This morning I enjoyed pancakes with maple syrup – pure maple syrup bought recently at a local store. I had chosen "Dark, Robust Taste" from among the options offered for sale. I didn't see anything labeled "Grade B" – my previous favorite. All the options were marked "U.S. Grade A" but with various words added to describe the color and/or taste of the syrup. Aha! That reminded me that the standard grading system had been changed some years ago. Oops. My habit of seeking "Grade B" was out-dated and no longer helpful.
I do applaud the new system. I've always considered the darker syrup tastier. And I'd heard about the history. In colonial days, when white sugar was hard to obtain, the locally produced maple-based sugar could be a substitute. But a strongly-flavored product would not have been so highly valued as a "fancy" version with less of that maple taste.
In my opinion the old grades were upside down: A for less taste; B for more of that delicious maple-ness.
The new labeling system, which began to be implemented in 2014, is an improvement. Here's an explanation of the changes:
"How to Make Sense of the New Maple Syrup Grades"
For history of maple sugaring in Massachusetts, visit this website:
Every spring I recall the maple syrup my mother produced and the labor that went into it. As a child I helped collect the sap. We didn't sell the product, and didn't grade it. It was just maple syrup, a much-loved treat. For more about my mother's syrup-making, please read my March 2008 blog entry and article: Making Maple Syrup.