US beverage companies beginning to offer bottled maple water year-round after previously only offering such products on seasonal basis
May 5, 2014
– People have been drinking sap around the world for centuries, but maple water is now making an appearance in more U.S. stores.
So, what does it taste like?
"Water, but there's something different. It's got a little bit of sweetness," Michael Farrell, a maple expert at Cornell University told USA TODAY network.
Maple water, or maple sap, is the liquid collected from maple trees used to make syrup.
Contrary to popular belief, sap is not sticky or super sweet. It has the same consistency as water, Farrell said. To make syrup, people boil the sap. It takes about 40 gallons to make 1 gallon of syrup, he said.
"It's always been a regional, seasonal thing. It's exciting that companies are getting into bottling it year around," Farrell said. A handful of companies have been popping up in the U.S. and in Canada.
One of those companies is Vertical Water, a New York company Farrell has been advising for the last few years.
Valentina Cugnasca, co-founder and CEO, started the endeavor because she wanted a sustainable way to manage forest land that also kept trees vertical, thus the name of her company.
"We want to give tree owners and people that tap their trees an additional revenue stream," Cugnasca said.
Tapping the trees does not harm them, according to Cugnasca and Farrell. It's a minor hole drilled into the tree often with a spout inserted.
In the spring when there are warm days and cold nights, tree roots suck water up into the tree and some of that water is pushed out through the hole. A bucket is used to gather the water.
(It's a lot like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Remember when Katniss Everdeen gathered water from the trees using a spile?)
"Think of it like a river," Cugnasca said. "It's a small percentage of the water that flows through the tree in the season."
Although Farrell said some trees may grow at a slightly slower rate, they are healthy. "They barely even know we're there," Cugnasca said.
The water is pasteurized by bottling companies to make it shelf stable, but otherwise it is untreated. It's natural vitamins and minerals remain.
What are the benefits of maple water?
"It's a really great hydration drink. It's high in manganese, a mineral which is good for your bones," Kate Weiler said, co-founder of DRINKmaple, whose product "maple." will be available in the Northeast starting this month. "It's a good source of calcium and iron."
Farrell said there aren't enough peer reviewed studies to prove the health benefits of maple water, but that it does have its benefits. "We know it tastes good that there are extra minerals in it," he said. "It's got the electrolytes and it gets people drinking water." It also has a very small amount, 3 to 4 grams per serving, of naturally occurring sugar.
Whole Foods in West Hollywood, Calif., is selling SEVA, a Canadian bottled maple water. It's been available for about two months. A 32 oz container sells for $4.99.
"When something is new, it's a little hard for people to buy it," Luis Cortez, an associate at the store said. He added that 60 to 65 percent of their stock has sold, which he considered good for a new item.
There are several brands making their way to shelves. It's likely you'll see some soon in a store near you or can order some online. If not, Farrell said you can always harvest some sap yourself next spring.
"There are maples or birch trees in the most of the country," he said. "You can have a fresh supply of that stuff."
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