Sourwood honey comes from the rare sourwood tree, which is a medium-height tree indigenous to the United States, which grows from southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia. It typically blooms for a short time from June through August, making it difficult for beekeepers to bring their colonies to collect nectar from its flowers. Beekeepers must time their visits carefully so that the bees only harvest from the sourwood trees and not other blooming plants, but not arrive too late to catch the nectar. The trees are so sensitive to weather patterns, that a bad year means no honey for that year. The standards of purity are so high that for honey to be sold as “Sourwood Honey, “it must be derived solely from the sourwood tree’s nectar. This is one reason why sourwood honey is so rare.
The reason that so many beekeepers are willing to chase the elusive sourwood nectar is the unparalleled taste of the honey it produces. A light honey with both floral and spicy accents, its color ranges from pure white to a light gray-ish amber. It has a smooth quality. Many honey connoisseurs agree that it is the best tasting and most distinctive honey available.
Unfortunately, weather and growing conditions are not the only challenges producers of Sourwood Honey face. The sourwood tree, already a rare species, is constantly threatened by human development.