What exactly is Grade B maple syrup? In the world of maple syrup, maple syrup is graded and categorized by color and taste. There are currently four grades of maple syrup. These grades include grade A golden, amber, dark, and very dark. To earn a grade, each batch of maple syrup must have the corresponding color and taste. From there, farmers bottle, label and sell their maple syrup accordingly.
So what is grade B maple syrup?
If there are only four categories of maple syrup, where is grade B maple syrup listed? Since 2015, grade B maple syrup has been reclassified as grade A dark color maple syrup. This is because prior to the USDA’s 2015 standardization of maple syrup (1), each state had its own grading system. For example, prior to 2015, what would be considered fancy maple syrup in Vermont is now classified as grade A golden under the new USDA system. This new system has helped to standardize and clarify a previously unclear system.
Aside from a unique color, each grade of maple syrup also has its own unique taste:
Grade A golden syrup has a very fine and delicate taste. It is the lightest of all syrups and has a slight vanilla flavor. Some have also described it as having a light buttery taste. Golden is the rarest of all syrup varieties and is typically made only during the first boil of the season.
Grade A amber syrup has a rich flavor and is amber, as the name suggests. Amber syrup has a stronger taste compared to golden but still maintains a mild-intensity flavor.
Grade A dark maple syrup is a deep amber in color and has a robust taste. Any subtle flavors previously present in amber and golden syrups are masked and replaced with a strong maple flavor.
Very dark (Previously grade B maple syrup)
Previously known as grade B maple syrup, grade A very dark syrup has a very strong maple flavor. Very dark maple syrup has an intense maple flavor that is desirable for cooking in recipes. Very dark and dark varieties are most commonly available because of the classic desired taste sought after by consumers.
What does grade A mean?
Since grade B maple syrup does not technically exist, all maple syrups sold commercially are branded as grade A. According to the USDA, U.S. Grade A is the quality of maple syrup that:
- Possesses a good maple flavor (taste) characteristic of the color
- Is clean, free from turbidity or cloudiness, and free from off flavors and odors
- Has good uniform color, which means the syrup color is bright and typical of maple syrup.
What gives grade B maple syrup, (now very dark) its color and taste?
There is a complicated science behind what gives maple syrup color and taste. Everything from time harvested, sugar concentration, types of sugars present, time spent boiling, and microbial activity all influence the grade of a batch.
Typically, farmers produce delicate grade A golden syrup early in the season. This is due to the high sugar content the sap possesses in the late winter. As spring progresses, temperatures increase, and sugar contents decrease. Warmer temperatures also allow for more microbial activity in the tree sap. Decreasing sugar content and higher microbial activity both aid in producing a darker syrup.
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