For the month of December, we continue our “Shop Local” series to shine the spotlight on craftspeople who make things by hand.
Mike Romanyshyn and his wife, Susie Dennison, owners of Temple Tappers, small batch pure Maine birch syrup made from birch trees.
The back story:
In 2012, Romanyshyn and Dennison, and their sons, Auley,14, and Maurice,12, were walking around their land in Temple, Maine, wondering how they might be able to use their land for commercial purposes, without having to cut many trees.
“There was a study at the University of New Hampshire on birch syrup production as an add on to maple syrup and we started doing some back yard experiments,” said Romanyshyn. With roughly 40 percent of their 200 forested acres consisting of birch, they struck gold.
While maple sugaring was a native American practice in New England far before the pilgrims arrived in 1620, birch syrup is a relatively new practice. It has been made for decades in Alaska and British Columbia, but very few people in Maine have handcrafted it.
“I knew about birch syrup from traveling; I’d had it in Russia, but we started making it for real by 2013,” said Romanyshyn. Tapping approximately 2,000 trees in a short window of time, the family works fast in the first couple weeks of April when the pressure of sap in the birch has built up.
“We only have a few days to collect it all,” he said.
Temple Tappers operation has a state-of-the-art sugar house with a reverse osmosis system that removes 70 percent of the water and then the remaining sap is carefully boiled down in a wood-fired evaporator.
“As far as I know, we’re the only commercial producer of birch syrup on this scale that I know of in Maine,” said Romanyshyn. The product has a very light sweet, simple syrup taste, which makes it perfect for elixers and mixers. As an additive for mocktails or just the right amount of earthy balance to clear liquors and soda cocktails.
It takes 120 gallons of sap to make one gallon of birch syrup.
Where to find it/price range:
There are two flavors and sizes that can be found at The Belfast Co-op, there is the birch syrup and apple birch syrup 3.4 oz ($14.99) and 4.0 oz ($19.99) or email for special orders: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com