Rewarewa or New Zealand Honeysuckle (Knightia excelsa) is a member of the Protea family (Proteaceae) and is found throughout the North Island of New Zealand and in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island. A tree growing up to 30 metres high, conical in shape, and with a trunk up to 1 metre in diameter, Rewarewa flowers from October to December with a complicated flower structure adapted to bird pollination. This structure's purpose is to prevent cross pollination.
The pollen grains of Rewarewa are large (around 40 - 50 microns) and as with many bird pollinated plants, the pollen bearing anthers are separated from the nectaries by some distance. Few pollen grains therefore find their way into the nectar and this produces a honey with a low pollen representation. Moar (1985) suggested that this honey type requires at least 10% pollen to classify as a monofloral honey. This also corresponds to a low total pollen content with a normal range for this figure of 40,000 to 120,000 total pollen grains per 10gms of honey. It is possible in years of very good production to get levels of over 60% Rewarewa pollen. However this only occurs very rarely, and must also accompany good hive management practices for targeting monofloral honeys. The most common other pollen type found in Rewarewa honey is Kamahi which flowers in a similar time period.
Rewarewa honey is an amber colour averaging 91.6 mm (Pfund Scale) with a standard deviation (SD) of 11.7mm. This is within 10 mm colour of the average colour of manuka honey and the two can be confused on this basis. Rewarewa has a definite reddish brown tint to its colour. While manuka is a more expensive honey than rewarewa, as well as being an over represented pollen, it is far more likely that Rewarewa honey is misidentified as manuka than the other way round.
Rewarewa is a slow crystallizing honey but does crystallize naturally. Consequently the crystals tend to be large. We only have around 100 sugar analyses for Rewarewa at present but from initial data, average Glucose is 29.3% (SD 2.7), Fructose 35.4% (SD 2.6) and Sucrose 2.1% (SD 2.2)
Rewarewa honey has a delightful smooth malty flavour.
Because this honey is very close in colour to manuka, has a very low pollen percentage and a low total pollen, it can be difficult for the inexperienced (and some not so inexperienced!) to separate this honey from manuka.