Is "A" graded Maple Syrup better than "B"?

Pancake breakfast

It's maple syrup season here in the New England, so we thought we'd take a moment to discuss grades of maple syrup and dispute the claim that an "A" is better than a "B." 

We should note that the grades depend whether you're buying maple syrup from Canada or the United States, since the two have different grading systems. Canada, which produces more than 80 percent of the world's maple syrup has three grades: Canada #1, including Extra Light (sometimes known as AA), Light (A), and Medium (B); #2 Amber (C); and #3 Dark (D).The United States has two grades:  Grade A and Grade B, though Grade A is broken into three subgrades,  measured by translucence: Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber.

But what's the real difference? Actually it's just a matter of flavor intensity. Grade A has less maple flavor than Grade B. And that's largely because grade is not a matter of quality or filtering, as is commonly published, but simply rather of timing. Grade A comes from the first sap flow of the season, while Grade B comes from later flows. As for taste, many people consider Grade A to be sweeter, while Grade B has a bit of caramel flavor that Grade A doesn't have. 

Grade A is more expensive than Grade B simply because there's less of it. As for use, again, they are largely interchangeable. So our suggestion, if you like maple syrup but think you should pay more for the A grade since it's of higher quality , is to think again and try Grade B. You may find you get more while paying  less.

3 Comments

  • colin.purrington  on  4/14/2013 at 2:06 PM

    You folks are awesome.

  • nadiam1000  on  4/15/2013 at 8:44 AM

    Thanks for clarifying the grading system. Growing up in Montreal(now living in California), I grew up drinking, er, I mean eating maple syrup. We just did not use table syrup and my kids are used to the real deal as well. Having said that, darker is definitely better. I buy Grade B(Trader Joe's has a good one) or in a pinch Grade A Medium Amber, which may be easier to find. In my opinion, the very light stuff is watery and lacking in true, rich maple flavor. I love maple syrup season and have to add that the best comes from Quebec!

  • jzanger  on  4/15/2013 at 11:25 PM

    I've been a Grade B convert for three or four years now. It's just that much more amazing on pancakes and waffles, and if you use it to bake with it adds a MUCH better maple flavor to the finished product. We used an excellent organic Grade B syrup in granola we sold at farmers markets and it quickly became our best-selling product. My other favorite maple syrup is made by a company called Blis and it is aged in bourbon barrels for a period of time...ohmyGAWD. No idea if it's A or B, but it's amazing.

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