4 min read

I: Sugar Maple

The true story of the stickiest heist in history.
primidi, the 21st of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI
A proud maple leaf. Photo by Nong V / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is primidi, the 21st of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate l'érable à sucre, a tree that makes pancakes taste better.

If you have a maple tree on your street and its leaves turn a bright red in autumn, you may be tempted to hammer a spigot into its bark to get some free syrup, but don't. It's unlikely that any maple trees planted in urban areas are sugar maples, as automobile pollution doesn't agree with their delicate systems. If the leaves have five lobes and look like they belong on the Canadian flag, what you likely see is either a Norway maple (which usually don't turn red, but it happens) or a Freeman maple (which has smooth bark). Neither species has much sugar content in its sap. You'll find the real sugar maples hanging out in the wilderness of the North American east.

Oh, Canada. Technically, they claim that's not a sugar maple leaf on the flag, as it's drawn more for symbolism than botanical accuracy, but given the importance of the tree to the Canadian economy, even still, and the fact that there's five lobes on a red leaf, I think we all know what's up.

Quebec, in particular, still makes quite a bit of money on sugar maple farming. This is no accident. Much like diamonds, a cartel called the Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec (FPAQ) controls all the maple syrup production in the province, which in turn represents more than three-quarters of all the maple syrup in the world. This keeps the price of maple syrup artificially higher than that of oil.

And therefore, makes maple syrup ripe for theft. Which is how we got one of the boldest heists in Canadian history.

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