Maple Syrup Grades & Comparisons


We love baking with maple syrup, and as Lauren mentions, the grade of syrup will affect the flavor of your baked goods. There are maple syrups that are as pale as the lightest honey and some so dark and rich that they look like molasses. I am lucky enough to live in New England and often have an array at my disposal. Some supermarkets might just carry one type of pure maple syrup, but if you have a choice, a tasting might be in order. You will be surprised at the differences.

By the way, you are buying pure maple syrup, right? No “pancake syrup” or “breakfast syrup” allowed! Read the label. There shouldn’t be any corn syrups or flavorings. Just maple syrup.

The cost of pure maple syrup reflects the cost of the raw ingredients and the labor-intensive production. It takes almost 40 gallons of raw syrup tapped directly from the trees to boil down into 1 gallon of syrup that finds its way to your table.

Canada produces far more maple syrup than the U.S. (some statistics say 80% of the world’s source) and they currently have different grading systems.  In Canada there are three grades, and some sub-grades:

  • Canada Grade #1:
    • Extra Light, sometimes referred to as AA
    • Light (A)
    • Medium (B)
    • Canada Grade #2 called Amber (C)
    • Canada Grade #3: called Dark (D)

In the U.S., there have always been two broad categories:

  • Grade A with subcategories
    • Light Amber
    • Medium Amber
    • Dark Amber
  • Grade B

As of 2014, there is a new grading system being implemented by the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, as seen in the chart below. Take careful note of the old system on the right and the new wording and designations on the left.


They hope to install this new system across the U.S. and Canada, but it will take a few seasons for a complete transition. The problem, as the producers saw it, was that Grade B always sounded like it wasn’t as good as Grade A, but in reality, it is just as pure and delicious – it just has a different flavor profile. Maple syrup, by the way, is graded by color. The new grades will reflect color and flavor.

I actually prefer the punch and intensity of Grade B, which will now be the equivalent of the Grade A – dark color with robust taste. In baking, the syrup’s flavor is tempered by butter and eggs and flour and such, so I almost always use a darker syrup. Familiarize yourself with the new system so you will know what you are buying, and again, read the labels and always buy pure maple syrup.

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