If you had asked me to imagine the weirdest jelly bean flavor that Jelly Belly makes, I might have guessed something like Pomegranate, or Coffee, or Hamburger.
I certainly never would have expected Dog Food, Rotten Egg, Earthworm, Dirt, Earwax, Booger, Moldy Cheese, and Vomit!
Yet I discovered all of these strange varieties at the Jelly Belly facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Their gift shop has a tasting center where you can sample dozens of flavors.
I could have stood there for hours trying every colorful bean they had (I’ve been known to do that in the past…), but there were other customers so I couldn’t be rude and monopolize the sample guy’s attention. So I just tried a few. Since I was a little frightened of Vomit and Earwax, I went instead with a couple of the flavors from the “disgusting” line that seemed a little more tame: Soap and Grass.
Both flavors were pretty spot-on. Soap had a minty tang, and Grass had a really grassy flavor, but somehow it wasn’t awful. Mixing those odd flavor notes with the sugar of the jelly bean actually made for a tolerable candy experience.
Jelly Belly goes to extreme lengths to create each flavor, testing its flavors and scents over a period of months to get that winning combination. I can’t imagine what they went through to test and create the vomit flavor, and I sort of don’t want to think about it.
I tried a few of the other more conventional flavors as well. One of Jelly Belly’s most popular flavors these days is Buttered Popcorn. The butter smell on the bean was overwhelming, and that made for a delicious treat, if you like popcorn, that is.
The new Pancakes flavor was wonderful – it tasted just like the last bite of pancakes on the plate, gooey and drenched in maple syrup. Cantaloupe was another winner, offering that mild, sweet, fruity taste. Chocolate Pudding was as rich and tasty as it sounds.
In addition to the sampling station in the gift shop, the warehouse offers free tours that show guests how Jelly Belly candies are created, manufactured, and shipped. The Jelly Belly Express is a train that takes visitors through the facility, where they view mosaic art made from jelly beans and a Candy Couture exhibit – fancy dresses made from beans. The 1920s fringe dress contained 7000 beans and weighed 20 pounds.
Stop by sometime, put on your paper hat, and embrace the whimsical environment.