One Canadian Province Produces Most Of The World's Maple Syrup Supply

What do pancakes, waffles, French toast, fried chicken, vanilla ice cream, and lattes all have in common? They're all made better with a drizzle of maple syrup. And we're not talking about the corn syrup and artificial flavoring that comes in a plastic bottle — we're talking about real maple syrup. Sure, it's pricier than the fake stuff, but there's a laborious reason maple syrup is so expensive. Real maple syrup is made by reducing the sap of sugar maple and red maple trees down until it's thick and, well, syrupy. Since sap is only about 2% sugar, it takes about 43 gallons of maple sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup. So where does all of it come from?

While a 2023 Crop Production Report from the United States Department of Agriculture revealed that the United States (mostly Vermont) produced more than 4.9 million gallons of maple syrup in 2022, it still doesn't compare to Canada. That's because Quebec, a province in the southeastern corner of the country, produced a whopping 15.9 million gallons of this liquid gold in 2022 alone, according to Statistics Canada, accounting for 90% of Canada's maple syrup production. In fact, Quebec Maple Syrup Producers report that the province is responsible for making about 72% of the world's entire supply of maple syrup. What is it about Quebec that makes it the perfect location for making maple syrup? It all comes down to the flora and climate of the region.

Why is most maple syrup made in Quebec?

Though there are more than 100 varieties of maple trees found worldwide, Canadian maple tree charity Maple Leaves Forever reports that only 10 are native to Canada, and from those, maple syrup is made primarily from the sap of only two varieties of maple trees, sugar maples, and red maples. The native range of both sugar maples and red maples extends into Quebec. But that's only part of the puzzle. Making maple syrup requires a specific set of climate conditions, too. 

Maple sap is the vascular fluid of these maple trees. In order for the sap to flow so that it can be collected, it needs to undergo a freeze-thaw cycle, which happens in Quebec in the spring. Using taps, which are inserted into the trees in the winter, maple syrup producers can collect this sap to boil into syrup. There are 34 million maple trees involved in the maple industry in Quebec according to Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, each of which can hold one to three taps, compared to what the USDA reports is just over 13 million taps being used in the U.S. industry. Because Quebec is further north than the maple syrup-producing regions of the United States, the USDA's Climate Change Resource Center predicts that it will be better able to withstand some of the negative impacts of climate change, too, like loss of habitat for the maple species used for syrup, hotter summers, and warmer winters.

Maple syrup recipes from Quebec

It should come as no surprise that Quebec is the home to several unique maple syrup dishes. One of the simplest is a simple maple taffy known as tire d'érable or tire sur la neige in French, which was invented by the Indigenous people of the region. It's made by boiling maple sap into syrup, and then drizzling the hot syrup in the snow. As it cools, it becomes sticky like taffy or caramel, and people pick it up out of the snow by wrapping it around wooden sticks and eating the candy off of them. 

Other popular maple dishes from Quebec are maple grands-pères, which are biscuit dough dumplings that are cooked in maple syrup, and French Canadian maple syrup pie. With so much syrup on hand, it makes sense to treat it as the star rather than as nothing but a breakfast condiment. Maple syrup is even the secret ingredient in our favorite coffee cocktail

It sounds delicious, but what if you don't live In Quebec? The good news is that even if you're not in Quebec, there's a good chance that the maple syrup you buy is from there, anyway — QMSP says the United States accounts for 64% of Quebec's maple syrup exports. The next time you pick up a bottle of the sticky stuff, see if you can find some fun ways to feature it or try a traditional Quebec maple syrup recipe that lets it really shine.