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Tina Hartell

On the Mountain today we are saying a fond farewell to Vermont Fancy, Medium Amber, and Dark Amber. Yes, with the arrival this week of the new cap stickers, we are officially joining the new era of maple syrup grade names.


Different grade names across each state and Canada left consumers confused about what grade of syrup to buy and how they differ. Last year the entire industry agreed to standardize the grade names, and Vermont is the first state to make the change official. Vermont producers have until January 2015 to change the grade names on their syrup. So today, we’re now on board. Yay!

For those of you who know that, say, Dark Amber is your favorite syrup and are now wondering what to get, here’s a cheat sheet:

Vermont Fancy is now: Golden Color and Delicate Taste

Medium Amber is now: Amber Color and Rich Taste

Dark Amber is now: Amber Color and Rich Taste

Grade B is now: Dark Color and Robust Taste

Commercial Grade (beyond B we like to call it) is now: Very Dark Color and Strong Taste

Overall I’m happy with this change. It’s easier for consumers to know what they’re purchasing, all grades of syrup are now Grade A, and commercial grade/beyond b can be sold retail when, prior to this year, it wasn’t allowed.

However there are a couple of drawbacks. Golden Color/Delicate Taste is actually lighter than Vermont Fancy which means that it’s going to be harder to make. It certainly favors larger producers who have vacuum, cold storage, and major reverse osmosis operations. These producers can keep sap cold and produce high sugar contents in their sap through big ROs which means it becomes syrup faster creating a lighter color.

The combining of Medium and Dark Ambers into one grade of Amber Color/Rich Taste means that this grade will likely dominate the industry. Not a bad thing for sure, but as some years won’t produce as much Golden Color/Delicate Taste (like this year) or Dark Color/Robust Taste (like last year), Amber Color/Rich Taste will be the steady eddy.

We’re cheerfully embracing the change here, and will be framing some of the old cap stickers for sugarhouse nostalgia.

Note: thank you again to Marin Horikawa of Moderate Breeze Designs for the design brilliance and to The Sticky Brand for the printing. Both are located in Burlington, Vermont.