The Sweet Debate of Honey in Coffee: Pros and Cons of Coffee with Honey

honey in coffee

When it comes to enjoying a cup of coffee, there’s a sweet debate that has been brewing among coffee lovers – whether to add honey to their coffee.

The idea of using honey as a sweetener instead of sugar has gained popularity due to its potential health benefits and the unique flavor it adds to coffee. For those looking for an alternative to processed sugar, the concept of incorporating honey into their coffee routine may seem appealing.

In this article, we’re going over why honey is a sweet addition to your coffee. But we’ll also detail what to look out for and how to use it in the best ways in your morning cuppa.

The History of Honey Coffee

Everyone knows about honey in tea. But did you know honey has been used to sweeten coffee for nearly as long?

Honey in coffee has historical roots that trace back centuries, with various cultures across the world having their own unique adaptations of this delicious blend. The first known usage of honey with coffee can be traced back to Yemen in the 15th century, where honey was used as a natural sweetener.

The tradition of boiling coffee beans with honey and spices was known as qishr. This coffee-honey brew was also popular as a medicinal drink that promoted digestion and health.

Honey doesn’t just add sweet but is also loved for the rich, diverse flavors it adds to the coffee. The subtle floral notes, the woody accents, or the fruity undertones – each variety of honey lends a unique character to the coffee, influencing its overall taste profile. Supposedly, Ethiopian traders introduced the concept of using honey in coffee to the Arabic world during their travels, thus facilitating the spread of this practice.

In the Americas, the tradition of using honey in coffee was popularized by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. They pioneered the usage of honey and chili in coffee to create a unique drink that was part sweet, part spicy.

In recent years, the popularity of honey coffee has seen a resurgent interest, especially among coffee enthusiasts and baristas who like the taste of honey and appreciate the combination of flavors that honey introduces.

Given the increasing awareness towards healthier living and the tendency to opt for natural, organic products, many prefer using honey over artificial sweeteners.

About Honey Coffee Processing

The modern coffee culture has now recognized honey-processed coffee as a distinct specialty coffee. This process involves using the mucilage or ‘honey’ that is left on the coffee beans after removing the outer cherry.

The beans are then dried with the honey still on, which infuses the beans with additional sweetness. This creates a coffee with a unique flavor profile, characterized by its sweetness, full body, and the complex flavor notes of the honey used.

Today, honey coffee is a signature drink in many coffee shops around the world with each café bringing their own interpretation and spin to the classic combination, thereby keeping the centuries-old tradition alive.

Undoubtedly, honey does a lot more than just sweetening the coffee – it adds a unique depth and character to it, creating a memorable drinking experience. 

Pros of Using Honey in Coffee

Pros of Using Honey in Coffee

There are several honey in coffee benefits — including its potential health benefits, its role as a natural sweetener, and its ability to serve as an alternative to sugar. Let’s delve into the reasons why incorporating honey into your coffee routine can be a wise choice.

Health Benefits of Honey in Coffee

Health Benefits of Honey in coffee

Honey is renowned for its various health benefits. It contains antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, which can support overall health. Additionally, raw honey has been associated with antibacterial and antiviral properties, potentially aiding in fighting off infections.

  1. Rich in Antioxidants: Honey contains nutrients such as phenolic compounds and organic acids which are powerful antioxidants. Regular consumption of honey can help combat oxidative stress in the body, lowering the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and certain types of cancer.
  2. Good for the Heart: Studies have shown that honey can improve cholesterol levels; it reduces unhealthy LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and increases healthy HDL (High-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. It can thus offer protection against heart disease.
  3. Aids in Digestion: Some studies hint that honey could aid digestion by lessening symptoms of gastroduodenal disorders. It’s also capable of fighting H. pylori, a common cause of peptic ulcers.
  4. Wound and Burn Healing: The topical application of honey can speed up the healing process in minor cuts and burns. Manuka honey, in particular, is used in medical settings for treating wounds since it has potent antibacterial properties.
  5. Soothes Sore Throat and Cough: Honey is a traditional remedy for soothing sore throats and coughs. Scientific studies have supported its effectiveness as a cough suppressant and throat soother.
  6. Benefits Skin: Honey helps moisturize the skin, fight aging, and promote a natural glow. Its antibacterial properties can help treat acne as well.
  7. Improves Memory: Honey contains antioxidants that prevent cellular damage and loss within the brain, which can help improve memory over time.
  8. Energizer: Honey is an excellent source of unprocessed sugar energy. As an energy source, it can also boost athletic performance, endurance and reduce muscle fatigue.
  9. Regulates Blood Sugar: Even though honey contains simple sugars, it is slightly better than refined sugar. It has a lower Glycemic Index (GI) and is less likely to jolt your sugar levels.
  10. Boosts Immunity: Honey has numerous phytochemicals and flavonoids which makes it a powerful immune-boosting food.

Remember that moderation is key as honey is still a form of sugar and should be consumed in reasonable amounts. In addition, honey should never be given to children under one year of age due to the risk of botulism. 

Honey as a Natural Sweetener

Using honey as a natural sweetener in coffee is an appealing option for many because it offers a distinct flavor profile in comparison to white sugar. The flavor of honey adds a subtle sweetness that complements the coffee’s robust flavors, enhancing the overall drinking experience.

Furthermore, honey comes in different varieties, such as clover honey or acacia honey, allowing coffee lovers to experiment and find the perfect match for their taste preferences.

Unlike refined sugar, honey also boasts of numerous health benefits. It acts as a natural energy booster, contains various vitamins and minerals, and has antibacterial and antioxidant properties that can enhance your overall well-being when consumed in moderation.

In using honey as a sweetener for coffee, it’s important to remember that it’s sweeter than sugar, so you might want to adjust your usual quantity to avoid an overly sweet brew. Also, honey can be more difficult to dissolve in hot beverages compared to granulated sugar and may require more stirring.

Honey, however, may not be suitable for those following a vegan diet, as it is a derivative of bees. Instead, vegans can opt for agave nectar or pure maple syrup as natural sweeteners for their coffee.

All in all, using honey in coffee is an excellent choice for those looking to enhance flavor and reduce the use of processed sugars. It introduces a delicious twist to the usual, providing a delightful experience to the coffee enthusiasts. 

Honey vs Sugar

Honey and sugar both pair well with coffee. But for individuals seeking an alternative to processed sugar, honey serves as a viable substitute. It addresses the desire for sweetness while imparting a unique taste that can elevate the coffee’s flavor. 

When compared to sugar, honey has a slightly higher nutrient value, possessing small amounts of vitamins and minerals that sugar lacks. Sugar is considered ’empty calories’ because it provides energy but lacks any other nutrients.

Honey vs Sugar

Honey is also a rich source of antioxidants, including phenolic compounds like flavonoids, which are beneficial for heart health. In contrast, sugar doesn’t contain any antioxidants.

Another advantage of honey over sugar is a lower glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t raise blood sugar as quickly as sugar does. This makes honey a better choice for diabetes management.

However, even with these benefits, it’s important to note that honey is still a type of sugar and should be used in moderation. It is higher in calories than sugar, with around 64 calories in a tablespoon compared to sugar’s 49 calories. 

Moreover, honey is not suitable for infants under 12 months due to the risk of botulism.

Despite the potential benefits, both sugar and honey should be consumed minimally in a balanced diet. Studies suggest that either sugar or honey, when consumed in excess, may lead to health problems such as tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. 

Lastly, it’s always advisable to choose raw, unprocessed honey as some processing methods can strip honey of its healthful properties. 
In conclusion, while honey is a healthier alternative to sugar, it is still not without its risks. Therefore, moderated consumption is key for both.

Cons of Using Honey in Coffee

While adding honey to your coffee can have its merits, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks that may come with this sweetener. Understanding the cons of using honey in coffee can provide insight into making an informed decision about whether to incorporate it into your coffee routine.

Potential to Over Sweeten

One of the downsides of using honey in coffee is the risk of over-sweetening. Since honey carries a distinct sweetness, it’s easy to inadvertently add too much when sweetening your coffee, altering the balance of flavors and overpowering the natural taste of the coffee beans.

This can be a concern for individuals who prefer a more subtle sweetness in their coffee, or enjoy tasting the different notes and nuances present in different coffee blends.

Honey also has more sugar content per tablespoon than refined sugar, so it requires fewer spoons to achieve the same level of sweetness. As a result, honey has more calories, too. Therefore, you might end up adding a lot more calories to your cup than you intended if you’re not careful with your honey-to-coffee ratio.

To avoid over-sweetening, start by adding a little honey to your coffee and then gradually increase the amount as needed until you reach the desired sweetness level. Additionally, it’s worthwhile experimenting with different types of honey. Darker varieties like buckwheat or fir honey tend to be less sweet and more robust in flavor, providing a more balanced taste profile without over-sweetening. 

Impact of Coffee with Honey on Flavor Profile

Another consideration is the impact of honey on the flavor profile of the coffee. While some who use honey to sweeten their coffee may appreciate the unique taste that it adds to their coffee, others might find it alters the flavor in a way that doesn’t align with their preferences.

The richness and subtleties of the coffee’s roast may be overshadowed by the pronounced sweetness of the honey, potentially diminishing the complexity of the brew.

Generally, coffee has a bitter taste while honey is sweet and sometimes floral, depending on the variety. Combining these two elements results in a balance of flavors that could be pleasing to some. For those who enjoy black coffee, for example, the addition of honey can reduce the bitterness while bringing out some of the coffee’s other flavor nuances.

Honey can not only sweeten the coffee but also amplify its body and texture. It has a thick consistency that enhances the mouthfeel, making the coffee denser without being overly heavy. However, the impact of honey on texture might not be appreciated by those who prefer their coffee light and smooth. 

As a natural sweetener, honey can affect the acidity of the coffee, potentially making it slightly more acidic. This can add a refreshing tanginess for some drinkers, while others may find it less enjoyable.

Variations in honey types can also create distinct flavor profiles. For instance, wildflower honey might provide floral undertones, while dark robust honey could yield a smoky hint in your cup of coffee.

Overall, whether or not honey enhances the flavor of coffee is a matter of personal taste. Coffee flavor profiles are incredibly diverse, and what one person might find pleasant, another might find unappealing. It’s worth experimenting with different types of honey and coffee roasts to identify the ideal combination that suits your palate. 

Possible Allergic Reactions

It’s important to note that honey has the potential to cause allergic reactions in certain individuals. While rare, some people may be allergic to specific components present in honey, which could lead to adverse effects when consuming coffee sweetened with honey. This potential risk should be taken into account, especially for those with known allergies or sensitivities.

Allergic reactions can vary from mild to severe and may include:

  1. Itchy or swollen throat or mouth: This is one of the most common allergic reactions to honey and can happen immediately after ingestion.
  2. Skin reactions: Some people may develop rashes or hives on their skin after consuming honey.
  3. Digestive problems: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are potential symptoms of a honey allergy.
  4. Respiratory problems: In severe cases, honey allergy can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.
  5. Anaphylactic shock: This is the most severe allergic reaction and can be life-threatening. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, dizziness, rapid heart rate, and loss of consciousness.

It should be noted that an allergic reaction to honey is different from honey poisoning, which is caused by the presence of toxins from certain types of flowers in raw honey.

In case of any allergic symptoms after consuming honey, stop its use and seek medical help immediately. Also, it’s advised to prefer pasteurized honey over raw honey to reduce the risk of any potential allergic reaction. Always consult a healthcare provider before incorporating any new food into your diet, especially if you have a history of food allergies. 

How to Add Honey to Sweeten Coffee

Adding honey to sweeten your coffee is a natural and healthier alternative to using processed sugars or artificial sweeteners. Honey not only offers a unique flavor profile to your beverage, but it also provides numerous health benefits due to its rich antioxidant properties.

Cafe Miel is a Spanish recipe with both cinnamon and honey. Here’s a quick video on that twist:

But otherwise, to add honey to your coffee without making a Miel, begin by brewing your coffee as you normally would. 

Once the coffee is ready, let it cool slightly. The nutritional value of the honey tends to decrease when heated above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so waiting for the coffee to cool a bit preserves the inherent benefits of honey. 

The next step would be adding the honey into your coffee. The amount of honey depends on your personal preference for sweetness, but as a guideline, one to two teaspoons is usually adequate for an 8-ounce cup of coffee.

However, if you prefer your coffee to be on the sweeter side, you may need to add more. You need to be careful though. Overdoing it could make the coffee overly sweet and mask the coffee’s original flavor. 

Once you’ve added the honey, stir the coffee thoroughly until the honey is fully dissolved. You’ll notice the coffee turn a slightly lighter shade of brown as the honey integrates with the liquid. You can then taste the coffee to check if it’s sweetened to your preference.

If it’s not sweet enough, add a bit more honey and stir again. Once you have achieved your desired level of sweetness, you can sit back and enjoy your flavorful and naturally sweetened coffee. 

How Many Calories in Honey?

Honey, a natural sweetener often used as a healthier alternative to sugar, contains approximately 64 calories per tablespoon. It’s important to keep in mind that although honey is a natural product, it is still high in sugar – nearly 17 grams in each tablespoon – which can add up in terms of caloric intake.

These calories come from the carbohydrates present in honey, specifically a combination of fructose and glucose.

Additionally, honey has trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, factors that contribute to its reputation as a healthier option. However, like all sweeteners, you should use honey in moderation because, despite its potential health benefits, excessive consumption can lead to weight gain and other health issues. 

Other Ways to Sweeten Coffee Without Sugar

There are numerous alternatives to sweeten coffee without resorting to the standard use of sugar or honey, many of which also come with added health benefits. For instance, one could consider adding a natural sweetener such as Stevia, a plant-based substitute that does not raise blood sugar levels as regular sugar does.

Another option is using Erythritol, a sugar alcohol that contains virtually zero calories but tastes remarkably similar to sugar, making it a perfect sweetening option for dieters. 

You might also want to consider using dairy substitutes. Almond milk or coconut milk, for example, can both create a sweet and creamy addition to your coffee while also adding a unique twist to its flavor. The lactose in ordinary milk can contribute significantly to your caloric intake, so using plant-based milk can be a healthier choice. 

For those who appreciate the nuanced art of coffee making, flavor enhancers like cinnamon or a touch of vanilla extract can add sweetness while also elevating the coffee’s aroma. These spices not only add a little pizzazz to your morning brew but may also have antioxidant and antidiabetic properties. Other spices like nutmeg and ginger can also give your coffee an appealing flavor twist. 

Alternatively, you could add unsweetened cocoa powder to your coffee to mimic the taste of a mocha, which comes with the bonus of antioxidants that dark chocolate can provide. 

Finally, switching to a naturally sweeter coffee variety, such as Arabica beans, is another option that can diminish the need for adding a sweetening agent to your cup. It’s all about experimenting with your own taste preferences and nutritional requirements.

By exploring these natural and health-conscious options, you can enjoy a sweet cup of coffee without the added sugar or honey. 

Final Thoughts on Honey in Coffee

Final Thoughts on Honey in Coffee

If you’re a coffee lover, like honey, and are looking to try a sweeter cup of coffee, honey is a popular choice. Just remember that a little bit of honey goes a long way in coffee, so start with a small amount of honey at first!

Also, honey contains pollen, so be sure you’re not allergic before you add it to your coffee. Other than that, honey and coffee together are a pair made in heaven. So, try honey in coffee for your next cup!

Coffee and Honey FAQs

  1. Is honey good in coffee?

    Yes, honey is a great alternative to sugar in coffee. Whether it’s iced coffee or hot coffee, a teaspoon or less of honey can provide a unique flavor to your coffee. It not only adds sweetness but also a distinct taste of honey that many coffee lovers enjoy. In addition, honey comes directly from nature and has many health benefits, making it a healthier choice than much other sugars.

  2. What type of honey should you use when making coffee with honey?

    Mostly any kind of honey can be used in coffee. Still, regular honey or raw honey is mostly recommended because raw honey comes directly from beehives and contains pollen, which adds a unique flavor to the coffee. Different kinds of honey may slightly alter the taste of your coffee, so it’s good to experiment and find the one you like best.

  3. What is the taste of coffee with honey?

    The taste of coffee with honey depends on the kind of honey and roast coffee used. However, typically, coffee with honey still retains its rich roast flavor with an added subtle sweetness and a hint of the floral or fruity notes that honey is made of. Some may find that adding honey in coffee enhances the overall fragrance and flavor of the coffee.

  4. How does adding honey in coffee make it a healthier drink?

    Adding honey to coffee is considered healthier than adding refined sugars. Honey is a natural product and contains pollen, vitamins, and minerals that are not present in artificial sweeteners or regular sugar. However, keep in mind that although healthier, honey is still a form of sugar and should be consumed in moderation.

  5. Does putting honey in coffee alter the coffee taste?

    Yes, putting honey in coffee can alter the taste, adding a distinct flavor that differs from regular sugar. The honey taste adds an underlying complexity to the coffee taste, enhancing its roasted flavor and aromatic profile. You might find that you need less honey than sugar to reach your desired sweetness.

  6. Is honey a good coffee sweetener for all types of coffee?

    Generally, honey is a good coffee sweetener for all coffee types. Whether you love a simple black coffee or a more complex Latte or Cappuccino coffee, adding a little honey can add a pleasant twist. For coffee treatments that typically require a sweetener, using honey in coffee instead of sugar is healthier while adding a delicious flavor.

  7. Can you use honey as a sweetener for iced coffee?

    Yes, honey can be used as a sweetener for iced coffee. Mixing the honey in while the coffee is still hot will help it dissolve more easily. The floral or sweet notes of honey can pair nicely with the robust flavors of coffee, providing you with a refreshing yet delicious drink on a warm day.

  8. What are the benefits of adding honey in coffee?

    There are several benefits of adding honey in coffee. From a health perspective, honey is an all-natural sweetener that contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals that are not there in sugar. Honey also has antioxidant properties. From a taste perspective, honey can enhance the flavor of your coffee, adding depth and complexity.

  9. How to properly add honey to your coffee?

    Adding honey to your coffee is simple. First, you need to decide on the type of honey you want to use. Next, prepare your coffee as usual and stir in a teaspoon of honey or adjust according to your taste preference. Remember that honey is sweeter than sugar, so you might want to start with a smaller amount and add more as needed.

  10. Why should I try honey instead of sugar?

    Many people think honey is the better choice. Firstly, honey is a natural sweetener that offers a unique flavor profile. Secondly, unlike refined sugar, it provides some health benefits such as antioxidants and small quantities of vitamins and minerals. Lastly, putting honey in coffee sounds like an interesting way to switch up your coffee routine and try something new.

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2 thoughts on “The Sweet Debate of Honey in Coffee: Pros and Cons of Coffee with Honey”

  1. I do love honey in coffee. I sometimes use Tupelo which has 45 calories per tbs. Do you have any other recommendations for sweeteners? Stevia is bitter and monk fruit tastes weird in coffee. Alcohol sugars are not a great alternative. I used Sweet-in-low for year and now tastes bitter to me as well.
    Thank you for the post/blogs.
    Donna Fullerton

    • Hi, Donna! If you like cinnamon, you can try mixing a little bit of it in with your honey or even just on its own in your coffee. It has a natural sweetness that’s really nice in coffee. You can also try maple syrup, agave, and coconut sugar. All three of those are lovely. I hope this helps. Happy brewing and thanks for reading!


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