When I received some Armenian honey for review from Aiva Naturals... I wasn't really sure what to do. Honey is a natural product to pair with tea, but it's not one I've used on a regular basis. Here's what I've figured out.
Addiing things to my tea hasn't been a commonality for me. For years I've been quite the purist, preferring tea without milk, sugar, honey or other sweeteners. I even prefer my ices teas unsweetened.
When I was approached by Aiva Naturals to do this review I immediately accepted. How difficult could it be? It's just honey. Right? Wrong. Very wrong.
Aiva imports their honey from Armenia. A tiny place sandwiched between Turkey and Syria. The terain here is rough but lively.
The bees begin their Spring season around 1000 feet above sea level. Gathering pollen from a variety of plants such as thyme, clover sage and currant flowers, amongst others. The bees are later transferred to somewhere around 5300 feet above sea level.
It's just honey. Right? Wrong. Very wrong.
While I am not a 'honey person.' I have to say, this is a lot better than the honey you buy in the store in the little plastic bear bottles.
I needed to cultivate a honey palate similar to my tea palate. Obviously I couldn't afford to try all of them, so I selected only two for comparison.
I spent some time at Jungle Jims, an international foods market taking up about 6 acres of space near my office. They have close to a hundred, maybe more different brands/types of honey. Many of them very good. None from Armenia. None with the unique production environment Aiva has.
The first selected honey was Alberta Premium Honey. The second was Hot Mama's Orange Blossom Honey. Both in the twenty dollar range. The Aiva Naturals honey is $12.95. More expensive than your average, but apparently less than some other honeys.
The Orange Blossom Honey is made with pollen coming only from orange groves and has a sweet and delicate fruity taste and an aroma reminiscent of citrus blossoms. The distinctive orange blossom flavor would be good if you like citrus flavored tea blends.
I spent several months trying different teas with each of the different honeys.
I spent several months trying different teas with each of the different honeys. Several Assams, malty, orthodox and a more stern CTC. Several Chinese black teas including Keemuns, Lapsang Souchong and a couple Pu'erhs were tested.
The Aiva matched well with the most stern or astringent teas. Primarily I'd say the Assams and darker blacks. Oddly it made the Lapsang Souchong taste a little funny. The Hot Mama's Orange Blossom Honey faired much better there.
I tried each of the honeys with a number of herbal mint teas including a Morroccan mint, Armenian mint and standard peppermint tea. All tasted very nice with the different mints. The Hot Mama's offered more of a changeup though.
A few of the green teas, all Japanese, all shade grown matched well with the Aiva. Best with a fresher Gyokuro, but not bad with a stronger brewed Sencha or Bancha. None of the honeys faired well with the Hojicha, Genmaicha or Kukicha in my opinion.
Hot Mama's did well with a standard Sencha and despite the similarity between the Aiva and the Alberta Premium honeys, the Alberta matched best with the Senchas than the Aiva did.
The Aiva matched well with the most stern or astringent teas.
The other two honeys did match well with stronger teas as well, but the sweeter Orange Blossom Honeyseemed to match alright with lighter greens such as the Lung Ching much better than the other two.
I still cannot claim to have a honeyed palate. I wouldn't say my preference is to add any honey to my teas. However, I can now tell some subtle differences between at least these three honeys and some you'd find at your local Kroger.
- Sweetens your tea.
- Naturally produced.
- A natural match with a stern Assam.
- A good match with other Indian, Chinese, Sri Lankan and African black teas.
- A decent match with peppermint herbal teas.
- An okay match with shade grown Japanese greens such as Gyokuro.
- Too sweet for a Chinese green.
- Too sweet for lighter Japanese greens.
- More expensive than standard honeys.