The equipment has changed but the process is the same as it has been for hundreds of years. Put a tap in a tree, run collection lines and then boil the sap down until it forms syrup. Everything looks familiar at a Cornell syrup operation in land near Le Moyne College in Dewitt but there isn't a single maple tree is in sight. Cornell helped tap walnut and birch trees instead. Walnut and Birch do not make as much sap as a maple but the syrup is delicious.
"Same sugar content as maple syrup but different flavor because of the genetics of the tree," said Steve Caccamo from Next Generation Maple Products as he watched a few gallons of walnut sap boil.
Increasing demand for all natural maple syrup has been driving prices up in recent years. Cornell researchers believe these other trees could be an innovation for producers.
"Adding the walnut syrup to maple, a nice blend provides you with a different unique syrup with a bit of a nutty flavor to it," said Mike Farrell from Cornell.
Many New York maple producers are also providing raw sap toa company called Vertical Water. It is then sold as maple water.
"They filter it, pasteurize it and it becomes shelf stable," said Steve Caccamo.
A few years ago, maple water might have struggled to get into stores. That was before coconut water sales topped $153 million in the U.S. last year. Coconut water even has it's own section in many grocery stores like Wegmans. All natural maple water has many of the same nutrients as coconut water but with less sugar.
Andrea Curtis buys coconut water as a sports drink alternative. She says she prefers all natural options and liked the idea of maple water.
"I would be interested in trying it out and putting it in my smoothies," said Curtis.
Maple production has a lot of untapped potential - literally- in New York. Canada is the top maple syrup producer in the world and Vermont is leads the U.S. in gallons produced but Caccamo and Farrell say New York State has more maple trees than Quebec and Vermont combined.
"The sugar maple is our state tree. We have 300 million potentially tap-able maple trees in our state and only about one percent of them are currently being used," said Farrell.
This summer a Cornell researcher will talk to professional chefs, consumers and stores about into the realities of bringing walnut and birch syrups to the market.