A ceremonial tree tapping at a maple sugar woodlot east of Kitchener was actually a couple of weeks late as sap has been flowing in the trees for weeks already.
Dan Goetz of Shady Grove Maple on Fife Road said the tapping, which took place Friday and included local dignitaries, is usually the unofficial start to maple season.
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"It's scheduled long ahead of time, otherwise we would have had it earlier because the sap (has run) a few times already, but that's just the wacky weather," he told CBC News in an interview.
Goetz said they tapped their 14 woodlots on Feb. 3 and worked out all the usual mechanical bugs so they'll be able to hit the ground running when tourists start showing up the weekend before March Break.
"It gave us that window to get everything working nicely without having to do our tourism yet. Usually they come hand-in-hand and it's crazy hectic," he said. "It's actually an ideal year for us."
Tapping so early an anomaly
The milder winter won't damage the trees, but it does mean producers are getting an early start and that's exciting, said Ray Bonenberg, past president and spokesman of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association. He is a maple syrup producer in Pembroke.
Tapping in early February is "an anomaly," he said, but not unheard of.
"You can't beat the weather and the big thing is to just be prepared when it does finally warm up," he said.
Maple producers are "always excited about the spring. Sugaring is a part of our culture and our tradition and sugar makers are quite passionate about what they do."
Colours, flavours of syrup are weather dependent
The grade and darkness of the maple syrup that results from the collected sap will change as the season progresses, Goetz said. It starts out extra light or light, then moves to medium, amber and finally dark.
"All the colours and flavours are weather driven," he said.
"As the ground warms and as the buds develop, you'll get darker and darker," he said, noting once the trees bud, that's the end of the season.
"Once it goes dark, it doesn't normally come backwards."
Most maple producers in Waterloo Region and Wellington County that open to the public will be open starting March 12. The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival is April 2.