Honey is thought to be very healthy sweetener. It is produced by bees as their food source and made from nectar sucked from the flowers with the help of enzymes. The final product is made of roughly 80% sugar, 17% water and a number of trace compounds.
It is these trace compounds that are responsible for honey’s varied flavors and colors. The most abundant sugars in honey are fructose and glucose. Among the myriad minor complex sugars in the honey are maltose, sucrose, and other disaccharides, as well as trisaccharides such as erlose.
The nectar is mixed with enzymes by bees, Invertase being the most critical, in their stomach-like honey sacs. Invertase splits the sucrose in the nectar into fructose and glucose and also produces some erlose. Back at the hive, the bees pass the digested material to house bees who reduce the moisture content of the mixture by ingesting and regurgitating it.
They then deposit concentrated drops into honeycomb cells. Over the next few days, bees fan the fluid with their wings to further concentrate it, and finally, they cap the cells with wax. At the same time, enzyme-mediated changes produce a range of sugars and acids in the honey. Bee enzymes also show up in the finished product.
Another enzyme, glucose oxidase, converts glucose to gluconolactone, which is then hydrolyzed to give gluconic acid, the principal acid in honey. Formic, acetic, butyric, and lactic acids are also found in honey, which explains why its pH typically measures 3.8-4.0 which is quite acidic and inhibits the growth of any bacteria in it.
Honey also contains small amounts of minerals and proteins. About 0.2% of honey is ash, probably originating in the flower nectar. Potassium accounts for about one-third of the ash. Other trace elements in honey include iron, manganese, copper, and silicon.
The sweetener also contains up to 1% nitrogen, which comes principally from proteins. These proteins can cause honey to foam and form tiny air bubbles.
Of the more than 100 compounds found in honey, many are volatile organic compounds, such as phenylethyl alcohol, that contribute to flavor. The honey flavor is dependent on the flavor compounds and aroma compounds that come from a flower.
Because weather and geography affect flowers, each batch of honey can have a slightly different makeup of flavor chemicals.