“Would you like some tree sap?” “How about a nice cup of tree sap?” “Why not quench your thirst with this big glass of tree sap?”
No matter how you phrase it, drinking tree sap just doesn’t sound all that appealing. And so it was with literal jaw-dropping surprise that I picked up Trader Joe’s Maple Water from the store shelves this week. “What is this, like, water with maple syrup in it?” I thought to myself. That would sure be weird.
Weird indeed, but not as weird as the truth. Maple water is so called because it is the literal water that trickles out of maple trees when you try and make syrup from them. It’s literally tree sap. Check out the ingredient list if you don’t believe me – “ingredients: maple water (sap)”. Trader Joe’s Maple Water is pure maple sap that comes directly from trees – for real.
So the obvious question is, what does maple tree sap taste like?
Well, not like much actually. Twist off the cap of the cardboard tetra-pack carton and take a swing, and you’ll end up with a big mouthful of water with a faint sweetness and a very faint maple syrup taste. It you want to try and replicate this at home, pour a big, eight ounce glass of water then add about half a teaspoon of maple syrup to it. We’re talking that level of almost low key sweetness and subtle maple flavor.
Goddamn shocking folks. I had assumed this was going to be some kind of sugary summertime drink – a substitute for lemonade or watermelon cooler. Instead, this maple syrup product is being marketed as a complete source of re-hydration. Yes, maple water is being positioned as the new coconut water.
Okay, Let’s break this down.
The first thing to understand is that maple tree sap is completely unlike sticky, viscous pine sap. In its natural state, as it rises up the tree trunk in early spring, it runs free and clear at 98% water by volume. It’s this very same sap that is literally tapped into in order to make maple syrup. The only difference is that maple syrup is crated by boiling off the excess water until only the sugars remain. If you had the will, and enough cartons of maple water, you could boil up your own maple syrup on the stove at home.
While drinking unrefined maple sap has a history stretching back to the pre-colonial Indian tribes of the north east, the recent resurgence can be tied to the tireless merchandising machine looking to fill the newly lucrative health drink market. With the success of coconut water, it’s no wonder that maple sap is being introduced into the marketplace with trendy boxes and high price points.
So is it actually any good for you? Well, that remains hard to prove. The copywriters are certainly straining themselves to prove it so, bringing up such facts as a cup of maple sap contains more manganese than a cup of kale. Manganese, guys, manganese – someone hold me back!
Maple water does have a couple nice features – half the sugar and calories as coconut water, 25 calories per serving as opposed to 100, as well as being an allegedly rich source of anti-oxidants, although it lacks the potassium and electrolyte content of coconut water. But the real benefit, it seems to me, is in cultural cache.
If you’ve ever felt pangs of envy as the box of organic coconut water you brought to your barre cardio class was made to look downright boorish by someone else’s box of organic single-sourced coconut water, this may be the product for you. Just envision the looks on everyone’s faces when you pull out a box of honest to god tree sap. People are going to lose their goddamn minds.
Just make sure you’re cool enough to actually pull it off. Maple water is close enough to the ever racing edge of absurdity that you’re going to have to handle it with absolute self-confidence to avoid looking ridiculous. Maybe practice in the mirror at home a couple time first.
Would I Recommend It: To social status seekers and the genuinely curious, yes – to everyone else, no.
Would I Buy It Again: I see no need.
Final Synopsis: This pricey carton of drinkable tree sap is probably just a fad.