Buckwheat honey is known for its distinctive aroma. The smell is sometimes described as a barnyard or farm smell, and people are often concerned by the strong, pungent aroma of this honey. Is this smell normal? Why does buckwheat honey smell this way? We can assure you that this aroma is an entirely natural characteristic of buckwheat honey, and is due to the particular aromas associated with the buckwheat plant.
Buckwheat is a crop mainly cultivated for its grain-like seeds, which are usually milled into groats (hulled buckwheat kernels) for use in porridge, minced meat products or dumplings. Buckwheat groats cooked into porridge has an aroma very similar to buckwheat honey, however other foods with a lower buckwheat content or using a more processed form of buckwheat have much less of a characteristic buckwheat smell (1). Since it is the result of bees concentrating nectar into honey, buckwheat honey has a more pronounced buckwheat smell than other products of this plant. In addition, raw buckwheat honey also has a stronger smell than processed honey, since the natural chemical compounds in the honey have not been impacted by processing.
This buckwheat smell is a totally natural smell, associated with certain organic chemical compounds present in buckwheat honey. The malty aroma of buckwheat honey is attributed to methylbutanyls, which are also commonly found in barley malt (2, 3). Buckwheat honey also contains certain fatty acids (butanoic, pentanoic and 3-Methybutanoic acid), which result in much of the pungent aroma of buckwheat honey. These fatty acids are commonly found in foods such as butter, cheese, roasted peanuts and roasted barley. The presence of these compounds results in the cheesy, sweaty or farm-like smells typical of buckwheat honey. These naturally occurring fatty acids have been detected in buckwheat honey samples from different areas, indicating that the presence of these compounds is characteristic of buckwheat honey (3,4).
Although it is a smell people are unfamiliar with, the aroma of buckwheat honey can be a unique sensory experience for more adventurous foodies. We recommend pairing it with other strong flavours, such as dark, wholemeal breads, nuts and nut butters or buckwheat groats. Moreover, raw buckwheat honey is known to have many health benefits. Click here to try our raw Buckwheat honey.
- Starowicz, Małgorzata, Georgios Koutsidis, and Henryk Zieliński. "Sensory analysis and aroma compounds of buckwheat containing products—a review." Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 58, no. 11 (2018): 1767-1779. (PDF Link)
- Zhou, Q., C.L Wintersteen, and K.R Cadwallader. "Identification and quantification of aroma-active components that contribute to the distinct malty flavor of buckwheat honey" Journal of agricultural and food chemistry50, no. 7 (2002): 2016-2021. (Link)
- Machado, Alexandra M., Maria Graça Miguel, Miguel Vilas-Boas, and Ana Cristina Figueiredo. "Honey Volatiles as a Fingerprint for Botanical Origin—A Review on their Occurrence on Monofloral Honeys." Molecules 25, no. 2 (2020): 374. (PDF Link)
- Panseri, Sara, Alessandra Manzo, Luca Maria Chiesa, and Annamaria Giorgi. "Melissopalynological and volatile compounds analysis of buckwheat honey from different geographical origins and their role in botanical determination." Journal of Chemistry 2013 (2013). (PDF Link)