To most people, maple syrup is simply a delicious breakfast condiment to put out on the table next to the orange juice. But there is more to this sugary, brown liquid than just pancakes. An overview of any maple syrup bottle distributed in the U.S. will show that your waffle sauce has one of two letter grades: It's either an "A" or a "B," and both grades have markedly different connotations.
Maple syrup receives its grade based on its colouration. Lighter syrups fall under the A category, while darker syrups receive a B.
Grade A syrups actually have three subdivisions: "Light Amber," "Medium Amber," and "Dark Amber." Grade B syrups have no subdivisions; they are simply darker than the darkest A syrups.
Grade A syrups have a subtler, more delicate flavour than Grade B syrups. They are generally sold as toppings for pancakes and waffles, while Grade B's, strong and robust in flavour, are used in baking and cooking.
Syrup grades are also indicative of the season in which the liquid was tapped from the maple tree. Grade A syrups are tapped earlier in the season (February and March), while Grade B syrups are generally tapped later in the season, during April.
There is also a Grade C maple syrup, but you won't find it sold commercially. It's too strong to be eaten by itself and is typically used as a flavouring agent in other foods.