Honey color - what does it mean?

15.09.2017. 13:00

Have you ever wondered why honey exists in different colors and shades?

If you have ever seen several varieties of honey next to each other, you could see that there is a significant difference in color between some of them.

You must have wondered if there is some other difference between honey of darker and lighter color. Is lighter honey color better than darker?

Understanding the meaning behind honey color can help you choose the honey to your preference.

What is the typical honey color?

More experienced consumers and beekeepers can recognize types of honey by color, taste, and other properties. There are two types of honey: monofloral and multi-floral.

Monofloral honey is the most prized and usually slightly more expensive than mixed honey.

There is a connection between the color and taste of honey. The taste, color and aroma of honey vary depending on the type of flower from which the nectar comes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies honey into seven color categories:

  1. Water white

  2. Extra white

  3. White

  4. Extra light amber

  5. Light amber

  6. Amber

  7. Dark amber

Note that white color here doesn’t mean that honey is actually white, it means that honey is colorless.

The color of honey depends on its floral source because of minerals and some other components.

However, honey color can change with time and exposure to heat. The honey stored at higher temperatures turns dark. Stored honey might granulate after some time, and then the color depends on the crystal size.

The final crystal has the lightest color, and that is why creamed honey mostly appears opaque and light.

The rule is that light and transparent honeys have a soft, delicate taste, while darker ones have a stronger flavor.

The color of honey is also related to the season in which it is harvested. For example, honey harvested in the spring, such as spring, acacia and clover honey, is light and transparent.

In summer, harvested honey has a cheerful yellow color with fruity flavors. Summer honey is produced during chestnut, linden, ash, wild blackberry and other forest honey flowering plants.

Honey harvested in autumn is usually darker and sharper in taste.

Read More: Is Honey Really Good For You?

How does honey get its color?

Honey comes in many colors, ranging from transparent and “white” to dark amber. There are also cases of unusually colored honey, such as red or blue-green.

The question that arises is, why is there such diversity and how does honey get its color?

To answer this question, we need to look at the source of nectar. The color of honey depends on the source that the bee is visiting.

Bees worldwide visit many flowering plants to collect the nectar needed to produce honey for their hives.

Depending on the floral source location, some honeys are produced only in specific regions. For example, Manuka is made only in New Zealand and Australia.

The primary effect on the color of the final product will have precisely the nectar from which the bees produce honey.

A specific impact on honey's color also has minerals, such as sulfur, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, copper, iron and manganese, found in the flower source. 

And if bees visit an area where, for example, there is a candy factory, beekeepers will be surprised by unexpectedly colored honey.

For bees to collect enough nectar, they must visit a large number of flowers. An essential factor determining honey's taste and the color is the different types of flowers and plants that bees visit.

As mentioned above, the color of honey can also change over time, depending on storage and temperature. For example, if light honey is exposed to high temperatures, it will gradually get a darker shade.

That's why honey should be stored in a cool, dry area. 

How is honey color measured?

The color of honey is graded on a scale called the Pfund scale. A Pfund color grader is just a standard amber-colored glass wedge with a color gradient going from light to dark.

The honey color is determined by placing the honey in a wedge-shaped container and comparing it to the scale.

The place where scale color matches honey color is measured from one end of the wedge. As a result of such measurement, we get honey color expressed as a length ranging from 0 to 140 mm.

Another way to measure honey color is by using Lovibond visual comparator. In this measurement, a beam of light is passed through the honey and its color is compared to a standard. The same system is used to determine the color of beer.

Read More: The Importance of Honey - 3 Things to Remember

Does honey color affect honey quality?

The color of honey significantly affects the quality and especially the taste of honey. Although the honey will darken over time and the taste will change, it will still be safe to eat.

Even though the color is not included in the USDA grading system, many producers and consumers are interested in the color. Light colored honey usually has a mild flavor, while darker honey usually has a stronger flavor.

Besides the taste, the color of honey can also determine the number of antioxidants in the honey. Darker colored honey usually has a higher concentration of antioxidants, while lighter has a lower concentration.

No matter the type, honey is an excellent dietary supplement, the best substitute for sugar and a quality remedy for many disorders.


If you are in search of honey, you have a wide range of possibilities. Lighter honey can be great as a sweetener in pancakes and cakes because of its light flavor.

Darker honey has a stronger flavor, but in the right combination, it can complement the flavors in your meals. As with many things, which honey you will choose is just a matter of preference.

Regardless of honey's color, no type of honey is the wrong choice. Every honey has healing properties, so it is better to take any honey than not to take it at all.

Consume honey every day to improve your health and sweeten your day! It is a special gift from nature, be grateful.

Read More: Manuka honey – the most unique form of honey