Brach’s, America’s #1 Seasonal Sugar Brand (not an official title), beloved for its Halloween candy corn, Valentine candy hearts, and Easter jelly beans, has introduced “a new limited-time-only candy that features the brand’s first-ever global flavor extension that plans to take tastebuds abroad this spring,” according to a public relations representative. These Desserts of the World jelly beans come in five flavors: Lemon Sorbet, Chocolate Macaron, Apple Pie, Churro, and Strawberry Mochi. But how do these exotic offerings stack up against the classic Brach’s jelly beans? In the most in-depth investigation of my journalism career thus far (lies), I have tasted each Brach’s bean to determine which is best.
Jelly bean taste test methodology
Throughout this study, I gathered data points from a carefully curated cohort, analyzed said data, compared it against market trends, and now I present the findings to you with the utmost impartiality.
Translation: I asked my available neighbors and a visiting friend to try the jelly beans and wrote down their comments. Then they ranked the beans while I made fun of their choices. The judges were primarily adults in their thirties. One eight-year-old boy participated as well, since our sophisticated elder millennial palates are not the target demographic and we needed the input of an actual child.
A note on black licorice jelly beans
This might ruffle a few feathers, but after careful consideration, I have decided to eliminate Brach’s Black Jelly Bird Eggs from contention. It is simply too divisive a flavor: It’s either your favorite or least favorite and there is no in-between. Black licorice would only muddy the data and create a civil war in my cul de sac. It will not be entertained. Disqualified.
Fun fact: Ronald Reagan’s favorite jelly bean flavor was black licorice. My inclusion of this fact probably tips you off to my opinion of the flavor.
Brach’s classic jelly beans, ranked
Ranking the classic flavors was hard. The ones I remembered loving most as a kid were not my favorites upon this tasting. Overall, our child tester favored the “bright” flavors more than the adults did. Classics will be referred to by their color, as each “flavor” is both too ambiguous to be pinned down and doesn’t meaningfully correspond to jelly bean color.
Keeping in mind that we’re ditching black licorice entirely, here are the rankings, from worst to best:
7. Red: It should be noted that the child in our midst picked this as his favorite, commenting, “OMG, great!” One male adult also ranked it highly, owing to the nostalgia factor. The rest of the adults found that this “classic” taste did indeed remind them of something from childhood: a dose of cough syrup.
6. Purple: My absolute favorite flavor as a child disappointed me greatly this time around, again because of the cough syrup memories. One neighbor said it was “like they made a grape flavor in the ’50s and haven’t improved upon it.” Sometimes, “classic” can read primarily as “outdated.”
5. Pink: Another one that ranked higher with the kid than the adults. We all made guesses on what “pink” was supposed to be. Bubblegum, strawberry, and cotton candy were all floated as possibilities, though all agreed the main flavor profile was chemicals. (I believe the actual answer is raspberry.)
4. Green: We thought this didn’t taste “lime” enough—it could have been just about any citrus flavor—yet it was mild enough to rank in the middle of the pack. “A respectable lime… for BABIES!” my neighbor noted.
3. Yellow: While a neighbor and I both compared this jelly bean to a cleaning product, several others ranked this one as their number-one classic, loving the bright citrus flavor. It’s closer to a lemon drop, undeniably bolder than any other flavor in the bag.
2. White: The flavor here is hard to pin down; it took someone’s suggestion of “pina colada” to get my mind moving in the right direction. Previous flavor guesses were vanilla and coconut, and pineapple ended up being the correct guess, though I’m still not entirely convinced. This bea ranked surprisingly high considering its unassuming color; even our youngest taste tester really liked it.
1. Orange: My neighbor called this “a cover band of orange.” It’s not too citrusy, a fact that many people disliked—but it was also “inoffensive” enough that most people ranked it at least in their top third. (Except my one neighbor who ranked it last. To each their own.)
Brach’s Desserts of the World jelly beans, ranked
Brach’s new Desserts of the World jelly beans are clearly going for a Jelly Belly design aesthetic and complexity of flavor. Also, unlike classic Brach’s beans, DOTW contain actual dairy, which is a plus if you want more “real” flavors and a minus if you can’t have milk.
Here are the rankings, from worst to best:
5. Chocolate Macaron: Most of us strongly disliked this “French” bean, mostly because it did not taste as advertised. One person said it tasted alcoholic, while another taster got notes of molasses, not chocolate. One person said it was “fruit forward.” The only taster who liked it, Harry, felt it was “pudding-like.” No one mentioned a macaron, an admittedly difficult texture to approximate in jelly form.
4. Apple Pie: Considering this dessert is the “American” entry in the bag, the Americans got it wrong! Too much cinnamon and clove, not enough apple. The child licked it, but would not eat it, which tracks. His mother spit it out.
3. Churro: Again, it’s hard to create the mouthfeel of a Spanish churro in a jelly bean. It had some cinnamon flavor that builds as you chew, but mostly this bean was “sugar” flavored, too similar to Brach’s candy corn.
2. Lemon Sorbet: A verrrrrry close second, this Italian-inspired jelly bean was many people’s favorite. My friend noted that while Brach’s classic lemon jelly bean tastes “yellow,” this jelly bean actually tastes like lemon—a softer, smoother citrus than its classic counterpart. “I could eat a whole bag of these!” my neighbor declared. No one ranked this one lower than second place. Except Harry. But he has bad judgment.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO….
1. Strawberry Mochi: Everyone liked this one, and there were no outliers to speak of (even Harry approved). It has a soft strawberry flavor, more like strawberries and cream than mochi, but the inaccuracy didn’t bother anyone. It’s not as bold or tart as Lemon Sorbet, but because of this, it’s also not as divisive. It made everyone happy, which is what jelly beans should do.
If we had to rank the combined contents of both bags in one best-to-worst list, here’s what it would be:
- Strawberry Mochi
- Lemon Sorbet
- Apple Pie
It’s up to you to decide whether black licorice ranks at number 1 or number 13.