I’m a big honey fan. I use it all the time in my cooking, from my daily morning porridge to a sugar replacement in various cakes and other delicious baked goodies. Not only do I prefer the taste of honey to regular sugar most of the time, it’s a lot better for you. But that’s not particularly ground-breaking. I think it’s safe to say that most of us know that honey is good for you. After all, who doesn’t love a warm honey and lemon drink in winter when they have a sore throat or cold?
Nevertheless, after running out of honey a few weeks ago, I went down to the supermarket to buy some more and realised. After spending several minutes staring blankly at the wall of honey in front of me, that I actually had no idea what half of the labels were telling me. There was a nice selection of jars and bottles with pretty little buzzing bees and mouthwatering honeycomb pictures on them (the cheaper varieties). And then, there was an array of “Manuka” or “Jarrah” honeys with “TA 15+” or something similar on the labels (typically about double the price). Now I, being someone who is always willing to fork out a little more for higher quality food products, eventually picked up the “Organic Australian Jarrah Honey TA 15+” without knowing what about half of the label meant. So I set about doing a little bit of research that I though I would share with you.
“TA” or “Total Activity” or anything similar that you might find on a honey jar refers to the honey’s antimicrobial properties which, in plain English, means its healing properties. In fact, honey is one of the oldest documented medicines in the world! It is good for healing wounds because it maintains a moist wound while preventing infection. It is also good for combatting bacteria and disease inside the body, hence why hot honey and lemon drinks are one of the best natural remedies for cold and flus!
The terms “Manuka” and “Jarrah” simply refer to the plant the bees pollinated. The Manuka bush grows mostly in New Zealand and the Jarrah tree grows mostly in Western Australia. The reason it’s so much more expensive is because it’s quite difficult to make sure the bees only use those specific plants. Finally, the number of “Total Activity” refers to the strength of antimicrobial properties in the honey. The higher the number, the stronger the healing properties. I also read somewhere that you don’t really get higher than TA 20+ and that 15-20 is more than adequate.
But does it really matter? I mean do you really need to pay so much more for a honey with a higher TA? The answer is basically it depends. The nutritional benefits of honey are present in most types of honey, though obviously check the label for unnecessary additives. I find that going for organic honeys tends to be a safe option quality and taste wise, but for general daily use, it really doesn’t matter if you have a high TA honey or not. However, if you’re feeling unwell or have a sore throat, a honey with a higher TA is likely to be more beneficial due to its medicinal qualities.