Suppliers of wholesale sweets have been providing the country’s sweet lovers with jelly beans for decades. Despite the many new, delicious sweets and chocolates that are available, the good old jelly bean remains a firm favourite.
Years and years ago, our parents or grandparents would go into the corner sweet shop and ask for a penny or sixpenny bag of jelly beans. The shop keeper would take down a huge glass bottle filled with a rainbow assortment of jelly beans and weigh out our supply of sweet paradise. Today, after more than 100 years, the jelly beam remains a favorite of the British public.
From Turkey to the UK
Jelly beans are thought to be related to Rahat Lokum or Turkish Delight as it is more commonly known. This exotic sweet, that is still in demand from dealers in wholesale sweets, was invented in the Ottoman Empire, where it is reputed to have been developed in 1777 by a Turkish sweet maker from his shop in Istanbul. Originally made from honey and molasses, the sweet became a great favourite with British society after its introduction by an unknown Englishman, who discovered this sweet delight whilst travelling through Turkey in the early 19th century.
The jelly bean is thought to have been inspired by Turkish Delight as the two confections have many similarities in terms of raw materials (sugar – and lots of it), texture (soft and pliable) and colour (lots of different ones). Jelly beans first appeared in the United States where they are said to have been cooked up during the American civil war by William Schrafft, a Boston confectioner who urged people to send them as sweet gifts to Union soldiers.
Jelly Bean Culture
This sweet confection, made from sugar, corn syrup, starch and food colouring, first gained real popularity at the beginning of the 20th century when an ad was placed in the Chicago Daily News sparking a rush to buy the simple but sweet jelly bean for just 9 cents a pound.
Over the years, the jelly bean has remained a favourite of many people with a sweet tooth. It may not generate the publicity of more complex sweets and confectionery, but it has a firm place in Western culture. Examples of its strong popularity include:
• US President Ronald Regan, perhaps the most famous person to have publicly admitted his fondness for the jelly bean
• Confections called “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans” featuring weird flavours such as black pepper and earwax appeared in the popular Harry Potter series.
• A “jelly bean” was slang used to describe a young man who dressed well to attract women but who lacked any real substance (similar to older terms such as “dandy” and fob”).