Manuka honey is a special type of honey collected by bees that only pollinate Manuka trees in New Zealand and eastern Australia. Manuka honey differs from other honey in its denser texture, dark brown color, and richer flavor. It is one of the most expensive foods in the world due to its rarity, unique health benefits, and delicate caramel-like flavor. But is Manuka honey really worth the money? What makes it the most expensive honey? Let’s dive right in.
Why is Manuka honey so expensive? Here are the top 6 reasons why Manuka honey is so expensive:
- Rarity – only found in New Zealand and Australia
- Laborious growing conditions
- Unique health properties
- High shipping costs and taxes
- Manuka honey grading costs
- Demand far exceeds the supply
Manuka Honey Price
How much does manuka honey cost? As of now, 250 g (8.8 ounces) of 100% pure, organic, New Zealand Manuka honey costs between $32.00-$39.00, making it one of the most expensive kinds of honey in the world. Manuka honey price per kg can go as high as $190.00 due to high demand and insufficient supply.
Let’s dive into the main reasons and see if Manuka honey is really worth the extra money.
Manuka comes from the New Zealand tea tree, commonly called manuka (Leptospermum scoparium). These trees only grow in New Zealand and eastern Australia at a high altitude and bloom for only 2 weeks a year. The location of the trees makes it hard for beekeepers to control the process of pollination and collect honey. A short blooming time frame can provide a limited supply of Manuka honey, compared to regular honey – only 2,500 tonnes of Manuka honey is produced every year, compared to almost 2 million tonnes of regular honey. If you do the maths, it is easy to understand that Manuka’s supply is always insufficient, while the interest in Manuka is growing at a fast pace.
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Interestingly, the scientists tried to clone Manuka trees and grow them in laboratories to lower the price of honey, but the quality of the finished product was not the same, and the idea was not developed further. Unfortunately, the size of Manuka trees forests is shrinking, making Manuka honey rarer and hence more expensive. Manuka trees are very weather-sensitive, so they usually do not bloom for longer than 2 weeks a year, but this window can be extended for 8 weeks due to favorable weather conditions.
Laborious Growing Conditions
That said, weather-sensitive Manuka trees that grow at high altitudes are the main reason why Manuka honey is so expensive. Manuka trees are very dependent on the climate, the type of soil and its pH and mineral levels, sudden temperature changes, wind, rain, and sunlight. Also, for Manuka honey to be of high quality, beekeepers have to work quickly and efficiently to maintain the well-being of the bees which produce the most expensive honey in the world.
To create pure and exclusive Manuka honey, bees must pollinate and feed on only one Manuka flower and not any others. When bees feed on other flowers along with manuka, it results in multi-flowered manuka honey, which has very low nutritional value and quality compared to mono-flowered honey. Apart from the short flowering window, these plants only grow in certain microclimates of New Zealand, usually in isolated hills and forests, making it even more difficult to produce Manuka honey. This wild plant is very sensitive to human interference, so the further the manuka plant is from people, the healthier the manuka flower, bee colonies, and the stronger Manuka honey quality.
Unique Health Properties
Manuka is a special type of honey extracted by bees from tea trees that grow in New Zealand and eastern Australia. Manuka flower produces nectar that contains unique methylglyoxal compounds that have powerful antibacterial effects. Manuka honey also has its own quality grading system, which is called the Unique Factor of Manuka (UMF) and is indicated on the labels when the product goes on sale. Accordingly, the higher this factor, the stronger the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey.
But what is so special about manuka honey? Manuka honey is special due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, unique earthy, floral, caramel flavor, delicate nutty aroma with herbal notes, and thick texture. Manuka honey is only produced in New Zealand and Australia and is very rare as Manuka trees only bloom 2 weeks a year. Let’s dive into the main health benefits of Manuka honey.
Like other types of honey, Manuka honey contains primarily sugar, but also contains amino acids, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, and zinc. However, Manuka honey is unique, mainly due to three components:
- Methylglyoxal (MGO)
- Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) – a component of the nectar from manuka flowers, which is converted into MGO during honey production.
- Leptosperin – a component of manuka nectar
According to studies, manuka honey has stronger antiseptic and antimicrobial properties compared to other varieties, and is also recognized as an excellent antioxidant, is used as an antifungal and antiviral agent, and is involved in strengthening the immune system. Manuka helps to treat gastrointestinal diseases, heartburn, sore bowel syndrome, colds, and sore throat. Unique Manuka honey components are effective in acne treatment.
Is Manuka honey that much better? Manuka honey has more unique health benefits (antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, would-healing properties) than regular honey due to Methylglyoxal compounds, thicker texture, a deeper caramel-like flavor, rich nutty aroma with herbal and earthy notes.
The production of real manuka honey is carried out only in New Zealand and is strictly controlled by the state, so it is impossible to increase its production by adding sugar or sugar syrup. It is certified and produced only in apiaries by local bees, which are strictly forbidden to be fed with chemical additives.
High Shipping Costs and Taxes
Since all Manuka honey comes from New Zealand and Australia, the already expensive Manuka honey becomes even more expensive overseas due to all the shipping costs, fees and taxes. Even though honey does not go bad quickly like meat, seafood, and fruit, but it can go bad when in contact with other foods, so transportation should be as quick as possible. Honey needs to be protected from direct sunlight, moisture, and temperature drops, so such shipping becomes pricey. Once the honey reaches its destination, it needs to be transported to shops over land or on the airplane, which increases the cost.
Also, since collecting Manuka honey needs to be done at high altitudes, you cannot do without a helicopter. The workers need to constantly monitor the process of pollination and the well-being of the bees, so expensive helicopters only make already expensive Manuka honey more pricey! Helicopter maintenance and fuel require a lot of finances, that is why 1 kg of high-quality Manuka honey comes at $150.00 and more, while 1 kg of regular honey costs $15.00-$20.00.
Manuka Honey Grading Costs
Manuka honey has its own grading system – The unique Factor of Manuka, so the members of the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association manually check all honey jars for quality and freshness to ensure the finished product is 100% pure, organic, and collected in accordance with all the requirements. Since multiple strict tests are required, it takes a lot of time, effort, and equipment to test honey, so it also contributes to a higher price. New Zealand government even issued particular Manuka honey requirements to ensure all honey that comes from New Zealand is of the highest quality, has the best taste, and the most unique health benefits. These tests can also determine if the honey or monofloral or multi-floral – monofloral honey means the bees were only feeding on Manuka trees flowers, so the quality is even higher.
Demand Far Exceeds The Supply
Manuka honey has become extremely popular thanks to its unique floral flavor with earthy and nutty notes, rich caramel-like aroma, a thick texture, and a lot of health benefits. Since the supply of Manuka honey is always limited (only 1800 tonnes per year), New Zealand and Australia cannot satisfy the demand for the product, and it leads to the price increase – get ready to pay over $160.00 per kg of pure, 100% organic Manuka honey.
Manuka Honey Taste
What does manuka honey taste like? Manuka honey has a rich floral, delicious, caramel-like flavor, thick, delicate texture, deep nutty scent with earthy and herbal notes. Manuka honey has a mild, pleasantly bitter aftertaste and a darker color due to the high level of phenolic acids.
Does manuka honey taste better? Some say Manuka honey tastes better than regular honey as it has a higher intensity of the distinctively floral, vanilla-like taste with hints of earthiness and nuttiness. Manuka also has a subtly bitter aftertaste but high-quality Manuka never tastes sour or too bitter.
Due to its rich and sweet taste, manuka honey is often used in food for the treatment and prevention of diseases, as well as for the general strengthening of the immune system. Manuka honey contains high levels of manganese, iron, copper, potassium, zinc, and calcium and therefore can fit perfectly into a healthy diet. Manuka honey is sweeter than sugar because it contains more fructose than glucose.
Manuka honey goes well with oatmeal, cereal, coffee, tea, yogurt, smoothies, pies, cookies, puddings, biscuits, cakes, gingerbread, cookies, marshmallows, jams, and ice cream. We do not recommend adding Manuka honey to hot tea and coffee as it loses some of its properties when in contact with boiling liquids. Manuka honey, like regular honey, can be added to marinades and sauces for meat and fish or added to salads. Remember that Manuka honey contains a lot of sugar, so it is better to consume it in moderation – it is not recommended to eat more than 8-9 tbsp (36g) of honey per day.
Why Is Manuka Honey So Expensive FAQ
Is manuka honey really worth the money? Manuka honey is really worth the money due to its unique floral caramel-like flavor, thick, delicate texture, deep nutty scent with earthy and herbal notes, and unique health benefits, including antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties.
Why is manuka honey so valuable? Manuka honey is so valuable as the flower from which it is extracted contains unique Methylglyoxal compounds that have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Manuka grows only in New Zealand and Australia, which is hard to harvest, making Manuka honey so valuable and expensive.