Maple syrup is a wonderful golden elixir that is delicious poured over pancakes, French toast and waffles and also make for a fantastic, natural substitute for refined sugar. It is enjoyable in countless ways, whether it is in its most recognizable form as syrup or in the form of maple candy and maple butter.
Maple syrup comes from one of two places — Canada (where most of the maple syrup comes from Quebec) or the United States (where Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup). But what, if anything, is the difference between the two?
Ultimately there is no significant difference between Canadian and American maple syrup; both counties produce the highest quality, which is why the real stuff comes with a premium price tag. Until 2015 the main difference was in the packaging and, more specifically, the grading system used to categorize maple syrup.
In Canada the grading system used to go from: Canada No. 1 extra light, light and medium to Canada No. 2 medium and amber to Canada No. 3 dark.
In the United States the comparable grades went from: U.S. Grade A light amber, medium amber and dark amber to U.S. grade B and finally U.S. grade C, the the most bitter and generally not available to purchase.
But state, provincial and national governments across Canada and the U.S. had all introduced a new international standard by 2015. Nowadays all maple syrup is graded according to a universal system:
Grade A: Golden and Delicate Taste, formerly Grade A Light Amber or Canadian No. 1 Extra Light or Extra Clear
Grade A: Amber and Rich Flavor, formerly Grade A Amber or Medium Amber or Canadian No. 1 Light, Clear, or Medium
Grade A: Dark and Robust Flavor, formerly Grade A Dark Amber or Canadian: No. 1 Medium, Amber, Dark
Grade A: Very Dark and Strong Flavor, formerly Grade B. or Canadian No. 2 Dark
Yes, the new grades are all A, at least for retail maple syrup. (A separate processing grade covers syrups used only as a flavoring in manufactured products.) Meanwhile, the more detailed labeling is based on the color of the syrup, which is an indication of when in the sugaring season it was produced — lighter syrup tends to get made earlier in the season, and darker syrup is usually made later in the season. Darker syrup has a deeper and stronger flavor, while the lighter stuff is generally more preferred and considered the perfect accompaniment to pancakes, waffles or any of these 24 French toast recipes that are worth waking up for in the morning.
This story was originally published December 27, 2018 and was updated on January 7, 2019 to clarify that the syrup grading system changed in 2015 from two different systems to one universal system.