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Thread: Describing grades/flavors to people

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    Berrien Center, MI
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    Default Describing grades/flavors to people

    I wasn't sure where to put this thread but I wanted to share this and wonder people's thoughts. We have changed our approach at marketing/describing our syrup to people in regards to the grades/flavors. Like everything, you get a little better at it the more you do it. Last year we were describing the gold/delicate as a delicate maple flavor and then the flavor intensifies as the season progresses. So, the question we found ourselves asking people was "do you want something with less flavor or more flavor?" which I think is the wrong question to ask. It implies the golden is "inferior" because it has "less flavor."

    I should also add that we are a rather small producer so we have the ability to keep all of our batches separate. Although we do grade our batches, we further divide them. This year, we found it works well to have it divided as follows: golden, early season, mid season, and late season. We did a blind taste test while grading which was really informative for us to do! It was very interesting to see how syrup on the border of golden and amber had notes of both categories like "starts like a golden but has a stronger finish" or "not as delicate, could see as amber or strong end of golden."

    Fast forward to this year. We have been describing the golden as having the "purest, clean maple flavor." This was something we picked up from a Dr. Perkins post here. The later stuff we are describing as a complex maple flavor because you start to have other flavors come in. Even if it doesn't help us in sales, I feel like this is a better representation of syrup. And in the end, even if people don't buy from us, we want them to understand maple a bit better. It's such a complex and cool world to explore and share!
    Daniel & Eleanor Bliese
    Heritage Woods, LLC
    SW Michigan

    Smoky Lake 2x4 raised flue on Corsair arch
    The RO Bucket 80gph Single Post
    100 taps on buckets

  2. #2
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    You talk about being worried about describing Golden in a way that makes it sound inferior in your first paragraph, but then later on towards the end you switch to using a phrase “purest, clean maple flavor “. Why are you creating a slant that makes it sound like the other grades are inferior, and possibly not pure maple’s syrup? That’s not doing any good for maple syrup as a whole? Are you only making Golden syrup? What happens when you make darker grades and you have convinced your buyers that the darker grades are no good because they are impure? Are you purposely trying to keep people from buying other grades? You would be better off using descriptions that don’t make one grade sound any better or worse than another. One person’s like is another person’s dislike so you should be finding a way to describe the flavor differences between the grades and let people decide wether they like one or the other.
    Sugaring for 45+ years
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2021
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    Crystal Falls, MI
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ebliese View Post
    ... And in the end, even if people don't buy from us, we want them to understand maple a bit better. It's such a complex and cool world to explore and share!
    That is SO true!!! My wife and I moved from Alabama to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the fall of 2020. Our land here is full of sugar maples so, with the help and guidance from her experienced parents, we started making maple syrup our very first spring here. Each of our three attempts have gone very well. Since my wife and I both enjoy wine and ALWAYS take a moment to evaluate a nice wine on its color, smell, texture, and taste, we did a similar ‘tasting’ event on our first season’s syrup and were amazed that maple syrup has corresponding attributes and characteristics. Also surprising to this novice syrup-maker was how the batches differed in taste as the season progressed!

    Being inquisitive, I Googled ‘maple sap taste testing’ and was surprised that it is a real thing. Heck, the Maple Syrup World website even has this suggestion, “We recommend the 5 “S” technique: See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Savor.” As each batch comes off the final boil, I taste test just prior to bottling and remark to anyone within earshot what dominant and nuance flavors I detect… a sort of ‘syrup sommelier’ if you will!

    I found your post interesting as others tasting your syrup may undergo a different 'gustatory sensation' – would it be possible to do something like this: as you already have nice descriptors of the batches, could potential customers sample a drop (from a food-grade eyedropper) from various batches and decide what is most tasty to them (this is, of course, assuming that these customers are visiting a physical store).

  4. #4
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    Feb 2022
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    I've enjoyed reading through this thread so far. I would say it is in the right category on trader. On a related note, I've been musing that we may have swung the pendulum too far with the new grading.
    Once upon a time, and for a long long time, light syrup was called "fancy". Who wouldn't want "fancy"? Sounds good, right? Who would want that dark grade B stuff? So we changed the names so the light stuff sounds boring and the dark is "robust". Who wouldn't want a robust flavor? Sounds good, right? It seems now everyone wants dark. I wonder if it worked too well.
    My customers almost universally asked for dark. I've got all the light and medium in stock you could want. Out of dark.

    On the flip side, it seems the big guys love making light. What gives? Who is buying and preferring all that light syrup? Someone must want it because there is a lot of it being made and it is not being thrown away. This is a serious question. Someone must know.

    Andy

  5. #5
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    Light syrup is valued for two reasons:

    1. It can be blended with a little dark syrup to an achieve a nice moderate flavor/color profile. You can always blend/reheat to make syrup darker. You can’t blend syrup lighter.
    2. It was (and still is to some degree, wrong or right) seen as an indication of an experienced producer.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  6. #6
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    Peru, Maine
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    We don't make a lot of light syrup and only have one guy that asks for it if we do have it. Often times for us our very first run is on the border of light and we just blend it with the next batch to make an Amber. Our light tends to have a "vanilla" like flavor. 80% of our crop this year was Amber, with only the last week being Dark syrup. When someone asks about grades we usually tell them Amber has a more sweet/sugary flavor to it and dark has a stronger maple flavor. We also ask if they plan to use it for cooking and recommend dark if so. If people aren't really sure, we steer them towards Amber. Keep it simple IMO.
    305 taps on 2 Shurflo's, 31 taps on 3/16" and 229 taps on gravity. 565 in all
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    Berrien Center, MI
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    This year we made golden and amber syrup. Last year we made amber and dark. Every year will be slightly different. We are not trying to only make a specific grade but are trying to find our niche in the market here. There are lots of producers in our area making good general syrup so we've tried to stand out by through separation of batches. We do try to make a quality product (whatever grades we wind up with) by processing the sap the day we collect it. We give people information on our syrup and let them decide what they want. This year at the Farmers' Market we have all our syrup set out, arranging it (golden, early season amber, mid season amber, late season amber) with information. We do find, like many others, that customers gravitate towards the darker syrup but we also have had some go for a mid season syrup (or early season). We have had a few customers purchase multiple bottles, one in each of our categories. We are not trying to keep people from buying other grades, nor is it our intention to create a slant. If customers aren't sure which syrup they want, we do like mainebackwoodssyrup does and suggest a mid season amber. This is only our second year at 100 taps and we are trying to sell close to all/all of our syrup before the next season. Last year we were able to do that.

    The darker syrup we say has a more "complex flavor" and a richness to it which should be savored. Maybe the lighter syrup we should say has a "clean maple flavor" instead of "purest, clean maple flavor." Here is the link to the thread where I got my information from...see post #4 specifically: http://mapletrader.com/community/sho...ht=maple+notes

    We're not experts, by any means. We are simply trying to learn and pass that knowledge on. For example, there was a guy from California who stopped by our booth. He didn't buy any syrup from us (and that's ok) but we talked about maple and you could tell he was genuinely interesting in learning about it. He thanked us for our time.
    Daniel & Eleanor Bliese
    Heritage Woods, LLC
    SW Michigan

    Smoky Lake 2x4 raised flue on Corsair arch
    The RO Bucket 80gph Single Post
    100 taps on buckets

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2022
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    Essex Junction, VT
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    In other threads we've discussed how syrup flavors are like musical notes. I've been musing now that we're out of the syrup-making season and into the syrup-selling season that syrup grades (color) are like musical era's. Light syrup is music from the 15th through 19th centeries. Medium syrup is from George Gershwin through Big Band through Buddy Holly. Dark syrup is The Beatles through Taylor Swift. Everyone agrees that light syrup is the most amazing and requires the most talent to make. They look at it in awe. Then ask for the dark syrup. The main audience for classical music and light syrup is the elderly.

    Classical music is usually only ingested when mixed into modern music, such as Pachelbel's Canon into Blues Traveler "Hook" (see youtube "Pachelbel Rant") or Bach's Minuet in G Major as "A Lover's Concerto" by The Toys. I will probably end up mixing most of my light syrup into my dark syrup.

    (Actually in reality I think more people ask for dark because they heard it is the most "maply", not because they've actually figured it out for themselves. Somehow that's the word on the street. I think the new grading system worked too well).

    Anyway, that's my best attempt at an entertaining off-season post!

  9. #9
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    Mar 2008
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    I'm a little late with a reply here - Over the years when I get questioned about the different grades, my explanation has always been - The light is like regular coffee, the dark like espresso - Everything else falls in the middle. People seem to understand the simplicity in that answer.

  10. #10
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    Mar 2017
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    Harvard, MA
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    At farmers markets where sell some the different colors and grades attract people and engage people in learning about sugaring. I always enjoy explaining the early to later season impacts and suggest they buy one of each golden, amber and dark to see for themselves. If they ask me to explain the taste difference I do find that more challenging but I like the musical theme suggested above — how about Golden is a straight C note, amber is a C major chord and dark is a complex type of chord (I’m at the limit of my musical theory here).
    2022 is season 7
    2016: 20 taps on buckets, 4 gallons on a borrowed 2x3.
    2017: 32 taps on buckets, 8 gallons of syrup, on a "loaner" Lapierre 19x48.
    2018: 80 taps. First time tubing. New 10x12 sugar shack, Lapierre 2x5. Made 17 gallons
    2019: 100 taps. 22 gallons. Added a small RO 50 gph.
    2020: 145 taps, 30 gallons, sold half. Murphy cup is a great addition.
    2021: tapped Feb 23, 150 taps, 35 gallons.
    2022: 200 taps. I lost 50, added 100. Having fun but short season?

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