These aren't your grandma's jelly beans ...
Did you know that jelly beans were originally a Christmas candy until about 1930? But today, Easter is the second top-selling confectionery holiday behind only Halloween, according to the National Confectioners Association. Candy is big business for the bunny.
Robin Helfand, who owns Robin's Candy Shop in Great Barrington, stocks more than 36 varieties of jelly beans in her Main Street store. She said she carries a minimum of 400 pounds of jelly beans year-round, and goes up to 800 pounds at Easter and throughout the summer.
We stopped by Robin's shop ahead of the Easter rush to grab a few fun flavors of jelly beans for staff members to try out. According to Helfand, her No. 1 seller is Very Cherry, followed by Buttered Popcorn tied with Toasted Marshmallow. Licorice-flavored beans fall at No. 3.
"It is hard to find," Helfand said. "Customers have told us we are their only source for licorice jelly beans for miles and miles."
For our newsroom experiment, we picked six flavors: Tabasco, Birthday Cake Remix, Draft Beer, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Sours Mix and Mango — all made by Jelly Belly Candy Co. Helfand also stocked us up with three different brands of basic jelly beans to try — "People are very serious about their jelly beans and will only buy a certain brand," she explained, hefting the colorful bags into this reporter's arms. "For example, Classic Spice is an original type of bean that people will travel to find."
If the Easter Bunny shorted you a jelly bean or two in your basket today, Helfand wants candy lovers to know that all guests visiting her store on Easter Day receive a complimentary packet of Jelly Belly's. (She will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for any last-minute bunnies.)
So, what jelly bean flavor is Helfand's favorite?
"I love to nibble on combos," she said. "As the weather warms, my go-to is one strawberry plus one Tabasco. It reminds me of sitting in a rocker on the porch of The Red Lion Inn, sipping a special frozen Strawberry Margarita the bartender makes for me — I ask them to add a shot of Tabasco!"
Members of The Berkshire Eagle newsroom bravely tasted different jelly beans to give their honest, unbiased opinions for the sake of our dear, jelly-bean loving readers. There were some surprises, lots of spitting out and a few "Why did I eat that?"
All individual favors were made by the Jelly Belly Candy Company
This jelly bean resembles a red hot in look and flavor, but about 15 seconds after taking a bite of one of these, your mouth explodes with intense, painful and — worst of all — lingering heat. Robin Helfand suggests combining these with the chocolate beans for "Spicy Mexican Chocolate."
(It should be noted that more than one person had to spit their jelly bean out.):
- "I can tell it's like a red hot and I only just licked it."
- "Wow ... uh, that's a bad wow."
- "It tastes like turpentine."
Birthday Cake Remix
This super sweet bean offers a lot of promise with its adorable white shine, speckled with fun colors like a confetti cake — but the fun stops there. This jelly bean was cloyingly sweet with a strange after taste.
- (One taster after quickly spitting the jelly bean out) "I need a knife to scrape that taste off my tongue."
- "It's almost medicinal tasting."
- "That's horrible! It tastes like paint."
- "Surprisingly un-tasty — too much frosting, not enough cake."
- " Actually, I don't mind it — it's like a fine wine that gets better over time. It's starting to taste like cake."
These pearly little delights promised to be the most fun — beer-flavored candy, yes! But quickly we realized the fun stops once you take a sniff of one of these. Think of a stale, warm can of Budweiser — you get the picture.
- "Well, it's not a craft beer."
- "The initial taste and smell is like when you drink a found beer — you know, like when you're a teenager and you find a half drunk beer on the side of the road and think 'I'll try that.' It's truly bizarre" (For the record, The Eagle features department recommends that you never drink a "found beer" on the side of the road.)
- "At the end, it tastes like mowed lawn." (For the record, we also don't recommend eating mowed lawn.)
- "The beer is so accurate, you better enjoy a Pilsner if you're going to eat them."
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Glazed doughnuts with a cult following sound like the perfect combination for a fun-flavored jelly bean. These beans come in four different colors, so you have to make sure you get a handful to get the full flavor profile — warning, there's an odd jelly doughnut bean in there that can really throw you off.
- "There's something filmy about it that makes it taste like a glazed doughnut."
- "Tastes just like a frosted doughnut."
- "Oh wow, that's doughy — I will not be trying another one."
- "The Krispy Kremes were doughnut delish, but I wish they were separated into doughnut varieties so I could pick out all the jelly donuts and eat them separately."
By far this mildly sour mix was a group favorite. The colors were pleasing and fun and the sour hit just the right note for most tasters. If you like super sour things, you may find these too mild.
- "I need more sour — it's like halfway between a regular jelly bean and a Sour Patch Kid."
- "This is much better. I really like the texture of these."
- "I'm a big fan of these."
- "The best sweet, tart and satisfyingly simple flavors — red, yellow, blue, green and orange."
You can't help but smile when you see these little bright yellow beans with a hint of green specks sitting in a bowl. Mango is one of those happy, tropical flavors and this jelly bean doesn't disappoint.
- "Bueno! That's a nice burst of flavor."
- "Delicious — it tastes exactly like mango."
- "If someone turned that into an alcoholic drink, I'd be all about that." (Cheers!)
- "It tastes fresh."
Which is the best jelly bean brand?
We tried three types of basic jelly beans: Classic Spice — the candy that most older costumers recognize, according to Robin Helfand — Teenie Beenie jelly beans (made by Just Born, creator of Peeps) and Unbelly jelly beans. Here is what we thought:
- "Wow, that is awesome. It slams me back in time."
- "These are awful."
- "What is that pink flavor, Pepto Bismol?"
- "These taste like old people." (For the record, we can assure you, no one in the newsroom is eating people.)
- "These are gritty. They're like the jelly beans you leave in a bowl and nobody touches it."
- "Classic. I like it."
- "These are more subtle flavors."
(Most testers didn't respond to this one because they were too busy eating them up.)
- "When I think of jelly beans, this is how they should taste."
- "This is way more flavorful."
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