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Hard Candy & Lollipops

Thursday, March 23, 2006


What’s truly baffling in the whole confectionery world is that most sweets are made from the same ingredients. Yet the processes applied to them and the combinations can yield vastly different results. The Bunny Basket Eggs reviewed last week are an excellent example of sugar done wrong.

imageKonpeito (or Kompeito) is just sugar, and done so well. These little rocks, about the size of a pea and simply rock sugar with a little food coloring. And when you compare iit to those awful marshmallow Easter eggs, it makes no sense.

If you ever saw Spirited Away, you may have seen this candy. They’re little multi-faceted sugar crystal lumps that look like three dimensional stars.

There’s not much else to say about them except that they’re sweet and cute. If you’re looking for a special little something exotic for an Easter basket, these might fit the bill, the packaging is pink and pretty and of course the little pastel morsels of sugar are, well, rock candy. And rock candy rocks. You can even pick up a package and use it when you serve tea or coffee as a cuter version of the old sugar cubes.

See also: CandyAddict.com review, JunkFoodBlog has more on the cultural significance and limited edition versions and Wikipedia has a full entry including the references to Kompeito in media.

Name: Konpeito
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Kasugai
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa Marketplace (Little Tokyo, LA)
Price: $1.39
Size: 2.64 ounces
Calories per ounce: 115
Categories: Hard Candy, Japan, Easter

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:39 am     Comments (15)

Friday, March 3, 2006

The Lemonhead & Fruit Heads

Ferrara Pan is a favorite of mine for one product they make: Lemonheads. No one else makes anything like it. It’s a hard, sweet lemon candy coated in a grainy, super sour coat and then a sweet “lemon peel”. Genius.

When I was a kid there were a bunch of varieties of these candies and they each had a cool name. There was Alexander the Grape, Johnny Apple Treats and Mr. Melon. Somewhere between the late eighties and the present Ferrara Pan dumped those names and reintroduced the fruit flavored, layered candies under the Lemonheads style naming convention.


The original. The classic. The. Perfect. Lemon. Candy.


Fantastic idea - it’s a Lemonhead, only it’s orange! The color is vibrant and they have both the zesty orange taste and the tartness. They’re not as blisteringly tart as Lemonheads, but the flavor can’t be beat. I don’t think these existed under another name way back when, but better late than never! My second favorite fruit head!


Well, folks know my feelings about cherry flavor. This is the classic cherry with some good rounded fruity notes and a sour bite to it. Like a cherry Lifesaver, only spherical and tarter. The original name of this candy was Cherry Chan ... so it’s probably good that Ferrara Pan decided to rename the whole line into something less offensive. (Though they briefly renamed them to Cherry Clan and changed the art a little bit.)


I used to eat these all the time as a kid. I loved the name, Alexander the Grape and the package logo was a little grape wearing a Trojan helmet. The color is a little surprising, as it’s very dark purple, almost navy blue or black. The flavor is a more complex grape than many other grape flavored candies these days and the package boasts “real fruit juice.” Of course the real fruit juice listed is apple. There are Appleheads, but I didn’t find those at the store (and had to get a smaller box of the Grapeheads because they weren’t available in the larger size).

When I first started on my Lemonheads/Alexander the Grape kick I was in grade school. We lived in Munroe Falls, OH and in good weather me and my older sister and younger brother were allowed to walk about a half a mile down the rural highway, over the Cuyahoga River and the Falls and then train tracks to the Stop ‘n Go in “downtown” Munroe Falls. This was the store where I also discovered such non-confectionery wonders as Pringles, Doritos and of course Starbursts, the Marathon Bar, Jolly Rancher Fire Stix and Charms Sweet ‘n Sour Pops with my allowance. Lemonheads were desireable because they were cheap and the box could be used as a noisemaker later. Sadly, the boxes are now the tab-top variety and no longer make that noise. (Chicket’s boxes still do, though.)

I like to eat my Lemonheads by peeling them with my teeth. First I anchor a candy at my first molar and crack about a third of the shell off. This reveals the super sour layer. Then I move the candy to my front teeth and pry off the rest of the peel using my teeth and tongue (if you’re wondering, yes, I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue). Then after the sourness is exhausted, I chew up the rest of the sweet candy and repeat until the box is empty. Giant Lemonheads are dealt with in a similar manner but I think that classic Lemonheads are better since the ratio of sour coating to candy is a little better. I wish the candy centers had a bit more flavor, but I’ve loved them ‘as-is’ forever, so I shouldn’t be advocating any changes. I also wish the the unfortunate Narbles that they introduced a few years back had this same sour peel to them.

Lemonheads and their fruity brethren are the perfect traveling candy. I enjoy hard candy when I’m on long road trips because of the variety of flavors and the interactivity which requires no hands (some fireballs must be removed from the mouth when they get too hot). The little burst of sour keeps me awake and engaged and of course being a pure sugar candy there’s fewer calories per ounce than something with chocolate in it. On my wishlist would be a few other flavors - including Grapefruit and maybe Strawberry and it would be cool to be able to buy a mixed bag of all the flavors.

You can watch a virtual tour of how Lemonheads are made in the panning process.

Name: Lemonheads, Orangeheads, Grapeheads & Cherryheads
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Ferrara Pan
Place Purchased: Baldinger's (Zelienople, PA)
Price: $.10 and $.25
Size: .8 and 1.25 ounces
Calories per ounce: 100
Categories: Hard Candy, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:12 am    

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hard Candy: Juntsuyu

There are some candy aficionados who turn up their noses at hard candy. Sure, they might think a candy cane is nice as decoration, but certainly not meant to be eaten and savored. I actually like hard candy a lot. I like Lifesavers (or did until they mucked around with the flavors in the standard five flavor roll), I like starlite mints, lemon drops and I love barley sugar candy. When I saw these at the Japanese market, I was hoping they were barley sugar, though it didn’t say that was part of the ingredients. In fact, I’m not sure what they are except for solidified, cello-wrapped heaven.


These little morsels look like drops of honey. There are two flavors, the golden ones and the darker ones. I have no idea what flavor they are, but the dark ones taste like sweet black iced tea. The lighter ones taste like sweet sugar with a hint of jasmine. The little bottom of them forms a pentagon and has a little hole in it. There are virtually no air bubbles or voids anywhere in the candy, which makes them exceptionally smooth.


The little cones (about one inch tall) fit nicely in the mouth and have no sharpness to them that can cut the roof of your mouth, which has always been the danger with cheap sour balls. These dissolve slowly and release a delicately sweet flavor across your mouth that will linger for hours after you eat them. They’re crunchable too, as I am prone to chewing up my hard candies. The black tea ones (which I’ve already eaten all of) have a strong tea flavor to them with not a hint of bitterness. The sweet aromatic jasmine in the light ones (or whatever flavor it might be) is clean and fresh.

For some reason these were strangely expensive. At $2.29 for a scant three and a half ounces, I’ve gone and gotten myself addicted to some pricey boiled sugar. The brand, Shirakiku, is known as a tea and snack brand in Japan and to many Americans who buy Japanese teas (like my favorite Genmaicha) and those seaweed rice crackers. I have not been able to find anything about this candy anywhere online, though it’s possible that the English word “juntsuyu” isn’t quite accurate (as is often the case with the American labels slapped on the back of these import packages). So if any of my sweet Japanese readers can help me figure out what these are, I’d be ever so grateful.

UPDATE 4/18/07: JBox is now carrying Juntsuyu (at my request, thankee-thankee). For the record, since I did this review I’ve eaten three more bags of these and also put them in the Christmas Stockings last year.

Name: Candy "Juntsuyu"
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Shirakiku
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa (Little Tokyo)
Price: $2.29
Size: 3.49 ounces
Calories per ounce: 86
Categories: Hard Candy, Japan

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:40 am    

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Repost: CraniYUMS!

NOTE: I’m not going to make a habit of revisiting previous reviews, but I was contacted by Jason Barba, the inventor of CraniYUMS! He pointed out the product that I tasted was probably not at its best:

Not a bad review considering the picture of our candy looks like its been in the sun for a while (causing oxidation and giving the skin a tinted yellow appearance see www.craniyumspops.com, the skin should have almost a glass like appearance).  Oxidation changes the pH and leads to what is called a maillard reaction or denaturing the proteins in the gummy gelatin.  I’m sure the texture and flavor were not favorable.

I have to admit that I got my sample last summer and hung onto it for many months (and perhaps didn’t store it properly, as I opened the package, took the photo and didn’t eat it for several days). The new samples seemed “plumper” which leads me to believe that mine dried out a bit. Combine that with the candy center which was opaque instead of transparent and it seems like I had an over-ripe sample.

So, here’s an updated review.


See previous picture here.

What is it? It’s a hard candy lolly in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull then covered in a gummi “flesh”. The fleshy part is transparent, so you can see the skull shape at the center. It’s actually a pretty fun idea.

The skin is soft and pliable, like a very soft gummi (not the more firm ones like Haribo). The mellow, uncolored cherry flesh tears easily from the skeleton and reveals a transparent green skull in the shape of a T-Rex.  The skin is pretty mild, not tart but not terribly sweet either. The center candy is dense and smooth in a very pretty shade of emerald green. The other flavor is lemon flesh with a cherry hard lolly center. The gummi on this one is actually really good - it’s very zesty with an intense burst of lemon essence. Again, not very tart, but really fragrant.

I’m obviously not the target market for this candy, but I can see it being a fun thing to pick up at a museum gift shop for my nephew should we go look at a dinosaur exhibit. It’s a good combination of taste, interactivity and design. I’m upgrading my review from a 5 out of 10 to an 8 out of 10. Still a little pricey, but a nice treat. If they made a giant ape one, they could sell them as a set for fans of King Kong! Maybe something to think about if you’re planning a DVD viewing party.

Previous review here.

Name: CraniYUMS Pops
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: CraniYUMS!
Place Purchased: samples from manufacturer
Price: $1.65
Size: 1.52 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Gummi, Hard Candy/Lolly,United States, China

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:16 pm    

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Malaysian Hard Candies

My site designers/programmers Susie & Travis (from Hop Studios) sent me a bag o’ treats a few months ago from their trip to Singapore. I don’t really have any specs on the candies since it was a mix, so here’s a sample of what they looked like:


It took me a while too steel myself for trying so many mysterious things, but I’ve finally plowed through most of the treats. Some were just variations on the candies we have available here, different kinds of mints (chewy, hard, soft), coffee hard toffees, ginger chews (made in Indonesia) and of course fruit hard candies. Some were rather normal, based on the ubiquitous citrus fruits but a good number were curious.

Durian and Tamarind top the list of scary candies. I’ve heard horror stories of Durian, which is rather common throughout Southeast Asia. It’s a sizeable and formidable looking fruit and I’m told an acquired taste for outsiders (and some who’ve grown up there have never been fond of it). It’s a divisive fruit, actually, as so many people can’t stand it because of its rather pungent odor, it’s not allowed on public transportation in many large cities.

The durian hard candy is probably just as much an acquired taste and not one I’m likely to accomplish. This hard candy tastes okay at first, a little sweet, a little tart and then rather like boiled shallots. Yes, onions or garlic or perhaps a little like Slim Jims.

The Tamarind, which I’ve never had and is surprising as I live in Los Angeles and it’s all over the place, was actually nice. It’s a little toasty, rather ordinary after all being so worked up about trying that.

imageThe most curious one was the Creamy Corn. It tasted just like it sounds. Like creamed corn. Only in a hard toffee instead of running on my plate into my fried chicken. I have to say that it was very faithful to the name, and I ate the whole thing and was fascinated by it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s rather like eating the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Bellies. It’s a novelty, not a pleasure. At least not for me.

Mango was actually really nice, better than any other mango candy I’ve had, probably because they did more than make it taste like peaches. There were a few mango flavored ones, but the best overall were the ones branded Lot100 (the Blackcurrant was good, too). It had a nice pine essence to it, which is one of the things that I find so interesting about real mangoes, they have a woodsy flavor to them.

The best one was called Great Monster and I think was simply an orange hard candy. Simple, tart and zesty.

I had high hopes for those labeled barley sugar candies, but they didn’t really taste like the barley sugar I know of here in the states. They were nice, especially the lime torrone one (which was not at all like an Italian Torrone).

There are still a few I haven’t tried, but give me a few more days to get my courage back.

Rating - 6 out of 10 overall (some higher some lower ... it’s an average)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:52 pm     CandyReviewHard Candy & Lollipops6-TemptingMalaysiaComments (10)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

CraniYUMS Pops

Name: CraniYUMS Pops
Brand: CraniYUMS
Place Purchased: sample from Candy Warehouse
Price: $1.65
Size: 1.52 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Type: Hard Candy/Gummi/Lolly

I’ve noticed that I get a lot of Google search hits on this blog for CraniYUMS. Well, that and Choxie. So it’s about time I gave folks what they’re looking for. This has got to be one of the more innovative candy formats I’ve seen. I got this as a sample at my Candy Warehouse visit over the summer. They hadn’t decided to carry the pops, so I didn’t want to blog about it until it was available then I forgot about it until I saw Candy Addict‘s post a few weeks ago.


What is it? It’s a hard candy lolly in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull then covered in a gummi “flesh”. The fleshy part is transparent, so you can see the skull shape at the center. It’s actually a pretty fun idea.

I wasn’t quite sure how to approach consuming it. A gelatinous skin does not lend itself to sucking, and of course it’s a bit big for putting in the mouth whole. So when I tried nibbling on the end of his snout, I kind of get the sense that there should be some growling involved. The gummi part is definitely gummi, but I guess that’s a good thing. You kind of have to rip it off the candy skull with your teeth. As a gummi it’s rather mild, not zesty orintensely flavored. The skin is cherry flavored and the skeleton is green apple. Once a corner has been started it’s pretty easy to nibble off pieces then to get to the center. The skeletal center is hard candy, but not quite hard, because I’m guessing the gummi softens it a little bit. The flavor overall was just bland, I wanted some zip to it all. Maybe mine was a little old, but I also think I’d prefer the lemon/cherry combo.

I’m obviously not the target market for this candy, but I can see it being a fun thing to pick up at a museum gift shop for my nephew should we go look at a dinosaur exhibit. But I can also see a kid getting kind of bored with it after a few minutes. It depends on the kid. I found myself eating all the gummi skin but I didn’t eat the center. They get big points from me on originality, but I see it as more of a special occasion candy than a regular one.

The package says it’s made in China, but it’s distributed by an Denver, CO company.

Rating - 5 out of 10

UPDATE: Please see the revised review here where I now give CraniYUMS! an 8 out of 10.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:02 pm     CandyReviewGummi CandyHard Candy & Lollipops5-PleasantChinaUnited StatesComments (0)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ribbon Candy

Name: Ribbon Candy
Brand: Sevigny’s - owned by F.B. Washburn
Place Purchased: Candy Baron (Santa Monica)
Price: $4.79
Size: 9 ounces
Calories per ounce: 53
Type: Hard Candy

When I was a kid I used to buy ribbon candy for my mother for Christmas. It was pretty stuff but I never remembered it being very good. I think part of the problem is that most people put it in a dish or some sort of display for the holidays and it gets all sticky.


Ribbon Candy is simply hard candy flattened out into long ribbons and then folded up like little puffs and twists. They’re usually pretty colors and often flavored according to those colors. This box contains a mix of minty and fruity flavors. The box also has a beautiful photo of the candy on it. The stuff inside doesn’t look quite like that.


First, the ribbons are not uniform. The doubling of the candy strips to form the loops was rather inconsistent and the ribbons weren’t flat, so I’d set them out to photograph and they’d rock. Second, they were not glossy and luminous like the box. I know that they have been in the past. I know the stuff I used to get for my mother looked like it was spun glass. I don’t know if it’s because this is a bad batch or that it’s just not as good anymore, but mine looked milky and dull. Only one was broken, so I was pleased that the poor box wasn’t handled poorly.

The candy itself is kind of neat to eat. Messy, but pretty interesting. You can’t just break off a little loop, it seems for each loop that you want the other half is pulverized into shards as you break it off. We’re all used to the dense sugar of the hard candy, but the wafer thin ribbons rather melt on your tongue. The flavors are ordinary and sweet, no tartness in the citrus flavors. The plain white one was cool because it was vanilla. There aren’t that many vanilla hard candies out there. The oddest thing was that the red and green striped one was some sort of strange mint. A toothpaste mint, which I’m guessing is a blend of spearmint and peppermint but tastes a little too much like toothbrush for me.

You can read more about F.B. Washburn and Sevigny’s at their home page. But here’s the part I liked best:

In June 1986, FB Washburn Candy purchased Sevigny’s Candy, its major competitor in the ribbon candy business, making Washburn Candy the only major producer of this delicacy. The ribbon candy business has grown and the product is shipped throughout the United States and Canada. Today FB Washburn Candy is a major factor in the hard candy business, supplying many rebaggers, private label and major discounters with their line of wrapped hard candies.

Did you know that there’s a “ribbon candy business” and that it was so consolidated now?

The other interesting thing is how low in calories these are. A full ribbon, which is a little over an ounce and looks huge is only about 60 calories. So if you’re looking for a little holiday indulgence that won’t fatten you up so fast, a couple of ribbons instead of a piece of pie ala mode might save you about 300 calories. It’s actually kind of nice to have with a little tea and the calories probably end up being lower consider that much of it shatters into microscopic shards that you’re more likely to inhale than consume.

Rating - 6 out of 10.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:12 am     CandyReviewChristmasHard Candy & Lollipops6-TemptingUnited StatesComments (22)

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Whistle Pops

Name: Whistle Pops
Brand: Chupa Chups
Place Purchased:  99 Cent Only Store
Price: $.99
Size: .635 ounces each
Calories per ounce: 113
Type: Lollipop

If you ever saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you’ll know exactly what this is. It’s a candy, it’s a musical instrument! Though the whistle pops tooted by Dick Van Dyke were more like little recorders (ala a piccolo), these are slide whistles.

Chupa Chups, I must say, are awesome lollipops. First, they’re very flavorful. They’re well packaged (nothing worse than a damp piece of hard candy) and have the added bonus of a plastic stick. Why is this good? Well, I’m a drooler and don’t like the pasty mess that a paper stick becomes when I’m eating something like a Charms or Tootsie Pop.

There were four flavors in this package: Green Apple (unwrapped in the photo), Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Strawberry. Basically, some of my least favorite hard candy flavors (my favorite Chupa Chups are the coffee ones). The texture of the candy is a little different, a little less clear and sparkly. This might be a manufacturing thing so that they can operate as whistles or might be the fact that I bought them at the 99 Cent Store.

Instead of just being a one note whistle, these have a hollow straw for the stick and there is a little sliding plunger that allows you to change the pitch of your whistling. They really work and they sound pretty good. However, as soon as you bite off the top or dissolve enough of the top, the whistling effect is gone. The flavor is nice, tart and highly scented. All change the color of your tongue. (Made in Spain.)

Rating - 7 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Big Bite Gummy Bear
  2. Ratatouille Pocket Slider Lollipop
  3. Gummy Fishies
  4. Peeps Lollipop Rings
  5. Gummi Lightning Bugs
  6. Light Lollipops

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:55 am     CandyReviewPerfetti van MelleHard Candy & LollipopsNovelty/Toy7-Worth ItSpain99 Cent Only StoreComments (7)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.





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These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Brach’s Valen-tiny’s

• Candy Rant: If your Licorice isn’t black, it isn’t Licorice

• Candy Rant: Stimulants are not Energy

• Flavor Trends: The Slow Extinction of Lime

• 10 Candies that Shouldn’t Be So Disappointing