The flavour of the week is Manuka Honey. Manuka honey is a honey derived from the Manuka plant, otherwise known as Leptospermum scoparium (manuka myrtle, New Zealand teatree, broom teatree, or just tea tree or Leptospermum). The manuka is a shrub or small tree native to New Zealand and southeast Australia.
Manuka plant itself has an astringent medicinal quality to its leaves and bark, and when distilled into a hydrosol can be quite pungent. This savory, earthy, medicinal quality translates to a robust, spicy, faintly funky flavoured honey. Manuka honey is also normally creamier in texture than most honeys. Manuka honey is widely used throughout New Zealand, though is not generally known off that continent.
In New Zealand it serves not only as a flavouring agent but is also purported to have many medicinal qualities, among those a strong efficacy as an antiseptic. Manuka honey is graded by its “activity levels”, meaning how active and how many enzymes there are in the honey at the time of its bottling. Those enzymes purportedly are what provide the health benefits of the honey itself.
Though the health benefits of the substance are intriguing enough to seek it out, the flavour itself is the real star. Riding a fine line between menthol and barnyard, sweet and savory, Manuka honey has got to be one of the more interesting sweeteners one can find. And perhaps it’s good for you, too!
Manuka honey is best when it is not heated, which makes it an interesting choice to use as a sweetening agent in a cocktail.