Corbezzolo Honey – A Rare, Valuable and Very Bitter Nectar

Corbezzolo Honey is a unique type of honey famous for tasting nothing like we expect honey to taste. To say that this Sardinian treat is not sweet would be an understatement, because it’s downright bitter.

Italians have been making corbezzolo honey in Sardinia for a very long time. How long, is impossible to say, but there are references to it in the writings of famous ancient figures like Cicero, Virgil and Ovid, who noted the contrasting taste between Sardinian honey and the sweet honey of the Hyblean Mountains. But if you can get past the bitterness, you’ll discover an amber nectar full of nutrients and natural medicine. It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, has anti-inflamatory properties, and has been used as a sleep inducer and cough sedative for generations.

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Corbezzolo honey is obtained from the flowers of the corbezzolo shrub, known as the strawberry tree, in English. It is a difficult honey to make, for several reasons. For one, the corbezollo flowers in autumn, and require special weather conditions (abundant summer rains and a mild August) to do so. Then, there’s the bell shape of the small flowers, which makes it tough for the bees to get in and collect the nectar.

Lastly, the rainy autumn weather makes it difficult for bees to leave their hives and collect the necessary nectar, and a particularly heavy downpour can literally halt the corbezzolo flower from opening its petals. For all these reasons, corbezzolo honey is produced in very limited amounts, making it one of the rarest, most valuable types of honey in the world.

Corbezzolo honey has a complex flavor profile, with sharp notes of balsamic vinegar, pine tree sap, licorice, a hint of leather, coffee, and a smokey finish. But to the average person, it just tastes bitter. Either you like it, or you don’t, there is no middle ground.

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“Everything that the island of Sardinia produces, men and things, is bad!” Roman philosopher and lawyer Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE) once said in the defense of a man accused of murder in Sardinia. “Even the honey, abundant on that island, is bitter!”

It’s not fully understood why corbezzolo honey is bitter when most other types of honey are so sweet, but some believe that it has something to do with the glycoside arbutin present in the flowers of the strawberry tree.

Because of its distinctively bitter taste, corbezzolo honey is usually paired with other foods, such as fatty cheeses like pecorino or grana, or Sardinian desserts like seadas or orillettas. It’s also very popular as an addition to espresso.


Corbezzolo honey may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is an important part of Sardinian culture and prized as such by locals and honey aficionados alike.