’t buy anything inconsistent with what is described below.
You may also be able to learn something of the transparency and integrity of the seller by reading the information provided on the jar label or their website. While the provision of vague or incorrect information by a seller does not mean the Jarrah honey offered is of poor quality, you might form the view that someone giving dubious information does not deserve the reward of your business.
The first important piece of information to know is that “pure” Jarrah honey is unlikely to exist. Be wary of any honey claimed to be “Pure Jarrah”, as this is almost certainly misleading. However, a general description of “pure honey” is ok as no honey from WA is adulterated with fake honey.
Jarrah trees grow in a wild forest with other species of flowering plants that produce nectar and pollen to attract pollinating insects. Bees will collect nectar from all flowering plants, so some natural honey blending in the beehive is expected. Fortunately, co-evolution of the forest plants has resulted no major temporal overlapping mass flowerings of Jarrah with other species, but there is overlap at the beginning and end of the Jarrah flowering cycle, which occurs in different districts from about September to January.
Early and late harvested Jarrah honey can be diluted with other honey varieties and so have the wrong colour and flavour, fewer of the phytochemicals unique to jarrah, and have a tendency to crystalise. Unfortunately, we have seen some of this honey in the market, so you should avoid buying it if you can.
Here is our advice on choosing good Jarrah Honey
Colour: Jarrah honey is typically an amber colour, which is at the dark end of the honey colour spectrum. Look elsewhere if what you see is at the lighter end of the spectrum or very dark, or if there is even a hint of pale coloured cloudiness or crystallisation.
Crystallisation: Forest Fresh Jarrah honey will never crystallise. Resistance to crystallisation is very rare in the honey world, but it is one of the unique properties of Jarrah honey. Avoid any honey with visible crystals or even precursor pale cloudiness. Also look on the label or website for a statement like “this honey may crystallise over time” as this suggests the seller does not know the properties of Jarrah honey or may have even had some crystallise before.
Flavour: Jarrah has a robust but smooth flavour that some say has tones of caramel. It does not have any early, sweet, floral flavours typical of spring honey, or strong late bitterness or tanginess sometimes associated with late harvest or dark honeys. Jarrah is a dark honey but the unique blend of sugars and natural flavour enhancing chemicals supress this bitterness.
TA: As mentioned, a high minimum TA value does not necessarily denote high quality Jarrah honey; it is just one of the pre-requisites. Good Jarrah honey can be labelled with an Activity value of between TA30+ to TA40+.
Be wary of any Jarrah honey labelled with a TA value greater than TA40+ as it is likely that an uncertified (therefore, unreliable) TA value is being used.
Use of an uncertified TA value is deceptive as it attempts to depict the honey as being better quality than other brands in the market when that it unlikely to be the case. We think this practice is misleading, and question whether the seller deserves the reward of your purchase.
Certification is provided by the accredited laboratory that issues the certificate of analysis for the honey sample tested. Most Jarrah honey sold from WA is certified by the Chemcentre. The maximum it has ever certified is TA40+, and this was only for a short time in early 2020. The maximum now is TA35+.
Be very suspicious of any TA Analysis Certificate shown by a honey seller that is not issued by the Chemcentre. Be very suspicious if the document shown is issued by the National Measurement Institute (NMI), and lists the Chemcentre as the Client, as this document is definitely not the certification certificate for the honey, rather it is the interim raw analysis report issued by the assaying lab (NMI). If the raw value from NMI exceeds the upper detection limit of the analytical method as determined by the Chemcentre (as the certifying laboratory), the certification certificate issued by them will show the value to be >35 (previously >40).
From a practical perspective, there is no difference between the Activity of a TA35+ and TA40+ honey (or any honey with a higher, and likely uncertified TA value); it is just that the TA40+ honey was analyses (and a certification certificate issued) when the Chemcentre certified values up to TA40+. As mentioned, the maximum now is TA35+.
The highest uncertified Activity measured to date for Forest Fresh Jarrah honey was TA65, but this honey was certified by the Chemcentre as TA>35, so we sell it as TA35+. To do anything else is, in our view, dishonest. Always remember that the “+” after the TA value means that the Activity is greater than the value shown, and it can be much greater.
You can read more about how TA is tested, and the limitations of the test here.
MGO. Be very suspicious of any Jarrah honey sold with an MGO value on the label. Jarrah honey contains no (or very little) MGO. MGO is the active ingredient in Manuka honey.
It is likely that the seller of the Jarrah honey is trying to show the equivalent Manuka Activity, but putting an MGO value on the label in a way that suggests the Jarrah honey contains MGO is very misleading. Please ask yourself the question whether the seller deserves the reward of your purchase.
However, it is ok to show in promotional material how the different types of Activity relate to each other, and we have some information about this topic here.
Images on the website: Be wary of any Jarrah honey sold on a website that shows images of lush green forests Jarrah forests, because these are misleading. The terroir of Jarrah honey is very harsh; hot dry summers and very skeletal soils, so the forest is typically dominated by sparse trunks darkened by bushfires growing in gravelly soils. Lush and green looks pretty, but it is not the provenance of Jarrah honey. A Jarrah forest looks like the image on our home page.
Location of Seller: Jarrah honey is unique to Western Australia. It would be difficult for anyone to have a detailed knowledge of the local industry if they lived outside of WA.
If you have any questions about Jarrah honey or want to comment on some dubious product in the past, please contact us at Forest Fresh and we will provide you with information or comments as best we can.