do different grades of maple syrup taste different
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They sure do. When maple syrup comes into our plant every barrel is opened and sampled for flavour and quality. As a result I can taste thousands of different samples of maple syrup every year. And believe me, there is a huge difference in flavour from one grade to another.
In the early spring during the first few days of maple season maple producers will generally make a very light maple syrup that is light in both colour and flavour. As the season progresses the maple syrup gradually becomes darker in colour and stronger in flavour.
Most people where we are, Nova Scotia, prefer their maple syrup very dark as they like the strong maple flavour. We have no idea why but we find it hard to sell light maple syrup. It's probably because so many people in Nova Scotia are use to drinking dark rum and eating dark molasses.
Very light maple syrup often has a buttered popcorn flavour to it. The very dark maple syrups have a more caramel or "buddy flavour". The medium coloured maple syrup will have that recognizable maple flavour.
This difference in flavour is created by an actual chemical change in the composition of the sugar and other elements that make up the distinct maple flavour in the syrup.
Of course the grade is not the only thing that can affect the flavour of maple syrup. Off flavours and other flavours can be caused by the equipment being used and the processes that are undertaken to collect the sap, boil the maple sap to maple syrup and package the end maple syrup.
Try the different grades at our retail shop and pick your favorite!