The History of the Jelly Bean
Where did jelly beans come from? Who is responsible for these colorful little candy treats? Well, the truth is that no one really knows. There are a lot of theories and speculation when it comes to telling the tale of the jelly bean and its origin.
For many years, the general public only recognizes jelly beans during the Easter season, even though they are available all year round. for excited children who celebrate the holiday to find in their beloved baskets, left by the infamous Easter Bunny. In addition, the little candies are the perfect shape and size to fit inside plastic eggs for a good hunt.
Many delight in embarking on a good Easter Egg Hunt, where these plastic eggs are primed for children (and adults) to find. Whether the eggs are strewn across an open field for the quickest to collect, or hidden in the most inconspicuous places, the fun is inevitable.
Claims of Origin
Many believe that the candies actually came from the Middle East. The jelly bean is very similar to a popular candy in this region of the world, called Turkish Delight. Turkish Delight has been around for centuries and has a chewy center, just like the jelly bean. Although, the Middle Eastern candy does not have a hard shell, the taste and texture are pretty close.
The hard candy shell is thought to have entered the scene during the 17th century when almonds were given the outer layer of sugary goodness. Known as Jordan almonds, these were popular in the French royal court during the time. Confectioners in France created candy process called panning. During this practice, the Jordan almonds were placed in a pan full of sugar and syrup. They were then shaken around until they developed a hard shell of the sweet mixture.
The candy-making techniques for both Turkish Delights and Jordan almonds finally came to the United States in the 1860s where William Schrafft combined the processes. The story goes that the confectioner, based in Boston, encouraged people to send his little candies to the Union Army soldiers fighting in the American Civil War. These little treats traveled much better than chocolate did, as they kept their shape and could not melt so easily, which made them a great gift to the soliders to raise their spirits during such a difficult time.
It was not until 1905, when the Chicago Daily News ran an advertisement for the sale of the sugary treats, that jelly beans first became widely publicized. At the time, you could buy them in bulk for nine cents per pound, so they were an easy and delicious treat to come by.
According to historians, jelly beans has not been associated with Easter in the United States until the 1930s. It is said that they ended up becoming a big part of the holiday is because their shape is so similar to that of an egg; it made sense for them to be included in the festivities. Not to mention, they came in fun colors that made collecting the treats a fun game.
Even though they took on the perception of tiny eggs, they are technically shaped more like a bean. Not only is this why they were given the name “jelly bean,” but also because the nickname of Boston, Schrafft’s hometown, is Bean Town. He thought it would be a great marketing idea to add to the city’s fame with his newly-crafted candies.
Modernization of Jelly Beans
While jelly beans are still heavily exchanged during the Easter season, they are available all year. Though there are a number of popular confectioner brands that manufacture the treats, the brand you see most often when it comes to the flavorful beans is Jelly Belly. The Jelly Belly Candy Company produces over 100 gourmet flavors of jelly beans, including some unconventional ones, thanks to its partnership with the Harry Potter franchise. Not only can you find some classic flavors, such as lemon and apple, but you can also try “dirt” and “grass.” Schrafft may not have had those ideas in mind when he started the candy trend, but it is certainly keeping the old time treats relevant in today’s world of ever-evolving tastes.