Tapping sugar maple trees and collecting tree sap in the early Spring weather is one of life’s great joys for any outdoors enthusiast, so long as they’re adequately protected from the elements. New Englanders know that maple sugaring season is synonymous with navigating the sporadic, fast-moving Spring snow storms and surprise Nor’easters that make this harvest season unique.
Sugarmakers around the country face the challenge of staying warm and dry while installing their tree taps, drop lines and tubing for sap collection. Tubing installations must be monitored daily in all weather conditions, and sap is collected each day under all weather conditions. With this in mind, we’re proud to announce the Sugarmaker’s Watch Cap™.
Our watch cap is designed for the Sugarmaker and made to last. Each cap is handcrafted in New York, USA from 100% Wool sourced from US Woolen Mills. Wool is a natural fiber that’s naturally water resistant without the use of synthetics or chemicals. Our caps are built to US military spec standards and are the same caps issued to the US Navy. Trusted to perform at Sea and at home.
With performance and construction requirements established, we had to make sure that our caps were also aesthetically on point. The hats are based on classic US Navy or Fisherman’s watch cap styling. This classic design never goes out of style, made famous by icons such as actor Steve McQueen and explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau.
With sustainability as a priority, our packaging is minimal and our product tags are made from 100% recycled cotton t-shirts. No trees were harmed to produce paper for our packaging, protecting trees for future generations of sugarmakers!
Two colorways are now available, black and orange. Black is classic and matches any outdoor gear or casual wear for a sleek look. Orange provides additional safety and high visibility while working out in the sugarbush. Available now on Amazon.
Where to buy Maple Tree Tapping Kits
So you want to tap your maple trees for the first time? Maybe you’re thinking of upgrading your current supplies? Well, you’ve found the right place! Kaito Ridge maple tree tapping kits include 5/16” blue food-grade tubing that blocks the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays to prevent bacteria growth in the tubing all season long.
The drop line tubing is specially formulated for sap collection, and is the same tubing used by professional maple sugaring operations around the country. The blue color also helps provide visibility in the woods, so you can see exactly where you’ve placed taps for fresh sap collection. This added benefit is always welcome after an early Spring snow storm!
You’ll also receive 5/16” tree saver spouts that are so sturdy, they’re practically indestructible. This diameter spout is the industry standard in sap collection; it allows sufficient sap flow for collection while allowing the tree tap hole to heal within the same year. Other suppliers may provide larger spouts that can be damaging to the overall health of the tree. We only provide 5/16” tree saver spouts as preservation of nature and long-term sustainability are our core values.
Each tree tapping kit includes a maple sap filter which can be used both as a pre-filter for raw sap straight from the tree and as a hot maple syrup filter after your sap boil. Filtering syrup after boiling down your sap helps reduce the amount of natural sugar sand that’s often present in your final syrup product. The filters can be rinsed and reused.
As always, each kit includes a complete tree tapping instruction quick guide and our top-rated customer support for all of your maple sugaring needs and questions. For further reading and frequently asked questions, see some of our recent posts below:
Our tree tapping supplies are now available on Amazon here, with fast and free 2-Day nationwide shipping.
The start of maple sugaring season varies each year depending upon two important variables: weather and location.
The season typically runs from January to April, and sap can run for several periods during these four months. In the 2017 season, warmer weather here in Connecticut started the season off early in January and ran through March. We had above average temps by the third week of February which resulted in a crazy sap flow – more than we could keep up with!
By mid-March the weather warmed up so quickly that the buds on the maple trees started to sprout, and that marked the end of the sap collection for us. Even though temperatures dropped again for a few weeks in April causing sap flow, it was not collectable because the buds had already sprouted.
Once the buds sprout, the tree begins to produce nutrients that spur leaf growth – yet it can be tasted in the sap and is not pleasant. It’s nature’s way of letting us know the season is over. We refer to that as the sap tasting “buddy”.
It’s pretty common in recent years here in Connecticut to have an early start to the season, so we have been tapping in mid-January due to warm weather patterns. However, January 2018 started out with historically cold temperatures below zero, and the thaw did not come until later towards the end of the month. Timing when to tap your trees is a balance of looking at your current week of temperatures, while looking closely at the 10-day forecast in your area.
If you’re located further North such as up state New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine or in the Midwest such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Iowa where weather and temperatures are typically colder, your tapping may not begin until February. The season lasts well into April up north in states like Vermont and New Hampshire as it stays colder much later into April.
States located farther South such as Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey and Kentucky may find that their season starts earlier and ends earlier than those of us located in New England. It would not be uncommon for people tapping in those states to end their season in mid to late March as the weather warms up and stays warm.
To read more on when to tap your maple trees, see our other posts here.
One of the most rewarding outdoor activities during the spring season is to tap maple trees and get outside with nature! I tap my trees each year in early spring, which here in Connecticut is usually in February. Though unusual, sometimes the sugaring season comes early like it did in 2016 – where I tapped in January.
I love being outside during this time of year; the forest is calm as the sun begins to warm the earth. The smell of crisp spring air fills my lungs as I hike through the woods to collect ice cold maple sap. Snow melts from the daily thaw cycle, and the sound of spring birds singing and water dripping is all you can hear. Wether we’re here or not to observe its rhythm, mother nature carries on.
There is something enchanting about being out there in the sugar bush observing its beauty. To think that Native American tribes collected and processed maple and birch sap hundreds of years before us is amazing. Though the methods and technology have changed, we still collect sap for the same reasons people always have. We enjoy drinking maple sap, using sap to brew coffee, and boiling it down into maple syrup.
The best way to get started making maple syrup is to pick up one of our super affordable maple tree tapping kits. Each kit includes food grade drop lines, 5/16” tree spouts and a quick start guide explaining how to tap a tree. This is the same equipment used by professional sugaring operations all around the country today! Kits can be easily cleaned at the end of the sugaring season and reused year after year. It’s also a great way to teach kids about nature in both a school and at home setting.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and reconnect with the natural beauty that surrounds us!
This is one of the most popular questions we hear from customers who are getting started in the hobby. It is also one of the most difficult questions to answer, even for the veteran sugar maker. While it may sound cliche, tapping your trees at just the right time is both an art and a science. There is no golden rule or specific date each year that works for everyone, in every location, every year. However, there are a number of factors we can look at that will help us determine when to start tapping.
The typical maple sugaring season in North America occurs during the early spring months between January and April each year. Climate and your specific geographic location are the two major factors that will determine the beginning and end of your sugaring season.
Climate is the most important consideration, as it directly effects the biology of the maple tree itself. First, let’s discuss how sap flows from a tree so we can better understand the process.
Maple sap flows from your tree tap due to a fluctuation in the tree’s internal pressure, which is caused by environmental temperature changes that occur each spring. Freezing temperatures at night, and above freezing temperatures during the day are the catalyst for this internal process. Every spring, this special freeze-thaw cycle occurs as we move away from winter. The maple tree stores water and essential nutrients in its sap during the winter, which is pumped up from the ground through the trunk and to each individual branch.
Each year brings new climate change related challenges to those of us who make maple syrup. In the 2015 season, an unusually cold and harsh winter led to a very late start to the season for us here in New England and in the Midwest. When most of us would be collecting sap in February, the unusual arctic blasts pushed the sugaring season into March. At the time, we were worried about whether or not the warm weather would then come too quickly in March, causing the trees to sprout buds – effectively ending the season before much sap could be collected. Despite those fears, March turned out to be a very successful month for sugar makers in 2015.
This year, the 2016 season has its own climate related challenges to overcome thanks to El Niño. El Niño is a cyclical global warming event caused by warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This warming pattern typically creates warmer, drier winters for New England, the Northern Mid-Western states, and the North Western states. So what does that mean for us this year?
While the exact effects of El Niño remain to be seen, scientists are predicting a milder winter here in New England. We anticipate tapping our maple trees this coming week here in Connecticut, Monday January 25, 2016. Here’s this week’s weather forecast, notice the above freezing temps during the day and freezing low temps. Sap will be flowing very nicely on those days where it warms into the 40’s.
That brings us to the next factor to consider, geographic location. Our customers are located all across the United States, so tapping times vary greatly depending upon your location. For example, here in Connecticut we usually tap quite a bit earlier than Vermont or New Hampshire, as their temperatures stay colder longer up North. That is balanced out by the fact that as we warm up here and buds sprout on trees in Connecticut, producers up North are still collecting sap a few weeks after we end. The same can be said as you travel further North into Canada where the season can extend into early April.
Our final tip to you as you embark on your first season, would be: reach out to local sugar makers in your area. Stop in to your local sugar shack or place a call; ask them if they’ve tapped their trees yet. We are a unique breed who enjoy creating a natural, delicious product from the land and often have a story to share with those who express curiosity in this ancient tradition.
Have more questions or want to chat? Join us on Twitter @KaitoRidge
Get a maple tree tapping kit here!
1. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup.
2. In early spring, sap flow is caused by a daily fluctuation in temperature. Below freezing temps at night and warming above 32 degrees during the day causes sap to flow.
3. Maple syrup is a 100% natural product with nothing else added.
4. Scientists from the University of Rhode Island have identified 54 beneficial natural compounds in pure maple syrup.
5. In 2012, thieves stole $20 million dollars worth of syrup from reserves in Montreal, Canada.
6. In Japan, people eat fried maple leaves as a delicacy.
7. Canada produces over 80% of the world’s total maple syrup supply.
8. There are several grades and colors of maple syrup, and each has different flavors and nuances. Syrup produced early in the season is light amber with light flavor, and gradually darkens in color and strengthens in flavor as the sugaring season progresses.
9. The maple tree is the only tree that is self healing.
10. Maple water is the new coconut water! Maple sap is now commercially sold as a beverage.
11. Drinking sap from the maple tree known as Gorosoe has long been a spring tradition in South Korea.
12. Sap is enjoyed at heated public bath houses across South Korea each spring. They believe in sweating out toxins from the body and rejuvenating the body with healthy minerals and nutrients from maple sap.
Make your own maple syrup at home with a tree tapping kit!
Autumn is here and the frosty winter air is rolling in quickly across New England this week! Now is the perfect time of year to identify your maple trees for the upcoming spring maple sugaring season before the leaves are completely gone from the branches. We’ll use a combination of clues from both the bark of the tree and its foliage to accurately identify each species of maple.
Some of the most common maple species found here in North America include: Sugar maple, Red maple and the Silver maple. We will also identify the Japanese maple which is commonly planted here for its beauty, though it is not native to North America.
Sugar maple, acer saccharum, is the most common species out of the group and also provides the best sap for producing maple syrup. It has the highest sugar content in its sap compared to the other species, and its leaf is featured on the Canadian flag. Its leaves usually have five lobes with smooth, u-shaped connections between each lobe and no serrated edges.
The sugar maple’s bark is medium to dark grey and smooth on young, small diameter trees. Mature trees of larger diameter have a distinct textured bark with vertical ridges or fissures that are brown to dark brown as pictured below.
Next we have the Red maple, acer rubrum, another common species known for its brilliant red fall foliage. The leaves have a distinct shape, with serrated edges and v-shaped spaces between the lobes.
The Red maple’s bark is very similar to that of the sugar maple, and can have robust ridges in the bark in mature trees as pictured below.
Silver maple, acer saccharinum, is one of our favorite species of maple and is also characterized by a very distinct leaf shape and bark type. The leaf of the silver maple has five lobes, with very deep notches between each long, slender lobe. The silver maple leaf is pictured below.
Silver maple tree bark is shaggy and rough similar to the sugar maple, but is distinctly more light grey or silver in appearance. It is very easy to spot silver maples in the woods amongst other species because of their bright, silver colored bark pictured below.
Japanese maple, acer palmatum, is native to Japan, Korea and parts of Russia. There are many variations of this species so it would be impossible to classify all of them under one set of identifiers. Generally speaking, its leaves are typically deeply cut and feathery in appearance with beautiful deep red hues, though some vary to deep dark purples.
Japanese maple’s bark is smoother and less textured than other species, as pictured below.
While there are many more species of maple trees along with sub-species, these are just a few of the most common trees in our area. This is a great time of year to identify the trees you want to tap on your property for the upcoming sugaring season, since we can use the foliage as our guide.
If you have a large property with a number of trees, you can always mark the trees you want to tap by tying a brightly colored ribbon loosely around the tree’s trunk. This will help make your first season of sugaring successful as you’ll take the guess work out of identifying your trees in early Spring when it comes time for tapping.
Welcome to the new home of Kaito Ridge! We are so excited to share our new home with you. Be sure to check in frequently for stories, updates and new product launches.