Maple Syrup Flavour Research

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been conducting research on the flavour of maple syrup since 1998. A partnership between Jacinthe Fortin and Nancy Graveline of the Food Research and Development Centre and researchers at the Centre ACER (in French only) has been trying to establish solid bases to characterize the taste of maple syrup.

The impetus of the process was the development of a flavour wheel to help the industry rate maple syrup other than by its colour and defects. The term flavour, from Old French, encompasses all notes of taste and smell comprised in a gustatory experience, as opposed to the basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury. The maple flavour wheel was developed to express the taste of the syrup in all its nuances and describe the extensive spectrum of flavours of maple products made in North America.

The team used sensory evaluation to identify the flavours in a wide variety of maple products. First, the research team selected a variety of syrups from Quebec. They also recruited four taste panels of maple syrup amateurs, producers, industry stakeholders and tasting experts.

By grouping the terms according to their similarity, the researchers finally established 91 words (or attributes) illustrated by actual products, such as "brown sugar, sawdust, banana, hay," which they grouped into 13 flavour families and 39 subfamilies.

Thanks to the maple syrup flavour wheel, maple syrup industry stakeholders can use a common language to describe both the quality and variety of flavours of maple products. The entire industry now has a tool to present maple products to Canadian and foreign consumers.

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