The SHORT answer:
- Grade A maple syrup is very sweet. The sweetness can overpower the taste of the maple.
- Grade B maple syrup has a dominant maple flavor. Some people won’t taste the sweetness.
The longer answer:
In North America, the “best” tastes are combinations of Sweet, Salty and Fatty. If a flavor doesn’t fall into at least one of these 3 categories, then it’s not usually popular in the marketplace.
Maple syrup that is very sweet is therefore more popular and therefore gets the grade “A” rating while the darker, stronger and more flavorful varieties (which are not as sweet) are considered second best and are called grade “B”. Growing up in Canada, I didn’t even know there WAS a grade B. Grade B went to the factories and never appeared on my pancakes.
If you are using it as a sweetener, using it with pancakes or in your baking as a sugar substitute, and you don’t want the maple flavor to come through in your food, then grade A is probably the best choice for you. This sweetness is also useful when you are cooking with bitter foods like nuts or when it is being mixed into a vinaigrette dressing- providing balance for the food. For most people that have arrived recently in Israel, grade A is the comfort food that they grew up with.
If you are using it as a sauce or as a glaze on meat, fish, poultry or on vegetables, and you want the maple flavor to survive the intense mixture of salty and fatty flavors that usually come out when roasting these foods, then grade B is usually the better choice- the chemistry is identical to the grade A but the maple flavor survives the cooking better. Grade B is also a good choice for baking and for people that grew up with strong flavors (like most native-born Israelis) grade B is a growing favorite.
An interesting side note: In North America people will see the grade A and grade B and choose the grade A (“it must be better because it is grade A”). In an effort to encourage people to buy grade B, the majority of maple syrup producers in Canada and the USA started changing the labels- as of January 2017 there is no more grade “B”. All syrup is now grade A.
How can you tell the difference with the new labels?
See the image below which compares some of the old naming systems with the new one- it’s all in the description now. On the right are some of the old labels and on the left are the new ones.
It’s a small change in the label that will no doubt help sell more grade B syrup in North America.
- Grade A = Very Sweet.
- Grade B = Dominant Maple Flavor.