July 22, 2009

How to Host a Honey Tasting

This "how to" is intended for informal honey tastings, perhaps as part of a party, barbecue event, family reunion or other gathering.

"To Do" Lists

Before the Tasting:
  • Honey: Five to ten different kinds of honey (eight worked for me). Strive for some variety in flavors from simple to more exotic, e.g., raw honey.
  • Small cups: I used disposable plastic containers like those used by restaurants for serving to-go sides (e.g., soy sauce, salsa, raitha). I got mine free at a friendly neighborhood restaurant. The disposable ones are helpful because you can write on them (the number of the honey... assuming you're having a blind tasting, which is much more fun).
  • Toothpicks or coffee stirrers: We used toothpicks... some people used two at a time if they felt the need.
  • Toothpick holder: You can use the box the toothpicks come in, or a more attractive holder.
  • Taster Discard: You'll need a cup or other container for used toothpicks. A deep cup is good so people don't mistake the discard pile as the clean ones!
  • Scoring Sheet: (See Details Below)
  • Copies of Score Sheet: We made enough sheets for all guests to participate, but only about one-third filled them out.
  • Pencils: Have a number of pencils sharpened. Pencils are handy so people can modify results if needed... but, that depends on having erasers that work ;-1
  • Contact info. for party guests (You'll want to send them the results!)
  • Blank sheets of paper
  • Magic marker
  • Location for tasting (think about where you'll set up the tasting... space, table(s), etc. You might want to do it inside to avoid attracting bugs).
  • Optional: If you want, prepare a summary sheet in advance that describes the honeys. People will want to know what they judged. You can hand this out at the end of the event, even if you don't finish scoring the results until after the event.

Day of the Tasting:
  • Set-up location: We have a smallish house, so we set up on two tables in different rooms to spread people out a bit (we had 8 honeys to taste). We did it indoors to avoid attracting bugs.
  • Make a List of the Honeys: Write down the names of each honey and give them a random number. It's important you don't loose this ;-1
  • Number Sheets of Papers: For each honey, create a sheet of paper with the random number at the bottom. You will set each honey on it's own sheet of paper with the number at the bottom... helps catch any drips.
  • Mark each Cup: Write the random number on each cup you'll use for the honey.
  • Transfer Honey to Cups: Prepare for a little messy job. You'll want a wet rag for cleaning as you go. You might want multiple spoons/knives to help dish out the honey into the numbered cups (I cleaned my knife as I went).
  • Place pencils, score sheets, tasting toothpicks, toothpick discard cups out for use.
  • Get a couple out-going people to start and spread the word to guests.
  • Optional: Have judges write their names on the results. If they want to take their score sheet with them, before you've done the scoring, you'll need to copy the results for your use in scoring.
After the Tasting:
  • Everyone likes instant gratification. If the situation allows, you can try to tally the results and give them to guests toward the later part of the event. This didn't work in my case, so it's good to have contact information that allows you to send the results to people.
  • Scoring: OK, some people will not fill score all of the honeys. I only used the scores for the people who scored all honeys. You can try to figure out how to include partial scores, but you're on your own for that. I set up a little spreadsheet to tally the results. I added up all the judges scores separately for the two categories (distinctiveness, agreeability). Then, I added these two sub-scores for a combined total. I selected the three top scores, the "Best," (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place) for both categories and combined total. (See Score Result Tables).
  • Other Results: People will want to know a little about the honeys they judged. As noted above, you can create a summary sheet. I elected to simply document the judges comments on a web page, at which point I also described the honeys.

Score Sheet Details: I'll provide a sample once I figure out how to link to a document, but for now, here's Sample Text and description:

Honey Tasting
Score Sheet

Please judge the eight (8) different honeys on two aspects of flavor. Judging ends at 9pm at which time scores will be tallied (put your name on the score sheet if you want it returned). We'll post the results on-line!!

Things to consider: Overheating will cause a burnt sugar flavor (not a problem with raw honey). Fermentation can cause the honey to taste sour. Certain floral sources such as tobacco can produce unpleasant, even disagreeable-tasting honey.

Give Two Scores, each on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 is the Best): 1) Distinctive flavors stand out as being interesting, perhaps having a notable aroma. Distinctive flavors, however, might not be agreeable for regular use, perhaps being too strong in some way. 2) Agreeable flavors go beyond simply tasting sweet (it should have a honey flavor!!), but aren't so distinctive that they might offend someone, e.g., too yeasty.

Honey Tasting Score Table

Honey Number
Score for
Score as




I think that about covers it. I'm sure you can think of improvements. If you do, or if you host a competition, I'd appreciate you leaving a COMMENT below. A link to any web pages, and cross links to this page would be even MORE APPRECIATED!


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