Historically, the system for grading maple syrup has been different in the United States than it is in Canada, which has resulted in consumer confusion. Figuring out one grading system is frustrating enough, but two is downright difficult. The International Maple Syrup Institute has developed a new international grading system that will make things much simpler for consumers, and it is set to go into effect this year.
Currently, the United States has two maple syrup grades, Grade A and Grade B. Grade A further breaks down into three sub-grades: Light Amber, Medium Amber, and Dark Amber. Canada’s grading system is based on a number scale. Canada #1 includes Extra Light (also known as AA), Light (A), and Medium (B). Canada #2 is Amber, which is also known as C, and finally, #3 is known as Dark, or D. Because the three Canada #1 grades are basically identical to the three sub-grades of the U.S. Grade A syrups, it makes sense to create one grading system that would eliminate worldwide confusion. So, how is maple syrup graded according to the new standards? Instead of multiple grades and numbers, there will just be one grade for consumers: Grade A. There will also be a Processing Grade maple syrup that will be available for use in food products but not for retail sale. Grade A maple syrup will be divided into four color classes: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. On top of making maple syrup grades easier to decipher, one of the biggest reasons for changing the grading standard is to eliminate the discrimination of Grade B maple syrup. By selling it under Grade A Very Dark, people will be more apt to purchase it. As a result, the industry can raise the price and equalize the cost of all grades.
Whatever your maple syrup flavor preferences, you will still be able to find exactly what you love once the grades change.
The state of Vermont has been synonymous with maple syrup for hundreds of years, and rightfully so. The small state generates just around 35 percent of the country’s supply, and around 8 percent of the world’s supply. Their climate, soil conditions, and dense concentration of maple trees (the highest in the United States), are three reasons why it is the country’s most ideal location for producing the best maple syrup.
The season of maple syrup production in Vermont spans from February, when sugarhouses set up for the sugaring season, until Spring, which is so frequently muddy from all of the melting snow and ice that Vermonters joke that they have five seasons—the fifth one being “Mud Season”. On a good year for maple syrup production, the snow has melted, the ground has thawed, and millions of gallons of water have been absorbed by the maple trees (the most important aspect of sap production). Forests that are primarily sugar maple trees, known as sugarbushes, have a system of pipelines connected to each tree tap that allows the sap to flow directly to the sugarhouse, where it is boiled down—a far cry from the days when carrying small buckets back and forth was a necessity. Vermont sugarhouses are known for producing high quality products, and with growing numbers of artisans getting into the maple syrup industry, the options for consumers today are plentiful. One reason why so many people prefer Vermont maple syrup is because Vermont law prohibits the use of any additives and preservatives, and they also have many organic maple syrup choices for the particularly health conscious.
Coombs Family Farms has been producing some of the best Vermont organic maple syrup and organic maple products for over seven generations, which is why they are highly regarded in the industry. They have perfected the art of making maple syrup, and it shows. Whether you choose to buy natural maple syrup through them, or other reputable artisan Vermont sugarhouses, you can rest assured that you are getting the highest quality
This year, the new international standards for grading maple syrup will slowly go into effect, and Grade B will cease to exist as “Grade B”. Before you panic, you can rest assured that you will still be able to purchase this popular dark syrup, only it will have a different name: Grade A Very Dark. In addition to the name change, there will be a slight increase in cost, which will be disheartening to Grade B maple syrup fans who have always appreciated its cheaper cost in comparison to the rest of the maple syrup grades.
The new maple syrup grades were created with the intent to create one easy-to-understand international system. All of the maple syrup grades will be Grade A pure maple syrup, with four different identifying varieties: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. By placing all maple syrup varieties under the same grade, those in the maple syrup industry hope to eliminate consumer confusion and also equalize pricing amongst all maple syrup grades. It will help the public even more that the same grading standards will apply to maple syrup from both the United States and Canada, whose different grading systems have long been hard to decipher.
If you’ve always been a Grade B maple syrup enthusiast, rest assured that it will still be available for you to buy; it will simply be under a different name. If you want to escape the impending price increase, you might want to start stocking up on Grade B maple syrup before the new grades hit the shelves.