what is the best 
manuka honey?

our buyers guide takes you through everything you need 
to know when looking for quality manuka honey
 in 2021

- plus-

our recommendations on the top manuka apiaries and producers in the market today.


What Makes A Good Manuka Honey?

There are three things we look for when buying Manuka Honey.

The first is grading and certification. Manuka Honey is very different from regular raw honey. Luckily, New Zealand and Australia have a grading system that is quite rigid, meaning it’s easy to gauge the difference in quality between brands. UMF, KFactor and MGO are all gradings that we can use to determine how “good” our honey is. We’ll get to that in a second! It’s also important to buy from a reputable brand – manuka honey is big business and there are many fakes floating around. Buy from an established brand and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

The next thing we’re looking for is price. Most of us don’t have hundreds of dollars to be throwing around on honey. We need something that’s high quality, potent but also something that won’t break the bank. Prices vary widely in the Manuka Honey industry, and high prices don't always mean high quality. 

Lastly, we’re looking for flavor. Not all Manuka Honey tastes the same – there are some that are very sweet, some taste more medicinal, and some have a herbal flavor to it. Some have a creamier texture while some are stickier. This comes down to personal preference, but it’s something to consider if you plan on eating the honey (there are many other uses for it).

Finally, we look at different variables such as:

  • Is the honey raw and unpasteurized?
  • If they pasteurize it, how is it done?
  • Do they have full oversight and control of their production process from hive to jar?
  • Is their packaging BPA and toxin free?
  • Are their business practices sustainable? 
  • Is it a monofloral (pure) Manuka honey or is it blended?
  • Is it organic Manuka Honey?


UMF, MGO, KFACTOR – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Whenever you shop for manuka honey, you’re going to come across several different grading systems.

Let’s go through them briefly.

MGO (METHYLGLYOXAL)

comvita manuka honey mgo rating

The MGO grading system measures a single compound in Manuka Honey: The level of MGO, or methylglyoxal. 

MGO is also largely responsible for Manuka Honey's antibacterial properties. There are other compounds that contribute to this too, although MGO is the main one. 

Generally speaking, the higher a Manuka Honey's MGO score, the higher the quality of honey.

UMF – UNIQUE MANUKA FACTOR

wild capes manuka honey umf

UMF is a grading system developed by the UMF Honey Association in New Zealand, where the manuka plant originates from. 

UMF grades honey based on the level of four components:

  1. Level of MGO to determine antibacterial levels.
  2. Level of DHA which is a precursor to DHA
  3. Level of NPA which determines effectiveness of MGO.
  4. Level of Leptosperin - a chemical found only in the nectar of Manuka flowers.

All four components contribute to the potency and effectiveness of Manuka Honey. UMF is the most comprehensive manuka honey grading system in place today and considered the best indicator of overall antibacterial quality.

KFACTOR

k factor wedderspoon manuka honey

KFactor is a grading system invented by the company Wedderspoon. Manuka Honey is able to achieve a KFactor if it achieves five criteria: 

  • Raw and unpasteurized
  • Non GMO verified
  • Produced and packaged in New Zealand
  • Free of glyphosate pesticides and antibiotics
  • Traceability from Hive to Home
  • The main criticism of the KFactor system is that it doesn't test the most important components of Manuka Honey, those being NPA, DHA, MGO or leptosperin. No company other than Wedderspoon has adopted this rating system as of yet.

    A more thorough explanation of MGO, DHA, NPA, Leptosperin, UMF grading and KFactor can be found in our article How Do We Measure The Quality Of Manuka Honey? 

    how to interpret manuka honey gradings

    You’ve probably seen Manuka Honey with a ‘UMF10’ or a ‘KFactor 16’, but what do those numbers actually mean, and how do you know if it's good or bad?

    Yeah, it’s a little confusing. 

    Let’s break down some of those numbers so you know what you’re looking at:


    Manuka honey grading systems:

    Qualities

    UMF

    MGO

    KFACTOR

    Similar or indistinguishable from regular honey

    0-5+

    0-30

    -

    Medium level honey. Good for general wellbeing.

    5-10+

    30-100

    12

    Good quality honey with significant antibacterial activity.

    10-15+

    263-514

    16

    High quality honey with high antibacterial activity.

    15-20+

    514-829

    22
    (discontinued)

    Ultra quality honey with medicinal antibacterial activity.

    20-25+

    829-1,200

    -

    Using the chart above, you should get a reasonable idea of what you're looking at on a Manuka Honey label. 

    If not, don't worry. Below we've looked through some of the most famous (and not so famous) Manuka Honey brands, to help you find the best Manuka Honey's available today.


    our reviews:
    finding the best manuka honey

    I’ll start by saying, don’t bother getting any manuka honey that’s UMF 5 or lower. Unless you’re buying it purely for the Manuka flavor, you can save your money and just buy regular honey.

    Our top picks are mostly UMF 15-20 certified Manuka Honey products. There are higher UMF grades available, but we think this hits the sweet spot of value for money and Manuka potency and strength. 

    Enjoy!

    Our #1 Pick:
    COMVITA NEW ZEALAND RAW MANUKA HONEY UMF 20+ / MGO 829+

    comvita umf 20

    In our opinion, the best Manuka Honey on the market today is the Comvita UMF 20+ range.

    UMF 20+ Manuka Honey is scarce - there is very limited crop production of UMF 20, meaning it is not easy to find, especially outside of New Zealand. The Manuka flower blooms 2-6 weeks per year in the forests of New Zealand (and depending on conditions each year, may not bloom at all). Comvita is one of the few companies in the world that is able to produce a reliable, certified UMF 20 product year on year. While it's more expensive than some other UMF 20+ products on the market, we believe the small premium that Comvita products command is worth it.

    Who is Comvita?

    Comvita is a New Zealand company that has set the gold standard in Manuka Honey for many decades. All of Comvita's products are independently certified by the UMF Honey Association, which measures Leptosperin, DHA as well as MGO, giving you a complete picture of its potency and purity. Comvita is also renowned for producing raw, wild and unpasteurized honey - meaning there is no risk of nutrient or enzyme loss - this is the purest Manuka honey you can buy.

    Not only is Comvita's Manuka Honey renowned for its purity, it's also famous for its taste. Comvita Manuka Honey is irresistibly sharp with deep sweetness and does not have an overpowering "Manuka" aftertaste. It's a joy to eat or mix into hot drinks. It's also worth noting that while most companies on this list produce almost purely for export, Comvita is the brand you'll see everywhere in New Zealand stores and loved by New Zealanders themselves - and if there's one population in the world that knows their Manuka, it's New Zealand!

    The other interesting thing about Comvita is they are a listed company on New Zealand's stock market (NZE:CVT), so their business practices are under a tighter microscope than most other companies you see selling Manuka Honey in America. They are answerable to shareholders and international investors, which gives greater confidence that when you see their label it is a a genuine and reputable honey product.

    One more notable accolade: Not only does Comvita sell to regular consumers, they also are the main supplier of medical grade Manuka Honey in New Zealand, which is used for antibacterial uses in wound and burn treatment in hospitals.

    There's simply no other brand that is reliable and trusted. An easy #1 pick for us. 

    We recommend buying Comvita products directly from their official Amazon store to ensure authenticity. You can view their Amazon store here.

    Click here for our full Comvita review


    #2: Manukora UMF 20+/MGO 830+ Raw Manuka Honey

    Manukora Raw Manuka Honey is a UMF 20+ product that is both great tasting and beautifully packaged. It's an extremely smooth and strong tasting honey and it might come off a little darker than other Manuka Honey's you have tried. 

    What we love most about Manukora is they are a New Zealand company - all their products are produced in-house at their HACCP certified honey factory in New Zealand and they have full oversight from Bee to Jar. Their product is a raw, unpasteurized Manuka honey and all jars are tagged with a unique tracing code that allows you to trace your product with your smartphone.

    As we've mentioned, UMF 20 Manuka is very rare. In fact, it is dependent on season and weather and in some years, UMF 20 Manuka might not even be produced much at all. As Manukora is based in rural New Zealand, they have full access to the unique locations that UMF 20 Manuka Honey can be reliably produced.

    While they might not share the seasoned reputation that Comvita has, we still think Manukora is deserving of a high rating and we're happy to recommend them. If you'd like a UMF 20+ product but at a lower price point, Manukora would be our choice. You can buy Manukora directly from their official Amazon store.

    Click here for our full Manukora review


    #3: Kiva Raw Manuka Honey, Certified UMF 20+ (MGO 850+)

    Kiva is a US foods company that sources its Manuka Honey product from New Zealand beekeepers. Their honey is certified from the UMF Honey Association and their flagship product is a UMF 20+ Raw Manuka Honey that is independently batch tested and verified.

    Kiva Manuka Honey is an extremely popular brand in America, as it comes at a lower price point that Comvita products but still retains the high UMF rating. Many people in America use Kiva Manuka regularly for everything from bloating to wound treatment to skin care. 

    While it's a great product, the reason we rank it further down our list as it's a US company. While it sources its product from New Zealand Manuka bee keepers, we couldn't look over the fact it doesn't have complete ownership over the full bees-to-jar process.

    Nonetheless, we still recommend Kiva and think it offers excellent value for money for a UMF 20 product. Kiva also has products at lower UMF gradings, we recommend checking them out at their Amazon store.


    #4: New Zealand Honey Co. Raw Manuka Honey UMF 24+

    new zealand honey co manuka honey

    This UMF 24+ product is from a reasonably new company known as the New Zealand Honey Co. Owned by a family of beekeepers, this company now partners with various honey farmers in New Zealand's South Island to bring you pure, UMF certified Manuka Honey. It is 100% New Zealand owned and produces top grade Manuka primarily for export to the United States.

    This honey is fudgey, caramel brown and has a slightly less sweet profile to lower UMF honeys.

    What we like most about this Manuka Honey is obviously the high UMF rating. Certified at UMF 24+ with an impressive 1122 MGO, it's one of the most potent Manuka Honey products available in the United States today. Each jar is traceable and testing certificates are available. 

    Our recommendation for New Zealand Honey Co Manuka is for people wanting Manuka Honey for medicinal purposes. We do not see many compelling reasons to pay for such high UMF rated honey for those eating it for daily wellness purposes. For simply adding to daily drinks or meals, UMF 15-20 is sufficient. There is diminishing returns, even with honey!

    However, for wound treatment or preventing/treating infection, every bit of MGO helps and the 1122+ MGO rating is impressive. We know it's a bit odd to be putting $100 honey on a wound on your leg, but every bit of potency helps in those situations. New Zealand Honey Co. even has a UMF 26 product, however the price can make it prohibitive for most. However if budget is not a concern for you, you might want to check it out.


    #5: WildCape UMF 15+ East Cape New Zealand Manuka Honey

    wild cape umf 15

    Wild Cape is a premium Manuka Honey brand operating out of the East Coast of New Zealand.

    Just like with wine, regions influence flavor, and it's no exception with Manuka. Wild Cape is the only Manuka Honey company that produces exclusively in New Zealand East Coast forests, and their honey is renowned for having a much milder, smoother flavor than the dense sweetness of other Manuka Honeys.

    They're a truly local company that employs only local beekeepers under a profit share arrangement, to ensure continuing support for the local community. This is particularly important as Manuka grows in popularity - Manuka flowers are rare, and it's essential money continues to flow to ground level beekeepers to ensure sustainability. Wild Cape controls the entire supply chain from hive to jar. The honey is then tested for UMF certification before being prepared for export.

    UMF This Manuka Honey is not only one of our favorites in flavor, it's one of our top picks for value as well. The only reason it doesn't rank higher is because it's not a raw honey product, however that doesn't affect the MGO count. If you're after a more affordable Manuka Honey but with reasonably potency, the Wild Cape UMF 15+ is the perfect option.

    We recommend purchasing Wild Cape Manuka Honey directly from their Amazon store.

    Read our full Wild Cape review here


    #6: Three Peaks UMF 15+ New zealand manuka honey

    This Manuka Honey from Three Peaks is a UMF ceritified 15+ product produced in Central New Zealand. It has a notably smooth and caramel like texture with an unmistakable Manuka hit. 

    Three Peaks is a boutique company that operates 8,500 hives across the North Island of New Zealand. Sustainability is at the heart of their business and their operation involves various restoration projects, replanting of Manuka forests and cooperation with native land owners.

    Not only does this improve sustainability, it also gives Three Peaks a very unique product.  By working closely with the landowners of indigenous Maori tribes, it gives them access to some of the most desirable Manuka forest sites in New Zealand. They own all their hives, and have full control from hive to jar. All jars can also be traced with their jar authenticity tracker on their website.

    As for the honey itself, we were very impressed. Smooth and sweet, not too overpowering, really a joy to eat. We're more than happy to recommend them!


    #7: mother earth manuka honey umf 10+

    Mother Earth UMF 10 Manuka Honey is the best value pick on this list. 

    One of the main criticisms of Manuka honey is that it's unaffordable (we think it's worth every dollar), but the reality is most people can't afford to have a UMF 20 Manuka Honey on their regular shopping list. However, at only ~$20 per jar, Mother Earth makes it possible to have a UMF 10+ Manuka in the pantry at all times.

    Manuka Honey is used sparingly - usually one or two teaspoons a day - and even a small jar like this lasts several months. If you are using Manuka Honey as a sweetener in your daily tea or coffee, or as a general wellness addition to your diet, we think this is the perfect choice if you're on a tighter budget. 

    Mother Earth is also a very popular brand in New Zealand, and many New Zealanders use this as their regular Manuka Honey too. It also tastes great - we think you'll enjoy it!


    #8: Happy Valley UMF 15+ (MGO 514+) New Zealand Manuka Honey

    happy valley manuka honey

    Happy Valley produces Manuka Honey at several UMF gradings, our pick for this list is the UMF 15. We found it to be a sweeter honey than most other UMF 15 variants, though with the same smooth caramelly texture we expect from high grade Manuka.

    They produce and package all their honey in New Zealand, an all their products are traceable on their website back to the source.

    They are a small locally owned company who have been producing Manuka on their family owned farms for generations. We like Happy Valley, but there are a couple of reasons it fell a few spots down our list. One, it's more expensive than other UMF 15 options above, with no major compelling differences in purity or potency. Second, Happy Valley hasn't expressly said whether or not they pasteurize their Manuka Honey. We don't think pasteurized honey is bad, but we prefer the raw form where possible. Their honey was particularly creamy, which is typical of lightly pasteurized Manuka Honeys.

    Still, we think it's a great product, just a little expensive for our taste.


    Which Manuka Honey Products Should You Avoid?

    We generally advise staying away from Manuka products that have not been UMF certified.

    While many Manuka Honey products will put MGO counts on their labels, the only way to independently verify (with reliability) that the honey has in fact been produced from Manuka flowers is with a UMF certification and testing.

    Some products that might look familiar are these:

    raw australian

    raw australian manuka honey

    WEDDERSPOON

    MANUKA DOCTOR

    It's important to note this doesn't mean we believe these products are "bad". There is every possibility they are genuine Manuka Honey products, and for whatever reason decided to bypass UMF certification.

    However, Manuka Honey is not cheap and when spending your hard earned dollars we think it's important you have certainty that the honey you are buying is genuine. Especially when dealing with your health - there would be nothing worse than taking a spoonful of Manuka Honey each day, only to later find out it was just regular or improperly harvested honey after all!

    With a UMF certification, you can be sure that you're getting the full benefits of all the properties of a genuine Manuka Honey.

    FAQ:

    Why is Manuka Honey so expensive?

    Manuka Honey is expensive due to its rarity. It can only be produced reliably in New Zealand (and to a much lesser extent, some specific locations in Australia). On top of that, Manuka Honey gets its unique health-giving properties from the Manuka flower, which only blooms 4-6 weeks per year, if that. When you have a honey that can only be produced in a remote corner of the world from a specific flower that blooms less than 2 months per year, it's naturally more expensive than other honeys. But in our opinion it's worth it!

    It's my first time buying Manuka Honey. Should I just buy the most expensive one?

    No, we don't recommend buying the most expensive one. When it comes to Manuka Honey, most expensive doesn't always mean best. If it's your first time buying Manuka Honey and you are using it for daily wellness purposes, we would recommend a UMF 10 or UMF 15 product. The Comvita UMF15+ is great, or if you want something a little more affordable, the Three Peaks UMF 15+ is also great tasting and reliable in quality.

    How do I know if the Manuka Honey I am buying is not fake?

    We recommend buying your Manuka Honey from their official websites or their official Amazon stores. That way you can be sure the product is genuine. Most Manuka Honey brands that export to USA now have official Amazon storefronts, for example, you can view the Comvita storefront here.

    If I buy a lower UMF Manuka Honey will it still work?

    Yes, we lower UMF Manuka Honeys are still effective. Anything above UMF 10+ will have noticeable antibacterial properties.

    Which Manuka Honey should I buy if I'm on a budget?

    If your budget is very tight we would recommend buying the Mother Earth UMF 10+ Manuka Honey. It's very affordable and still a great quality product. For something a little higher in quality but still affordable, we'd recommend the Wild Cape UMF 10+.

    How long will my Manuka Honey last?

    Most jars of Manuka Honey last 2-3 months if you use them sparingly. One teaspoon a day is usually enough for general wellness.

    How do you eat Manuka Honey?

    The best way to eat Manuka Honey is straight out of the jar! One teaspoon as soon you as you wake up is our favorite way to eat it. However, you can also mix it into warm drinks, spread it on toast or even add it to smoothies. There are endless ways to eat Manuka Honey. You can even put it on pancakes!

    I want to use Manuka Honey to treat wounds - which one should I buy?

    We recommend buying higher UMF Manuka Honey for wound treatment. The New Zealand Honey Co. UMF 26+ is the best option, although it is expensive. If it's out of your price range, try the UMF 24+ instead. Otherwise, a good UMF 20+ product like Kiva UMF 20 Manuka Honey will also do the job, though maybe not as fast.


    Who are we?

    I'm Erin, and my husband and I have been raising bees in Northern New Zealand for over 30 years. We no longer raise bees on Manuka flowers, but it remains one of our favorites, and we eat it daily, among other honeys like Kamahi and Rata. Since Manuka has grown in popularity overseas in recent years, we thought we should educate people on the true benefits of Manuka and how to find quality Manuka honey. Above is our guide, written by us and designed by our brilliant computer whiz of a son, Byron. We hope you find it helpful! Learn more about us here.