What is raw honey? Why isn't all honey considered raw?
It's easy to understand what "raw" means when you associate it with uncooked vegetables. It's well known that by avoiding any form of heat so as to ensure all the natural vitamins and living enzymes and other nutritional elements are preserved.
Raw honey is the original sweet liquid that honeybees produce from the concentrated nectar of flowers. Collected straight from the extractor; it is totally unheated, unpasteurised, and unprocessed honey.
An alkaline-forming food, this type of honey contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which become alkaline in the digestive system. It doesn't ferment in the stomach and it can be used to counteract acid indigestion.
When mixed with ginger and lemon juices, it effectively relieves nausea and supplies energy. Raw foodists love honey for its exceptional nutritional value and its amylase, an enzyme concentrated in flower pollen which helps predigest starchy foods like breads.
A lot of the honey found in supermarkets is not raw honey but "commercial" honey, some of which has been pasteurised (heated at 70 degrees Celsius or more, followed by rapid cooling) for easy filtering and bottling so that it looks cleaner and smoother, more appealing on the shelf, and easier to handle and package.
Pasteurisation kills any yeast cells in the honey and prevents fermentation, which is a concern for storing honey, that has a high moisture content, over a long period - especially in warm weather. While fermentation does not pose a health danger (mead is fermented honey), it does affect the taste of honey. Heating also slows down the speed of crystallisation in liquid honey. However on the downside, when honey is heated, its delicate aromas, yeast and enzymes which are responsible for activating vitamins and minerals in the body system are partially destroyed.
Among manufacturers there exists no uniform code of using the term "raw honey". Which means there are no strict legal requirements for claiming and labelling honey as "raw". Nevertheless, suppliers who understand that honey that has undergone heat treatment will not be as nutritious and who have their consumers' health in mind would ensure their honey is only slightly warmed (not pasteurised), just enough to allow the honey to flow for bottling. Thus, it may be possible to find raw honey that is not processed but only slightly warmed to prevent granulation for a short period of time and allow light straining and packing into containers for sale. Using as little heat as possible being a sign of careful handling.
Usually raw, unfiltered honey can only be purchased directly from the bee farm. Characterised by fine textured crystals, it looks cloudier and contains particles and flecks made of bee pollen, honeycomb bits, propolis, and even sometimes broken bee wing fragments.
Raw and unfiltered honey and has a high antioxidant level and will usually granulate and crystallise to a thick consistency after a few months. It is usually preferred as a spread on bread and waffles, or dissolved in hot coffee or tea. However, as most consumers are currently attracted to buying and eating crystal clear honey, unfiltered honey - which looks cloudy - is sadly not often commercially available on supermarket shelves.