The Maple Guild is the largest single-source producer of organic maple syrup in the world. By creating a revolutionary process for turning sap-to-syrup, they are able to develop maple-based products ranging from maple cream and maple vinegar to maple-sweetened teas and infused syrups. Their reverse osmosis process, called steam-crafting enables The Maple Guild to produce syrup in just 90 seconds, which creates a pure-tasting maple unlike any you’ve ever had before. For most maple companies, the syrup is the final product. For The Maple Guild, the syrup is just the start.
Jesse Hutchinson runs the day-to-day operations for The Maple Guild year-round. His role includes overseeing a team who tap trees, extract maple sap, turn the sap to syrup, bottle the final products, and send it out for people to enjoy real maple the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Jesse to learn about how he discovered his passion for syrup and how at such a young age now leads operations for The Maple Guild.
When did you discover a passion for Maple and how were you able to turn it into a career?
I discovered my passion for maple when I worked with The Maple Guild to help install their first sugar bush. Installing a sugar bush essentially means we install all the tubing and other infrastructure to harvest the sap. This type of job requires us to be out on a mountain all day, everyday, regardless of the weather. I just fell in love with that initially – just being out on a mountain all day, getting in touch with the trees and environment surrounding us. After going through a full year of the process, from tapping the trees to sugar season, and producing this beautiful product – I was hooked.
When did you join The Maple Guild and how would you describe your role within the company?
I started with The Maple Guild year one as one of the first employees installing the first 100,000 trees. Then I moved into the sugar house to help cook our first years crop. From a General Laborer I made my way up to Woods Supervisor and eventually Plant Manager. My current role as Plant Manager is a really exciting and unique job because we are taking this ancient sugar to a whole new level. We feel like we’re basically chemists, creating products that no one has ever created using what comes out of these trees. For most sugar makers maple syrup is the final product, for us syrup is just the start.
How do you source your maple trees and determine the right ones for production?
We work closely with foresters to ethically source our trees and install our sugar bushes according to organic standards to maintain the health and integrity of the trees.
Explain the process of making maple syrup or anything really that uses maple flavoring.
Once the sugar bush is installed and the trees are tapped and the sap starts to run, it is collected and brought to a reverse osmosis station. Once there it is separated into two products, “concentrate” and “permeate.” Concentrate is sap that has had some water removed to create a higher sugar content within it. Permeate is the water that was removed from the sap. The concentrate is brought to the sugar house and run through our steam-powered evaporators and cooked into syrup. Permeate is usually considered a waste product and is dumped by most other sugar makers. We actually collect it and use it to make our Tapt maple water. From syrup, we begin to make our other maple products. Maple is a very delicate and beautifully unique flavor, so maintaining its integrity is difficult but integral to everything we do.
What kind of training did you have to do in order to become a “Maple Crafter”?
The only training I’ve had is from making mistakes and listening and learning from other sugar makers, mostly our COO Joe Russo. Finding out what works and what doesn’t is half the fun.
What is the hardest part about your job?
During sugar season you have to work when the sap runs. So if the sap runs and you have to make syrup for 18 hours and then 4 hours later you have to make syrup for another 18 hours, you do it. For that entire 2-4 month period, the schedule is completely dependent upon the weather. You end up becoming completely dependent on what the weather does to determine your schedule.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about the work that goes into producing Maple Syrup?
There is a lot of passion involved in sugaring. It’s not just a 9 to 5 job that you do the same thing every day. It changes from installing, to maintenance, to tapping, to sugaring, to pulling taps, and then you repeat the process. On every day, each one of those tasks varies drastically. Every new mountain presents its own obstacles that we have to figure out how to deal with and overcome. Every individual sap run has its own differences that can create issues while we are making syrup. We are working in and with all kinds of weather and terrain year round so we constantly have to adapt to make things work one way or another. It takes a certain type of person to want to sugar for a living, and in those people there is a passion for taking a product from the wilderness and taming it to create this beautiful product. We pride ourselves on being Tree-to-Table.