Maple water is a clear liquid that flows from maple trees for a short time in early spring. Also known as sap, maple water goes through a natural process that infuses it with nutrients. In early spring, maple trees pull water from the ground and filter it through their roots. This water collects nutrients stored in the tree all winter, and provides hydration and nourishment that enables the tree’s growth and rejuvenation in the spring renewal season.
But that’s just for trees. People who drink maple water benefit from phytochemicals and hydration, while enjoying a slightly sweet, faintly woodsy taste.
Similar to coconut water in its delivery of electrolytes and vitamins, maple water has several advantages over the popular drink that has flooded the beverage market. Maple water contains half the calories of coconut water and has a milder taste.
Maple water is also produced in the U.S., via hundreds of thousands of maple trees in New York, Vermont and several other states with cold winter climates. Coconut water, on the other hand, relies on imports from Thailand, the Philippines, Brazil and other countries. Sales of maple water support local farmers, and help to sustain and promote maple tree farming across the country.
Maple water production
In an optimal situation, a mature maple tree will produce about 200 gallons of maple water per season. But as with all farming, there are no guarantees that things will go as planned. Varying temperatures can lead to shorter sap-tapping seasons and a decrease of product availability at a time when demand is growing.
In 2012, maple syrup production was negatively impacted by a milder winter, and a shorter tapping season. The following year things were looking better for maple tree farmers, with a 70 percent increase in maple syrup production due to cooler temperatures in early spring, a delay in the budding of maple trees, and thus a longer tapping season.
Possible health benefits of maple water
Although maple water is relatively new to the American market, it has been celebrated as a medicinal beverage in Korea, Russia and other countries for centuries. The Koreans refer to the maple tree as Gorosoe, or “good for the bones.” Maple syrup (which is made from maple water) is high in manganese, a mineral that has been linked with increasing bone density, so Gorosoe may indeed be a fitting name. In Ukraine and parts of Russia, farmers tap sap from birch and other trees similar to the maple to sell as natural vitamin water.
As the sole ingredient in maple syrup, maple water contains the same nutrients, but with significantly less sugar. The health benefits of maple syrup are well documented, with nutrients such as calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and iron.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 1/4 cup of maple syrup has 1.05 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and 2.4 mg of manganese. That's at least 80 percent of most people's daily requirement for riboflavin and 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for manganese.
What's not clear is how much of those benefits maple water retains.
Maple water in kitchens and in cocktails
The founders of one company, Happy Tree Maple Water, had their drink analyzed by a third-party lab. They found that it provides potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, manganese and small amounts of other nutrients. Happy Tree says it is the only known maple water producer that leaves its organic maple water raw and unheated to preserve maximum nutrients.
Maple water "contains a plethora of micronutrients and enzymes, which allow the tree, or our bodies, to translate it into usable material," says Chaim Tolwin, co-founder of Happy Tree. "When beverages are heated, it can kill or compromise those elements which are so important to our health.”
“We decided that the product we bring to market should be as close as absolutely possible to what comes out of the tree in the spring.”
Co-founder Ari Tolwin says that people are not buying maple water just for the health benefits or to support local farmers — they also like the taste. Several restaurants have started cooking with maple water to add subtle flavor and extra nutrients, while one upscale eatery in New York has created a signature cocktail that features maple water as its key ingredient.
Related on MNN:
- Maple syrup: Why the real stuff makes all the difference
- Coconut milk or coconut water: What's the difference?
- What's really in our tap water?