Carpe diem. Last April I bumped into an advertisement for a honey sensorial path. A truly dive into the honey world. Three classes (of course online) with an exceptional expert of this field, the doctor Lucia Piana. Three meetings during which analysing together the kit composed by 18 different mini honeypots received at home, including different detailed sheets about them. Of course it was not for free. The total cost was about 80 euros (for me that I live in Germany the freight charges would have affected pretty much the total expense). What should I do? Shall I order it? Or better not? Will it be worth it? Will it be something well-arranged? Will I receive successfully the parcel?
What happened then?
Well, I couldn’t help ordering it: “It is such a special opportunity, I just buy it and that’s it!”. (second self-motivational speech: “The 30th May it will be my 30th Birthday, I absolutely deserve such a gift”). I was sooo excited that I started to jump by myself in the room. Soooo coooool! And then…c’mon, it was a sign!!! Me, fully in my beekeeper-to-be path, with the bees colouring by days, I got from nothing such a WOW chance about the honey world. Me, that I ADORE honey, eating it and experimenting with it in many recipes. And then, how often have you heard about honey sensorial path?? Moreover, despite being so far away from my homeland, I could have attending it without absolutely any issue. In addition, with such a fantastic expert. How could I be so sure about this? Already at end 2020, I had attended a webinar where doctor Piana was speaking about honey and…yes, time always flew by! Hanging from her lips! Very good, clear and extremely interesting! Let me jump still a bit for the joy of this decision taken 🙂
Was everything fine in the end? Or was it a scam?
Absolutely no, everything perfect! After a few days from the order, I had received the kit at home. Wonderful! It was a nice box containing the samples, 18 to be precise (40 g each one). There was also a well-finished folder, explaining in what the course was consisting of, how to analyse honey world and a sheet for each sample of honey. Each specific sheet pointed out the plant from which the bees were collecting its original nectar, where that honey can generally be found and its organoleptic features. The idea of these online courses was born right from Covid situation. But I will explain this later below, wait!
How was this course then??
Well, the course didn’t disappoint the expectations…it was simply wonderful! It was carried out in May, for three Mondays in a row, from 8 pm to 10 pm. It was via Zoom. It’s true, we were not such a little group, so the only feasible way to step in with questions or comments was by writing in the chat, but in anycase I enjoyed it much. There was always a first half an hour of general introduction and then keeping on with tasting, each time 6 different honeypots.
1) It exists the job of honey sensorial analysis experts
Did you know that in Italy it exists a National register of honey sensorial analysis experts? That means experts (after an ad hoc course with different tests and final official certification – my dream since I entered this fantastic honey world) that can evaluate honey by tasting it. This a job to not underestimate, you know? It’s a truly bridge between producers, technicians and customers. Consider that it’s an official register created by the Italian Minister of Agriculture. Doctor Piana takes care of these courses, at which there are also samples to be tasted. For well-known reasons, they were deleted, it was not possible to attend them in person…so what to do with this honey? Right this, but also the request from different former students of getting some tastes to keep on their training at home, brought to the creation of this online course. Sure, this is not complete, it’s not enough to enter this official register, but it’s certainly an excelent way for giving some more ideas about this honey-scented universe.
2) It exists a truly vocabulary for the honey sensorial path
Our senses are not like the very precise and scientific laboratory tools. What we perceive comes from us, from our brain, from how we feel, from our expectations and our experiences,…so then we have a quite big issue: what I do perceive, it’s different from what you do perceive, right? To try to get to an as homogeneous as possible analisis, the experts have created a specific vocabulary to describe honey!
3) First of all you watch, then you smell and lastly you taste
Eh it’s true you don’t taste at random. If you want to taste seriously honey, you must follow this order. Firstly (like for any other dish in the end…have you ever watched ‘Masterchef‘?), you describe the appearance. What you can see. Hence, when it’s still 100% untouched. At that point, what do you have to look carefully at regarding the honey world? At the physical status (is it liquid? Crystalized?), at the appearance (is it turbid? Clear? Homogenous?) and, of course, at the colour (light? Dark?). Then you smell it…but why is it so important to smell it before tasting it? When we taste, we use the nose as well…if we try to smell something while we eat, we won’t perceive anything – it’s like if the sense of smell gets numb with the tasting. Have a try and you will believe it! At this point you have to focus on the smell intensity (is it perceivable? Is it strong?) and on its features (floral, aromatic,…). And at last, yep, you can taste it 🙂
A suggestion from the doctor Piana: it’s better to taste honey with empty stomach or at least not after eating something particularly strong. It is suggested to neutralize the mouth with some water or by eating an apple slice, between a honey taste and the other.
4) The honey is not unicolour
We had 18 samples and all with different colours, and I am not speaking of slightly different shades. There were completely diffrent colours. It exists for sure the ‘traditional’ golden honey, but there was also an almost transparent honey (Locust plant), a white one (rapeseed plant), bright orange one (from sunflower) and dark brown (honeydew).
5) Honey is not only floral or fruity
We generally have a simplistic idea of honey. “Mmm how’s honey?” “Well, it’s sweet!” That’s all! With this course I have found out that honey can be warm, aromatic, fruity, floral, but also vegetal, animal or chemical. A very nice exercise that we did: when we tasted, to explain in the best possible way what we perceived, we had to make an effort with our imagination and tell what that honey reminded to us! It was supposed to be something related to our experience, to something special, to a traditional taste, to a smell far away from our childhood,…we had to become narrators of our perceptions! I must admit that it’s not that simple, but it was much funny and interesting. This exercise was not just for fun or to catch our attention. It’s important to train this perception narration because when we describe what we feel, it will be easier to memorise the taste of that specific honey and remember it the following time. Here below I leave you some comments noted down during the three meetings, just to let you better understand:
- citrus honey: super sweet candies with mandarine taste (both when smelling and tasting)
- linden honey: by smelling it reminds a leather shop, by tasting it seems a bit mint (almost balsamic)
- eucalyptus honey: by smelling it reminds of food for cats, but then it tastes like caramel
- chestnut honey: when you smell it it seems ammonia and when you taste it, it reminds of grilled polenta
- dandelion honey: the smell reminds of feet, when you taste it’s sweet like a candy
- rapeseed honey: it smells of soup, cheese and cabbages, while the taste reminds of cake icing
Not only it was really really interesting and estimulating, it was also an excellent occasion to investigate further about the honey world and find out so much that I didn’t know at all. There is really such an endless universe behind honey and I will be glad to continue to study it and experiment it further! How is your relation with honey? Which one of the five curiousities that I had discovered impressed you the most?
We would like to know more from your side 🙂