The more we learn about honey, the more we learn how sweet it is. This natural golden nectar of bees gives us not just a versatile sweetener but health benefits as well. Honey is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, and is antibacterial, antifungal and even probiotic when it isn’t pasteurized.

Farmers’ markets and Community Supported Agriculture provide increasing sources for locally grown, raw (unpasteurized) honey for many of us. But before you buy your next pot of honey (or maybe your first), consider the following information.

Of wine and honey

The concept of terroir refers to the location a product is grown. For example, the character of a wine depends on the land and qualities of the area where its grapes are grown. Beekeepers are increasingly applying terroir to their honey and producing varietals based on where it’s gathered.

Damian Magista is a Portland, Oregon, beekeeper who produces a line of locally extracted artisan honey, called Bee Local. By placing beehives in different neighborhoods and cities—25 hives so far—he has found that the honeys from each of these areas have completely different flavors. Hence, local residents can shop for honey that originated right in their own neighborhoods and know the flavors will be unique to those areas.

“People love to go to one of our local specialty stores,” Magista says. “They see the honey and say, ‘Wow! That’s honey from my neighborhood!’ They are really excited by it.”

Two honeys can have completely different flavor varieties. “Bees normally forage within roughly a two- to four-mile radius; so it follows that if the forage and the nectar they’re getting are different in another area, then of course the honey’s going to be entirely different. It’s totally at the mercy of what’s flowering,” he explains.

Varietal honey sources

Ask your local farmers selling honey if their products are regional and what flavor distinctions they may have. Here are additional online resources for varietal honey:

Bee Raw brings the concept of varietals to honey. Try one of their “honey flights” for the full experience.

Bee Local brings you raw honey infused with the flavor of distinct Portland neighborhoods.

Although this honey from New York City rooftops, gardens and balconies is not yet available online, we loved it so much we had to include it.