In late winter the maple is ready to start flowing, which means until early spring Tom Richens and Greg Michne will be busy getting Flower City Maple‘s 2018 batch of syrup ready to go.
“In 2013 I had some late winter blues. Rochester winter was getting the best of me and I wanted to do something outside,” said Richens. So, he took the time to follow an interest he hadn’t explored yet- tapping maple trees on his Uncle’s property. “I spent $300, was in the middle of the woods alone in silence, and made a little batch. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was incredible.”
When Tom Richens met his now-partner Greg Michne a few seasons ago, Michne was already making syrup himself in the Park Avenue neighborhood. Today, they boil all the sap there together as well as make future plans for their urban sugar house while doing so. “To take the idea of maple syrup and put it into an urban setting, it brings the country into the city- homemade, old-timey, but modern as well,” Richens says.
What started as a hobby grew into a business partly thanks to Richens ‘day job’, touring as a drum tech with bands, which he has been doing since 2008. “My touring friends have been like ‘What are you doing? I need to try that.’ It’s how things got off the ground. I sold a ton of syrup that way.” Soon everyone from the bass player from Ozzy Osbourne to the drummer from Mastodon were hitting him up for syrup.
Weather, Soil PH, minerals- these variables all affect our trees here locally. When daytime temperatures are in the 40s-50s, above freezing, and in the 20’s-30’s at night, the trees come out of dormancy for winter. “Last winter was insane because there was a big warm up really fast, so a lot of sap came really fast- 400 gallons in an afternoon. One tree we called ‘Old Faithful’ because sap just kept flowing,” Richens notes.
Western NY has the right combination of these variables, and is known for it’s award winning amber. In fact, Flower City Maple has already won a blue ribbon in a Wisconsin competition for their amber syrup.
Throughout the season there are different types of syrup and beneficial bacteria adds to the color and flavor. Typically, the later into the season, when the weather starts to warm up, is when you’ll see a darker syrup. The name of the syrup is graded by a standard on how much light can pass through it as well as its flavor: Light (Grade A, golden, delicate taste), Amber (Grade A rich taste) and sometimes, Very Dark (Grade A, very robust taste). Flower City Maple has also added a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup to their line.
So what’s next? Richens says that the past few years have been a crash course in being entrepreneurs, but they have had great advice along the way thanks to friends like Brian from Three Heads Brewery. Flower City Maple just upgraded their system to reduce the time it takes to get their syrup ready and hope to expand their distribution and bring their maple syrup to more people.
“We’re a couple of guys that wanted to make syrup and realized they had something special,” says Richens.
Join us on Sunday, March 4th as we celebrate the start of Flower City Maple‘s 2018 season with a pancake breakfast (also featuring Red Jacket Orchards juice!). Get the details and purchase your tickets here.