Maple Syrup Taste Test
May the best sap win.

Maple Syrup.

Organic Specialty vs. Mass Produced. What the hell’s the difference?

These are the thoughts I have. A few weeks ago during Canadian Thanksgiving my friend Marilyn dropped off a bottle of organic Maple Syrup from a Maple Syrup farm her sister lives near. I have rationed it as best I could ever since. I hadn’t even tasted a drop of it before I started barking orders about how it was to be used only for special occassions and it was never, EVER to be chugged from the bottle. As often happens in this house by one particular male individual.

This maple syrup was from an organic maple syrup farm and costs twice as much as the stuff you buy in the grocery store.  And not even the “pancake topping”.  It costs twice as much as actual 100% maple syrup.


Being the kind of gal that I am I HAD to do a taste test with the stuff before the bottle ran out.  So I lined up a jug of the cheap stuff and the bottle of the organic stuff and called in the fella.

He’s always up for helping me with my posts.  When he found out this particular post was a maple syrup taste test he kind of squealed and jumped up and down on the stop for 3 minutes straight.

Both syrups were 100% medium grade maple syrup. “Medium” refers to a colour scale which grades how much light can pass through the syrup. Light syrup is more delicate in flavour, medium is a little richer and dark maple syrup is very, very distinct with a darker, earthier flavour best for baking.

The Cheap Stuff.  $10 for 1 litre.

The Good Stuff.  $10 for 1/2 litre.

The Taster.

Round #1 of a blind taste test

The Cheap Stuff.

Down the Hatch.

The reaction.

Taste Test #2.  The Good Stuff.

Down the Hatch.  Again.

The reaction.

Making sure he’s got every …

… little …

… last bit.

Obviously the winner was The Good Stuff. By a landslide. Apparently the Cheap Stuff tasted like “churched up” Aunt Jemima.

So I did a little searching to find out how two identical products, both containing 100% medium grade maple syrup could taste so different.

It seems maple syrup is a lot like wine in that the taste of it differs from region to region. Also, maple syrup comes from 3 types of maple trees: Sugar maples, Black maples and Red maples. The taste of the syrup differs slightly depending on what type of tree it comes from. And finally, the time of the season that the sap is collected also alters the flavour of the syrup. If you take sap from the tree too late in the season, when the buds have started to form, then the sap will have a somewhat “less pleasant” flavour.

So the only conclusion I can come up with is perhaps the mass produced cheap syrup was taken from trees in a less favourable climate, from a shoddy tree that was in bud, in order to increase production.

Or … the fella sneaked a peak when I was giving the taste test. Either way, the Good Stuff is still being rationed.  And by “rationed” I mean I’ve hid it where he won’t find it.  In the crisper with the vegetables.


  1. Marisa says:

    We used to make our own & boil it down over a woodfire outside. The resulting syrup was slightly smoky – in a really good way!

  2. Alisha says:

    I’m thinkin’ we’re getting ripped off here in BC. $10 will get you a half litre of the cheap stuff here. And for as often as we use it, it goes bad *sad face* My SO drinks it from the bottle too. My favourite alternative … maple butter. MMMMmmmMMM

  3. maggie says:

    Karen I happen to have some more of that same good stuff from the same organic farm. When we come down from Ennismore at Christmas to see celebrate with my clan I will have my sister Marilyn direct me to your home with another bottle for you. Fa La La La La La La La La

  4. Dan says:

    I recommend trying out other grades and amber ratings. These are both #1 Mediums (Canadian system). I recommend trying some US syrups from Grade A and B, both light, medium, and dark amber. And there’s always the regional rivalry between Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, etc. over who makes the best syrup.

    And come winter, there is no better test than sugar on snow!

  5. Sarah P says:

    I’ve only bought local and organic maple syrup for years because I assumed it’d be better… It’s good to have some proof! As the main cook in our house as well as the maple-syrup chugger, I’ve found that hiding it all the way on the back of the shelf helps, because I never bother to fish through all the containers of pickles and juices (etc) to get it.

  6. Shauna says:

    Surprisingly, I have learned more about maple syrup than I expected to this morning. Good to know facts Karen, thanks, I now understand why our NE US friends bicker and compare maple syrup! (I thought they just didn’t like sports!) PS I have an incredible urge to draw a mustache on fellow!

    • Karen says:

      Shauna! The fellow often has a moustache. Barring that, he has a full-on beard. So feel free to draw one on him. I’m partial to it too. ~ karen

  7. Ariel says:

    Need I point out how awesomely, stereotypically CANADIAN this post is?

    On another note, I was buying mid-priced real maple syrup at the local grocery store a while ago, already feeling a little self-conscious about the price, and the check-out girl actually stopped the process, looked at the screen, looked at me, and then back at the screen again and said, “Oh my gawd, I knew we had expensive syrup like this on the shelves, but I didn’t know anyone actually BOUGHT it. I always wondered to myself, ‘Who BUYS that stuff?’ ” Thanks, lady. Thanks. As if I didn’t already feel like a self-conscious snob…. At least I’m among like-minded people here…

  8. Sandy C says:

    Love the post! Had a friend in college whose family was in the maple sugar business – so loved getting christmas maple-stuff presents from them! Bottles of the good stuff & if you had been REALLY good maple sugar candy too!!

  9. marilyn says:

    well karen looks like sister maggie is going to replenish the “good stuff” . since my sister moved near the maple sugar farm years ago we have all become maple syrup snobs…the “churched up”stuff just doesn’t cut it anymore. and the fella is looking pretty buff these days..just

  10. Wesley says:

    I see you used the standard double blind syrup test with optional neck tat: very effective!

  11. Valerie says:

    I noticed that one of your readers indicated that her maple syrup goes “bad” and doesn’t keep if not used frequently. Maple syrup will “sugar” and becomes unusable unless it is refridgerated after it is opened. Otherwise it will keep in the fridge for about 2-3 months.

  12. Tina says:

    I’ll have to send you some from good ol’ Nova Scotia. It is without question…the best:)

  13. Jodi says:

    This is amazing and so fascinating! Especially because I’ve been focusing on maple syrup on my own blog this week (more like obsessing). I’ve written three posts about the topic with one to come: Small world, eh?

  14. CallieK says:

    For me the only true maple syrup is grade A Light from Quebec – the stuff New Englanders call Flatlander syrup I believe. My grandmother always referred to Ontario maple syrup as ‘fencepost’ syrup for exactly the reason you described — because it’s made from trees other than sugar maples. She likely roll over in her grave if she knew we’ve been making syrup from Norway maples here in Toronto.

  15. Joan L. says:

    I like maple syrup but, I’ve never tried the “good stuff”. So I”ll have to get some. As for the snow, there is so much pollution in the air that I wouldn’t dream of eating the stuff (snow), esp. when you can see the tiny black dots in it! 🙂

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