A western Maine tapper is all in on maple syrup's lesser-known cousin.
During the spring harvest, Michael Romanyshyn boils sap in a wood-fired evaporator and sells his Temple Tappers brand of birch syrup to specialty grocers and restaurants.
By Amber Kapiloff Photographed by Gabe Souza
From a low peak in the Franklin County town of Temple, Michael Romanyshyn can survey his family’s 200-acre wood, much of its canopy spanned by bone-white birch branches. “I’d tried birch syrup in Russia,” he said one cold morning, taking in the snow-flecked sweep of land. “When we moved back here, I realized we had this big grove.” So, eight years ago, he started what remains Maine’s only commercial birch-syrup operation. On average, 120 gallons of sap make just 1 gallon of syrup, three times the input needed for an equal amount of maple syrup. The result is complex — sweet, but also earthy and tart. Northerly peoples from Finland to Alaska have long had a taste for the sylvan nectar, and it works well in seafood glazes, salad dressings, and cocktails. Romanyshyn is convinced that, in time, it will catch on here and that more tappers will avail themselves of the state’s abundant birches. However, he admits one big hurdle: despite birch syrup’s versatility, it’s not great on pancakes.