What’s In A Name? Vermont’s New Maple Syrup Grading System Has Some Confused

Gone are the days of different grades of maple syrup, at least in Vermont, where the sticky shadow of Canada’s industry makes people take maple syrup very seriously. The state has switched up the grading system for syrup, removing “Grade B” altogether and confusing some customers in the process.

The naming convention used to be split between Grade A and Grade B, but now it’s all Grade A, and uses names that conjure up images of coffee, notes NPR’s The Salt blog.

Instead of names “Fancy” and “Grade A Dark Amber,” there are colors like “Golden,” “Amber” and “Dark,” with flavor descriptions of “Delicate,” “Rich,” “Robust” or “Strong.” And what used to be below Grade B, formerly known as “Commercial Grade,” is now Very Dark with a Strong taste, and can be sold to retailers if its quality is good enough.

It’s confusing to some, or maybe it’s just that syrup names are so entrenched in the collective Vermont mind that it’ll take some getting used to.

“I like the old grading system much better,” said one customer tasting syrups at a recent event at one sugarhouse. “More of a Fancy,” she said of the lightest syrup, which is now called Golden Delicate. “That’s the name I’m used to for it.”

Sugarmakers in Vermont are hoping that names like “Robust” will make people think of coffee, and help those that aren’t used to buying syrup get a better idea of what the products will taste like.

“Not very many people have a chance to come to a sugarhouse and to sample different grades, and have somebody explain to them about the differences,” says one sugarmaker. “They’re standing in front of a supermarket shelf, and they’re wondering if they’re really going to like what’s in that jug.”

She explains that customers would sometimes think Fancy was the highest quality syrup, and then be disappointed that it wasn’t, leading to future syrup confusion.

“If you got that and you thought, “Wow, if this is their best syrup, it doesn’t have much flavor. I guess I don’t like maple syrup,’ ” she explains.

Vermont sugarmakers would like to see the grading convention adopted by other states to provide a uniform experience for customers, but the state is on its own so far. Your move, Canada.

By Any Other Name, Does Vermont’s Maple Syrup Taste As Sweet? [The Salt]

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