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Mānuka honey

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A bowl of visibly viscous mānuka honey

Mānuka honey (Māori pronunciation: [maːnʉka]) is a monofloral honey produced from the nectar of the mānuka tree, Leptospermum scoparium.

The mānuka tree is indigenous to New Zealand and some parts of coastal Australia, but mānuka honey is today produced globally. Used as a sugar substitute, it has a strong, earthy aroma and flavour. The word mānuka is the Māori name of the tree; however, as with many Māori words, the older spelling manuka (without a macron) remains relatively common in English.


Mānuka honey is produced by European honey bees (Apis mellifera) foraging on the mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium),[1] which evidence suggests originated in Australia before the onset of the Miocene aridity.[2] It grows uncultivated throughout both southeastern Australia and New Zealand.[2][3][4]

Mānuka honey is markedly viscous. This property is due to the presence of a protein or colloid and is its main visually defining characteristic, along with its typical dark cream to dark brown colour.[5][6]

The mānuka tree flowers at the same time as Kunzea ericoides, another Myrtaceae species also called kānuka, which often shares the same growing areas. Some apiarists cannot readily differentiate these species, as both flowers have similar morphology and pollen differentiation between the two species is difficult.[citation needed]

Mānuka honey for export from New Zealand must be independently tested. The country's Ministry for Primary Industries has developed a government standard called the Mānuka Honey Science Definition test to identify that all mānuka honey is pure when it leaves the country. The test comprises five attributes, four of which are chemical, and one of which is DNA of Leptospermum scoparium.[3][7] The honey must pass all five tests to be labeled as pure New Zealand mānuka. This testing came into effect on 5 January 2018.[8] Independent quality and rating organisation, the UMF Honey Association then certifies four quality factors for honey harvested, packed, and sealed in New Zealand.[9]

The UMF Honey Association was originally known as the Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA), and was formed in 2002.[10] In 2011, the AMHA became The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA). The Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) was established in 2017 following the discontinuation of the New Zealand Manuka Honey industry's change of the use of the acronym AMHA.[11] They established a set of standards for authentic Australian Manuka honey. Honey that carries the AMHA's Mark of Authenticity must be pure, natural Manuka honey, produced entirely in Australia, and be tested by an independent, approved laboratory to ensure it meets minimum standards of naturally occurring methylglyoxal, dihydroxyacetone, and leptosperin.[12]

Five-petaled white flowers and round buds on twigs bearing short spiky leaves. A dark bee is in the centre of one of the flowers.
A native bee[citation needed] visits a mānuka flower (Leptospermum)


Mānuka honey has a strong flavour,[5] characterised as "earthy, oily, herbaceous",[13] and "florid, rich and complex".[14] It is described by the New Zealand honey industry as having a "damp earth, heather, aromatic" aroma and a "mineral, slightly bitter" flavour.[15]


Grading, counterfeit, and adulteration[edit]

As a result of the high premium paid for mānuka honey, an increasing number of products now labeled as such worldwide are adulterated or counterfeit. According to research by the Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA), the main trade association of New Zealand mānuka honey producers (New Zealand being the main producer of mānuka honey in the world), while only 1,700 tonnes (3.7 million pounds) of mānuka honey are produced in New Zealand every year, six times as much are marketed internationally as mānuka honey, of which 1,800 tonnes (4.0 million pounds) are in the UK alone.[16]

In governmental agency tests in the UK between 2011 and 2013, a majority of mānuka-labeled honeys sampled lacked the non-peroxide anti-microbial activity of mānuka honey. Likewise, of 73 samples tested by UMFHA in Britain, China, and Singapore in 2012–13, 43 tested negative. Separate UMFHA tests in Hong Kong found that 14 out of 56 mānuka honeys sampled had been adulterated with syrup. In 2013, the UK Food Standards Agency asked trading standards authorities to alert mānuka honey vendors to the need for legal compliance.[16]

The UMFHA trademarked a honey rating system called Unique Mānuka Factor,[17] but there is a confusing range of competing rating systems for mānuka honeys. In one UK chain in 2013, two products were labeled "12+ active" and "30+ total activity" respectively for "naturally occurring peroxide activity", and another "active 12+" for "total phenol activity", yet none of the three were labeled for the strength of the non-peroxide antimicrobial activity specific to mānuka honey.[16]


There have been increasing turf disputes between producers operating close to large mānuka tree clumps. Cases have been reported of many hives being variously sabotaged, poisoned, or stolen.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moorfield, John C. (2003). "mānuka". Te Aka Māori Dictionary. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b Stephens, JMC; Molan, PC; Clarkson, BD (2005). "A review of Leptospermum scoparium (Myrtaceae) in New Zealand". New Zealand Journal of Botany. 43 (2): 431–449. doi:10.1080/0028825x.2005.9512966. ISSN 0028-825X. S2CID 53515334.
  3. ^ a b Matheson, Andrew; Reid, Murray (2011). Practical beekeeping in New Zealand, 4th Edition. Exisle Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 9781877568527.
  4. ^ Tanguy, C. Marina Marchese & Kim Flottum; illustrations by Elara (2013). The honey connoisseur : selecting, tasting, and pairing honey, with a guide to more than 30 varietals. Running Press. ISBN 9781579129293. It (Leptospermum scoparium) is native to New Zealand and Australia"{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b Jon Morgan (5 March 2009). "Money from honey – a family affair". Dominion Post. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  6. ^ Ministry for Primary Industries. "Interim Labelling Guide for Manuka Honey". New Zealand Government. Archived from the original on 2015-01-13. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  7. ^ Deavoll, Pat (17 May 2017). "New tests confirm New Zealand manuka honey is for real". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  8. ^ "Mānuka honey". Ministry of Primary Industry. 5 February 2018.
  9. ^ Industries, Ministry for Primary. "Labelling and composition of honey and bee products". www.mpi.govt.nz.
  10. ^ "Certificate of Incorporation" (PDF).
  11. ^ Lucio, Remedios (26 October 2017). "Aussies create Australian Manuka Honey Association". Inside FMCG.
  12. ^ "Australian Manuka Honey Association – Our Quality Standards". Australian Manuka Honey Association. Retrieved 2019-07-09.
  13. ^ Julie Biuso, Sizzle: Sensational Barbecue Food, Monterey, Cal.: Julie Biuso Publications, 2008, p. 154
  14. ^ Crescent Dragonwagon, Passionate Vegetarian, New York: Workman Publishing Co., 2002, p. 958
  15. ^ "Industry reacts as guidelines issued for manuka honey labelling". Health Food Business. 2017.
  16. ^ a b c Jonathan Leake (26 August 2013). "Food fraud buzz over fake manuka honey". The Times (London). Archived from the original on 2013-09-15. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  17. ^ "Unique Mānuka Factor (UMF) Grading System Explained". Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association. Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  18. ^ Mike Barrington (7 November 2012). "Honey fights: Millions of bees slaughtered". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  19. ^ Ainge Roy, Eleanor (2016-11-04). "Honey wars: crime and killings in New Zealand's booming manuka industry". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-29.