Taste of maple syrup

A research team made up of sensory evaluation specialists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and maple product scientists from Centre ACER developed a glossary for use in describing the flavours of maple products. This Maple Flavour Wheel provides a scientific basis for accurate, reliable descriptions of the taste of maple syrup. The Flavour Wheel was only one of the flavour research project’s goals. The study’s overall goal was to develop the tools needed to explore the range of maple product flavours and reveal the secrets behind their complexity.

Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Canadian food regulations on the maple syrup state that maple syrup must be free of any objectionable odour or taste, non-maple taste, or the “buddy” flavour it can acquire at the end of the production season.

What do quality inspectors check?

  1. Brix or sugar level
    Using the refractometer, the inspector ensures that the maple syrup has a minimum content of soluble solids (sugar level) of 66%.
  2. Class or category of maple syrup
    Using the spectrophotometer, the inspector checks the percentage of light transmission through the maple syrup. He can then classify the maple syrup in the appropriate category
  3. clearness
    The quality inspector visually examines the presence or absence of suspended matter in the maple syrup
  4. Flavor
    The quality inspector tastes the maple syrup sample taken from the barrel to detect any flavor defects.


Evaluation of maple syrup’s taste

Evaluating maple syrup by its taste requires a certain amount of training in order to detect the defects and characteristics. Some of the main defects singled out by quality inspectors from ACER Division Inspection Inc. are:


1. Defect of natural origin or linked to processing (VR1)

2. Microbiological defect (VR2)

3. Defects related to a set of bad tastes or smells  (VR4)

4. Buddy taste defect (Vr5)


Various parameters are evaluated: texture, colour, odour, taste (sweet, sour, bitter), and aroma. In Quebec, inspectors taste, inspect, verify and classify more than 200,000 barrels of maple syrup each year. Naturally, the nearer a syrup is to the top of the quality scale (Canada A – Golden, delicate taste), the more its taste will resemble a “sweet maple” flavour.


At La Ferme Martinette, we compare maple syrup to a good wine. We guarantee a maple syrup without any flavor defect… We are looking for the subtle scent of maple, its delicate flavor and roundness without bitterness or drag in the throat. And if this delicious flavor and fragrance remains round in the mouth (covers all of our taste buds) for several minutes… there is a good chance that it is an excellent maple syrup!


The Maple Flavour Wheel

A research team made up of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) sensory evaluation specialists and scientists from the ACER Center’s maple products has developed a glossary to describe the flavors of maple products. This Maple Flavor Wheel is the scientific basis for describing the taste of maple syrup in a reliable and credible way. The Flavor Wheel is only one of the objectives of the flavor research project. The overall goal of the study was to develop the tools necessary to explore the spectrum of flavors in maple products and then reveal the secrets of their complexity.

Source: Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec

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