In Defense of the Jelly Bean


Dear Spencer,

There is absolutely nothing “immature about a jellybean addiction.” Jelly beans are candy classics that have stood the test of time. With their classic flavors and winning combination of hard sugar shell and gooey interior, jelly beans have a certain, almost wholesome, quality that sets them apart from other candies. Choosing jelly beans over other, more commercialized candides, such milk duds, whoppers, gummi bears, or Mike ‘n’ Ikes, is, if any thing, a sign of mature good sense.

Perhaps, Spencer, your objection is not to jelly beans so much as it is to any candy at all as an immature snack of choice. This is an ignorant, but widely held view. Candy, you see, is not just for kids any more. The past decade has seen an explosion of complex and sophisticated candies targeted directly at the hearts, taste buds, and pretensions of grown up foodies. You can buy chocolates with dizzyingly high cocoa percentages, where the taste of chocolate is complimented by bacon, chilis, coffee nibs, lavendar, what have you. You can buy artisanal fruit gelees in flavors like Passion Fruit and Cassis. An addiction to, say, Recchiuti’s Fleur de Sel caramels, might signify a slightly immature pretentiousness about food, but there’s nothing immature about the candies themselves.

When it comes down to it, though, I’d be hard-pressed to name a candy more sophisticated, not to mention delicious, than the black licorice jelly bean.

Black licorice is a fundamentally grown up candy. Its sweetness isn’t in your face, and it’s combined with a tongue-tingling bite and a rich, almost umami flavor. And it’s in jelly beans, when your teeth crack through the hard sugar shell and sink into the chewy, slightly sticky jell, that black licorice achieves its perfection . Sure, recent years have brought us an explosion of fancier, more complicated, “artisinal” candies. But what makes the black licorice jelly bean so sublime is its classic simplicity. It’s the candy equivalent of Michelle Obama’s wardrobe. And there ain’t nothing immature about my addiction to it.



IFA Candy Girl


13 responses to “In Defense of the Jelly Bean

  1. Pingback: Daily Food Blog Roundup: The Jellybean Controversy - Young & Hungry - Washington City Paper

  2. RoboticGhost

    Black licorice is one of those things like cilantro, abortion, and figure skating where people have strong, and perhaps irreconcilable, opinions. Personally, I love it. It evokes childhood memories of traveling out to the farm store in the country and getting a licorice stick. It’s a housing plan now with a Wal Mart. Sigh.

  3. When I was young my grandfather would always ask for the black jelly beans. I hated them and willingly gave them up.

    Now, he can get his own black jelly beans.

  4. I passed out small bags of Jelly Belly 10 Flavor Sours (my personal favorite) as gifts at my wedding. I never got any feedback that it was immature, inappropriate, or unwanted.

    More to the topic at hand, I’ve actually grown to like black licorice more as an adult. I never ate them as a kid, despite a healthy candy appetite.

    BTW, for anyone out there with a real JB addiction, you can purchase 2.2 lb bags directly from JB in any flavor they sell.

  5. I love those people who hate black jelly beans.

    Sometimes I come across a whole bag of them. The only drawback there is that they can cause some serious intestinal drama.

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  9. I’m not a fan of black jelly beans– but even more, I’m not a fan of the way that their aroma comes to dominate the other innocent flavors in the package. I’m all for keeping the black jelly beans separately– so I’m 100% behind all licorice flavored jelly bean bags. Just remove them from mine while you’re at it!

  10. I cannot understand why it is included in a gourmet pack of such delicious flavors … the black jelly bean AKA black licorice AKA the one I always toss out if I can help it b/c I don’t like the flavor.

    For some reason there always seems to be about 4 or 5 of these in a pack of jelly beans. And here I was in a multi-flavor popping frenzy (usually I eat them one at a time) and every few handfuls or so I’d get the black jelly bean.

    Then a philosophical question arose: the fine people at Jelly Belly must know what they are doing, right?

    I mean after all, they produce many flavors of jelly bean (have you ever seen the Harry Potter ones, including booger, vomit, and fish?) and the black jelly bean is always included. There must be some people who actually like the flavor – my mother-in-law does come to think of it. These thoughts brought me into further contemplation about a book I started reading called

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