Whether you buy honey from the grocery store or the farmers market, purchasing honey from ethical sources is one of many ways that individuals can protect global bee populations and invest in sustainable agriculture — but it can be hard to figure out how to get started and what to do once you have found honey that you like. We are here to help!

FAQ #1: What is crystallized honey?

Over time, the sugars in honey can change into a more solid, opaque form through a process known as crystallization. All honey crystallizes over time depending on the temperature at which it is stored, the composition of its sugars, and the amount of pollen in it. Importantly, the formation of sugar crystals does not mean that the honey has expired — honey that is properly stored in a sealed container never “goes bad.” Raw honey may crystallize faster than pasteurized honey because there is more pollen which increases surface area for crystals formation. Further, the plants which bees pollinate affect how quickly honey crystallizes — wildflower honey will become solid much more quickly than honey harvested from bees that pollinate hardwood trees.

FAQ #2: What do I do with crystallized honey? How can I decrystallize it?

Crystallized honey is safe and delicious to consume in the same ways you consume  liquid honey. If you prefer the liquid form, decrystallizing honey is a simple and safe process that will not affect the honey’s quality. All crystallized honey will become liquid again if you gently heat it up. You can do this in a bowl of hot water or by microwaving it for very short increments in a glass container. The honey may crystallize and become solid again over time, but you can continue heating it to a liquid repeatedly without any impact to taste or quality. You can also find recipes and tips online for ways to consume crystallized honey in its solid form — just another way to enjoy this sweet treat!

FAQ #3: What is raw honey? 

Honey is “raw” if the only change made to it from the hive to the shelf is filtering it through mesh or nylon to remove large impurities. Honey is no longer “raw” if it is diluted, pasteurized, ultrafiltered, or processed with heat. Raw honey will often appear darker in color and have a thicker texture, and may still have some particles. You can find raw honey at farmers markets, specialty stores, online, and more.

FAQ #4: Is supermarket store honey ethically sourced?

Industrial honey production can have many negative consequences — from disrupting pollination by wild bees to spreading diseases among mass-produced bee populations. Often, honey you find at the grocery store does come from large commercial operations with varying levels of quality, sustainability, and ethical practices. Most purely liquid honey you find at the supermarket is not raw honey — it has been filtered and pasteurized to remove all pollen and prevent fermentation. This process gets rid of all particles, lengthens the shelf-life, and prevents the honey from crystallizing, which makes it easier to market to the typical consumer, who may be averse to seeing particles in their honey and expect the longest possible shelf-life. While some stores may make an intentional effort to source honey locally or sustainably, knowing about a honey’s point of origin before you buy it is important to make sure it is sustainable and ethical.

Long story short: sustainably sourced honey is a great addition to your pantry, and you don’t have to be in a hurry to use it. Reach out to us if you have more questions, and check out our citrus blossom Haitian honey in our online store!