Manuka Honey: Nature’s Liquid Gold

Manuka honey's premium cost is attributed to its coveted medical properties, unique health benefits among New Zealand honeys, and the challenges in its limited production and harvesting.

Manuka Honey: Nature’s Liquid Gold
Photo by Danika Perkinson / Unsplash

The world of gourmet delights extends beyond foie gras, caviar, and truffles.

Occasionally, even simple staples like honey can command exorbitant prices. Among these, Manuka honey holds a special place, cherished by food aficionados.

While it may not rival the staggering prices of Turkish cave honey, such as Elvish and Centauri varieties, Manuka remains one of the priciest honeys worldwide. What elevates this modest nectar to such distinguished culinary heights

What is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is a unique type of honey native to New Zealand, derived from the nectar of the Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium).

Unlike regular honey, Manuka honey is known for its potent antimicrobial properties, a characteristic attributed to its high content of methylglyoxal (MGO).

Manuka Honey vs. Regular Honey: The Sweet Distinction

Manuka honey is an exclusive monofloral treat, sourced mainly from the Manuka flower. This results in a higher concentration of antibacterial MGO.

In contrast, regular honey is polyfloral, born from various flowers, offering a diverse but less potent flavor.

While both are nature's delights, they're rich in sugar. Though honey may be a tad gentler on blood sugar than table sugar, it's essential to exercise caution, especially for those monitoring their sugar intake.

A gourmet tip? Pair honey with proteins and fats, like honey-glazed roasted walnuts, for a balanced indulgence.

History and Origin

The indigenous Maori people of New Zealand have utilized the Manuka plant for centuries, tapping into its healing and medicinal properties.

However, it was only in the 1980s that the unique antimicrobial activity of Manuka honey was discovered by Dr. Peter Molan, propelling it to international fame.

What is The Price of Manuka Honey?

A pound of Monofloral Manuka honey, boasting an impressive 2050+ MGO, 34+ UMF can command a price of $3,000. This honey is renowned for its unique taste, aroma, consistency, and hue.

Why is Manuka Honey So Expensive?

Short Flowering Window For Bees

Beekeeping for Manuka honey is a delicate art, given that the Manuka trees bloom for a brief 2-6 weeks annually.

Occasionally, if the climatic conditions aren't favorable, these trees might either not blossom or may not yield their full nectar potential.

Challenging seasons can further limit the bees' opportunities to gather due to inclement weather, resulting in a diminished harvest. Yet, the operational expenses remain consistent.

Manuka Honey's Antibacterial Edge

Manuka honey stands out for its unmatched antibacterial power. While all raw honeys deter germs with hydrogen peroxide, Manuka brings an ace: Methylglyoxal (MGO).

The higher its MGO content, the greater its germ-fighting prowess, leading to its global use in wound care. Labels often flaunt an MGO rating, like "MGO 100+up to MGO 2000+" signifying the honey's potency.

Some even carry a UMF badge, a New Zealand stamp of quality. With Manuka, you're savoring more than just sweetness — you're tapping into nature's elite antibacterial potion.

UMF Grading: A Premium for Purity

UMF-graded honey jars are more than just premium; they're a testament to rigorous scrutiny, making them highly sought-after. The UMF Honey Association (UMFHA) evaluates each jar's purity and authenticity through:

Leptosperin: A unique genetic marker from the Manuka tree, confirming the honey's authenticity.

Methylglyoxal (MGO): Known for its antibacterial properties, it bestows Manuka honey with its health benefits.

DHA: A concentrated form of MGO, indicating the honey's potency.

The resulting UMF emblem, accompanied by a number, indicates purity. The in-depth evaluation and inherent quality justify the price, with higher UMF ratings signifying supreme purity.

Unique Composition

Manuka honey isn't solely celebrated for its MGO content. Studies indicate its formidable antimicrobial properties, showcasing effectiveness against various fungal ailments.

Beyond this, Manuka is rich in antioxidants that counteract free radicals, potentially safeguarding against cancer and signs of aging.

Its prowess extends to promoting tissue regeneration, proving especially beneficial for significant burn injuries. Given this bouquet of health benefits, it's hardly surprising that Manuka honey enjoys such fervent demand.

New Zealand's Exclusive Nectar and Its Price of Purity

Manuka honey's esteemed value is deeply rooted in its New Zealand origin. "Mānuka," a term from the Maori language, refers to the Leptospermum Scoparium tree.

Though Manuka trees are abundant in New Zealand, only specific dense areas yield the purest form. With an annual output of just 2800 tonnes, the demand outweighs the supply.

What further elevates its price is the intricate harvesting process. The best Manuka honey comes from New Zealand's isolated wilderness, prompting beekeepers to traverse challenging terrains, sometimes by helicopter.

When reflecting on its cost, imagine the dedication it takes, amidst vast landscapes and the echoing helicopter hums.

Crafted from Prime Manuka Pollination

When bees flit between various flowers including the Manuka, they yield 'Multi-Floral' Manuka honey with a milder concentration of Manuka's health attributes.

However, when bees predominantly favor the Manuka flower, they craft 'Monofloral' Manuka Honey, encapsulating the robust essence of Manuka's health benefits.

Given its concentrated benefits, Monofloral usually comes with a heftier price tag.

Flavor Profile

Manuka honey is a true delight for the gourmet palate. It presents a complex flavor - rich, robust, and earthy with herbal undertones.

Its consistency is creamier and more opulent than regular honey, and it leaves a lingering aftertaste reminiscent of its wild origins.

Interesting Facts

  1. Bee Exclusivity: Only bees that primarily feed on the Manuka tree's flowers can produce genuine Manuka honey.
  2. Fraud Alert: Due to its high price, Manuka honey is one of the most counterfeited honeys in the world. Authentic Manuka honey jars come with certification, proving their origin and UMF level.
  3. Aged Like Fine Wine: Some connoisseurs age their Manuka honey, believing it enhances its flavors and therapeutic properties over time.


Manuka honey's higher price tag stems from multiple factors. Its high-grade versions, revered for medical applications, are in escalating demand from medical institutions.

Beyond its medical accolades, even its lower grades boast commendable health benefits. Of all the exquisite honeys from New Zealand, Manuka stands out.

In essence, the allure of Manuka honey boils down to its limited production, unparalleled popularity, and the intricate efforts behind its harvest.

Frequently Asked Question

What is Manuka Honey's Versatile MGO Grades and Their Uses?

Everyday Wellness Manuka Honey:

  • MGO 30+: An everyday delight, this mild-strength, multifloral Manuka honey is an ideal natural sweetener substitute and can be savored directly or in dishes.
  • MGO 100+: Beyond daily consumption, it serves as a natural skin enhancer.

Therapeutic Antibacterial Manuka Honey:

  • MGO 250+: Recognized for its reliable antibacterial attributes, it's apt for addressing minor skin irritations and wounds in both humans and pets.
  • MGO 550+: A potent superfood and prebiotic, this grade is optimal for nurturing digestive health and addressing gastrointestinal issues.
  • MGO 850+: Tailored for treating stubborn wounds and common respiratory ailments like colds and sore throats.

Elite Potency Manuka Honey:

  • MGO 1200+ & 1500+: These high-grade honeys deliver rapid and intense benefits, enhancing all the therapeutic qualities of their lower-grade counterparts.
  • MGO 1900+ & 2000+ Ultimate: The pinnacle of potency, this rare variant amplifies the strengths of Manuka honey.

While higher-rated honeys can be used as substitutes for their lower-rated peers, the reverse doesn't hold true due to the potency difference.

What is UMF™ Grading?

To flaunt a UMF™ rating, products must adhere to specific criteria. They should originate from and be packaged in New Zealand by a UMFHA-licensed entity, which follows its set of stringent guidelines.

Lab testing verifies these aspects and determines the grading based on vital compounds - Methylglyoxal (MGO) and Leptosperin, among other chemical markers.

MGO or UMF™: Which Indicator Reigns Supreme?

MGO focuses on quantifying the methylglyoxal component in Manuka honey, reflecting its potency. In contrast, UMF™ offers a comprehensive evaluation by measuring three key compounds in Manuka honey: dihydroxyacetone (DHA), leptosperin, and methylglyoxal.

While MGO provides insight into a singular facet, relying solely on it might not capture the full authenticity, purity, and quality of Manuka honey. UMF™, being more encompassing, serves as a precise benchmark, offering a holistic view of the honey's true character.