Raw honey is simply honey that hasn’t been pasteurised, heated significantly above 35°C or processed. It’s just pure honey the way nature intended it to be.
Most honey sold in supermarkets is pasteurised, which involves heating the honey to about 63° C. This helps improve its shelf life, but also kills the beneficial yeast and enzymes found in raw honey. The temperature of a beehive is about 35°C, and many ‘raw’ honeys are heated slightly to about 38°C, but this isn’t enough to kill the beneficial enzymes in the honey.
You can buy local raw honey direct from beekeepers, or order raw honey online. Many of the raw honeys on the market in the UK come from Eastern European countries such as Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and Lithuania, but there are also a few brands selling single-origin British honey.
Lots of people interested in raw honey want to buy organic honey, but British beekeepers can’t actually be certified organic as they can’t guarantee that their bees only visit organically grown flowers.
Raw honey is generally considered to be healthier than processed honey. Here are some of its benefits:
- Contains more antioxidant polyphenols than processed honey (source)
- Contains bee pollen, which has several health benefits (source)
- May help with hayfever
Below we have reviewed some of the best raw honey available in the UK.
Best Raw Honey in the UK
1. Black Bee Summer Honey
Black Bee honey is about as close as you can get to buying local honey while still having the convenience of being able to order it online.
Unlike most honeys on the market, this product is made exclusively from honey produced in the UK. It also comes in a recyclable glass jar, so it’s environmentally friendly.
This honey comes from bees that feed on a range of wildflowers in Exmoor and the Cotswolds. In addition to the Summer Honey variety, the company also sells a range of other British honeys including a variety produced in London.
Black Bee Summer Honey is unpasteurised, unblended and coarse filtered, so it retains all the benefits of raw honey.
Most people agree that this honey tastes great, though it’s quite different to supermarket-bought honey so it may take some getting used to.
2. Steens Raw 15+ Manuka Honey
This New Zealand-made manuka honey is raw and unpasteurised. It’s only heated to 36°C, so its unique nutritional properties are preserved.
It’s a bit pricey, but unlike some other brands, you know you’re getting genuine raw manuka honey.
This honey has a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) of 15+. The UMF rating measures the levels of leptosperin, methylglyoxal, DHA and HMF in the honey. Honey with a UMF of 15+ has at least 514 mg of methylglyoxal per kg of honey.
Unlike regular honey that is produced by bees feeding on nectar from a variety of plants, manuka honey is produced by bees that feed exclusively on the nectar of the manuka tree, which is native to New Zealand.
Some studies have found that manuka honey can slow the rate at which bacteria multiply and help with wound healing. For these reasons, a lot of people use manuka to help them get over coughs, could and infections.
One downside to buying this honey is that it isn’t the most environmentally friendly option since it’s imported from New Zealand and comes in a plastic (though BPA-free) jar.
Like most manuka honeys, this product is quite expensive when compared to regular honey.
3. Igmis Natural Raw Wild Flower Honey
This raw honey comes from beehives in Moldova and Ukraine. It’s sold in a large 1.5 kg jar that offers good value for money and should keep you going for a while!
This polyfloral honey is filtered, unpasteurised and doesn’t contain any artificial flavours or added sugars and preservatives. It’s runny at first but will set over time. Once it has set, you can make it runny again by heating it up.
It comes in a BPA-free plastic jar which means it’s less likely to leak or break during shipping. The packaging is very attractive and the plastic jar is lighter than a glass jar would be, though less environmentally friendly.
4. Local Honey Man British Golden Honey
Local Honey Man is a London-based ethical honey brand run by Curtis Thompson, who swapped a job in investment banking to pursue his passion for beekeeping.
This honey is produced by bees from several hives in London and Essex, which feed on pollen from a range of plants including daffodils, blackberries, lavender, pear and clover. It’s cold extracted and coarse filtered.
While London may not sound like an ideal place to produce honey, the capital actually provides bees with a large range of plants to feed from due to the number of parks and gardens.
In addition to plain raw honey, Local Honey Man also sells a range of honeys infused with natural flavourings such as lemon zest and cinnamon.
If you want to have this honey delivered regularly, you can sign up for a subscription package, which would make a great gift for a honey lover.
Most people who try this honey find it to have a richer and more satisfying taste than supermarket-bought honey.
5. Na’vi Absolutely Pure Raw Unpasteurized Living Honey
This raw honey from Na’vi Organics comes from hives in rural mountainous areas in Romania. It’s unprocessed, retaining as many natural antioxidants and live enzymes as possible.
Most people agree this honey tastes delicious and has a much richer taste than supermarket-bought honey. It may arrive set, but should become soft again when left at room temperature.
Na’vi Organics is an organic superfood and supplement brand based in Acharacle in the Scottish Highlands.
Raw Honey FAQs
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about raw honey.
Is raw honey safe?
Despite not being pasteurised, raw honey should be perfectly safe for most people except babies and pregnant women. However, there are a few potential risks:
- Botulism – Raw honey should be safe for healthy adults, but it can be dangerous for pregnant women and babies under a year old as it can contain spores of the bacteria clostridium botulinum. These bacteria can cause botulism, a very rare condition with symptoms including muscle weakness. Most people recover from botulism, but it is fatal in roughly 5-10% of cases. The body builds up defences against clostridium botulinum after the age of about 1, so there older children and adults shouldn’t be at risk of contracting botulism from raw honey.
- Allergic reaction – Raw honey can also contain allergens such as pollen, triggering an allergic reaction.
- Grayanotoxin poisoning – When honey is made by bees that feed from rhododendron plants containing grayanotoxins (a group of neurotoxins), it can cause grayanotoxin poisoning, also known as “mad honey poisoning”. Some symptoms of this include nausea and vomiting. If honey tastes bitter and/or causes a burning sensation in the throat, it may contain grayanotoxins and should be discarded. In some parts of the world, “mad honey” is produced on purpose and consumed as a recreational drug.
Is raw honey vegan?
Whether or not honey is vegan is a hotly contested topic in the vegan community. Some people argue that since honey is made by bees, it isn’t vegan, while others believe this stance is too strict.
See this article for an overview of the arguments for and against honey being vegan.
Is raw honey the same as organic honey?
No. Raw honey can be organic, but it doesn’t have to be and often it isn’t. When talking about honey, ‘organic’ refers means that the plants and flora the bees feed on are organic.
Usually beekeepers don’t know exactly where their bees go, so they can’t guarantee that their bees are always feeding on organic plants.
Is raw honey good for you skin?
Raw honey has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and many people believe it helps moisturise and exfoliate the skin.
Its anti-bacterial properties could help reduce acne, while the antioxidants it contains could help slow down skin aging. This study looks at the potential applications of honey in treating skin disorders.
Is raw honey fattening?
If consumed in high quantities, raw honey could be fattening. Honey is a very calorie-dense food and actually contains more calories per tablespoon than pure sugar (64 calories compared to 46 for sugar).
However, as long as you consume it in moderation it and consume a sensible number of calories overall each day, it won’t make you fat.
Can raw honey be runny?
Raw honey usually crystallises when stored at a low temperature, but will become liquid again when heated.
Does raw honey go bad?
Raw honey should last for a very long time. However, it can go bad if it’s contaminated with something, contains toxic compounds or isn’t stored in an airtight container.
Why is raw honey more expensive?
There are a few reasons why raw honey is usually more expensive than regular honey:
- Raw honey is viscous, whereas pasteurised honey is heated up, making it liquid. This makes pasteurised honey easier and quicker to put into jars.
- Raw honey manufacturers are usually small-scale producers, so they don’t benefit from the economies of scale that large producers can use.
If we had to pick just one of these honeys to recommend it would be Black Bee Summer Honey as it’s produced in the UK, comes in a recyclable glass jar and is made by a small company who are clearly passionate about making raw, natural honey (read about their story here).
Laurence is the founder and editor of Naturaler. He’s been working in the online world for over 5 years and is trying to live a more natural and eco-friendly lifestyle every day.