Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Classic Gums: Black Jack, Clove, Beemans & Teaberry

The world of gum is huge these days. No longer is it just a world of soothing mint & peppy cinnamon. There are at least a half a dozen formats: sticks, gumballs, nuggets, chicklets, tape & goo filled pieces and the flavors are all over the map with the general array of mints & fruits but now there are sour gums, exotic flavors and even more combinations & special ingredients than ever.

Beemans Gums: Beemans, Black Jack & Clove

Chewing gum started out, early on, as a simple little stick of chicle base with sugar and a little flavoring. Some of the earliest varieties, launched in the late 1800s still survive today in pretty much the same format. For your chewing enjoyment I have a few classic gums: Black Jack, Clove and Beemans plus Clark’s Teaberry.

Clark's TeaberryFirst is my favorite gum of all time: Clark’s Teaberry.

Teaberry is a regional name for wintergreen (also known as Canada tea, which may explain the name of Canada mints which are also wintergreen flavored).

The D.L. Clark Company used to be a rather large & diverse candy manufacturer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which made both candy bars and gums starting in 1886. At one point the company was making 150 different kinds of confections. In 1921 the gum side of the business (which was made in a separate factory anyway) was spun off into its own company: Clark Brothers Chewing Gum Company (later shortened to Clark Gum Company). They were best known for two flavors: Teaberry and Tendermint.

Though Tendermint is no longer produced, Teaberry is still available.

Clark's TeaberryThe gum is rather simple and mild. The wintergreen flavor is mellow, not too much like some sort of analgesic balm or Pepto Bismol. The flavor lasts for a while as well, long after the sugar is gone.

The biggest issue I’ve had with purchasing Teaberry gum in the past 10 years or so, besides it being rather difficult to find is freshness. The pieces, first of all, seem a bit thinner than I remember them. Second, they’re often stale & crispy instead of soft & pliable. (Yes, sometimes I like to roll up my sticks.)

Even so, I’ve never felt that gum needs to be “fresh” in order to be enjoyed, though sometimes the flavor isn’t quite a vibrant.

Like all the gums profiled in this review, Teaberry is still made with sugar and no other sweeteners. (Though it’s now made in Mexico.)

Here’s an old commercial from Teaberry’s heyday in the 60s called the Teaberry Shuffle performed by Herb Alpert.

Though the Clark’s Gum Company is only a vague shadow of what it used to be, Adams is the oldest gum company and some of the classic flavors are still produced today now that it’s part of the Cadbury Adams company. The Adams nostalgic line is still made sporadically (in Colombia), in fact, the gums are back on store shelves presently (and when the inventory is gone, it’s pretty much gone until they make more in a year or two). I got mine at Cost Plus World Market.

Black Jack GumThe Thomas Adams gum story is pretty interesting. (If you want to know far more than I’m prepared to cover, please read this great page.)

Black Jack gum is the first flavored gum in the United States, starting in 1871.

The package doesn’t even say what it is, but I found the flavors are anise, ginger & green woodsmoke.

If I’ve had Black Jack before this, I’d forgotten (for the most part all I chew is Peppermint Chiclets, Teaberry and bubble gum balls). It’s much more mellow than I would have expected after the scent. Caramel, molasses & licorice but it also reminds me of the woodsy ginseng gum I pick up in Chinatown from time to time. A little weird bitter metallic taste to it but also a very, very sweet note that doesn’t go away even when the sugar is gone.

Clove GumI’m not much of a clove fan, but I thought I’d give Clove Chewing Gum a try anyway.

The scent is pure clove, just like sticking my nose in a bottle of the spicy, dried flower buds.

The chew is soft and mellow, the clove also has a hint of cinnamon to it, making the whole thing reminiscent of spiced cider and a baked ham.

My biggest issue with clove is its association with dental problems. Clove oil is a natural analgesic and one that can be applied topically in the mouth without worry of poisoning. So the mere scent of it reminds me other teething issues ... probably not my own, probably more of an association with other screaming toddlers.

The numbing quality is a bit evident as I chewed it, I could swear that my tongue felt a little like putty towards the end. Overall, this kind of changed my mind about the clove flavor, it wasn’t as medicinal as I expected and the flavor certainly lasted a long time for a sugared gum.

Beemans Chewing GumThe final in my assortment is simply called Beemans Chewing Gum without any further description.

Because of the white package I always assumed that this was peppermint flavored gum and I saw no need to switch from Wrigley’s Spearmint of Doublemint gum for this niche product.

Even though the sticks were white, once I opened the package it became apparent that this is a wintergreen flavored gum.

A little backstory about wintergreen & Beemans.

The gum was developed by an Ohio physician named Dr. Edward E. Beeman. Pepsin was a common treatment for digestive issues and working it into a gum was a good solution for delivering it in a slow dose. The Adams company purchased it from Beeman in 1898.

The flavor is a bit more intense than Teaberry. Actual pepsin doesn’t appear as an ingredient on the label. The chew is soft and smooth but after the sugar is gone it has a bit of a warming quality, like Ben Gay for the tongue. (Which may or may not be a selling point.)

I prefer Teaberry ... though I like the fact that the Beemans and Clove have no artificial colors in them.

They’re all rather simple gums and lack a liquid center, fancy graphics and huge marketing campaigns. They’re quiet and contemplative ... comforting and a rather cheap little way to buy some nostalgia.

Related Candies

  1. Sugar Coated Fennel
  2. Three Pink Bubble Gums
  3. Canada Wintergreen
  4. Hot Tamales Spice Jelly Beans
  5. Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts)
  6. Tiny Size Chiclets
  7. Razzles
  8. Glee Gum: If You Like Stuff Stuck to Your Teeth
Name: Teaberry, Black Jack, Clove & Beemans
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Clark Gum Company & Cadbury Adams
Place Purchased: Dollar Tree & Cost Plus World Market
Price: $.25 and $1.25
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Gum, Cadbury, Mexico, Colombia

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:49 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. I love teaberry gum! Thanks for reviewing my favorite gum. I also love the retro style-no frills packaging wink

    Comment by ian on 6/10/09 at 11:35 am #
  2. Dear Cybele - I think Beeman’s used to be called Beeman’s Pepsin gum implying some kind of digestive aid.  Eva

    Comment by Eva on 6/10/09 at 12:25 pm #
  3. ick i cant stand wintergreen flavour….reminds me of toilet bowl cleaner

    Comment by piper maru on 6/10/09 at 2:45 pm #
  4. Yes, Eva is correct. It was formerly called “Beeman’s Pepsin Chewing Gum.”

    Comment by Gary on 6/10/09 at 3:00 pm #
  5. I’d love to get some of that Clove gum, it sounds great. I’m not sure where I would buy it,though… where did you find yours?

    Comment by Meredith on 6/10/09 at 3:24 pm #
  6. I agree, I also noticed that every time I’ve purchased these flavors of gum they have been hard or stale. It’s very disappointing, because this gum is delicious. Blackjack and Clove are my favorites.

    Comment by Marissa on 6/10/09 at 3:27 pm #
  7. I was so psyched to read that these were coming back. I love them all.

    Comment by Patti on 6/10/09 at 3:31 pm #
  8. The thing about these classic gums is that they are the only ones with wrappers that can be made into classic gumwrapper chains. Every other gum has plain white wrappers. If the gum companies really want my business they should start printing colorful wrappers again. It could start a new version of an old fad. I would love to add to my 50 foot chain that I have had for over 20 years.

    Comment by Sarah D. on 6/10/09 at 8:25 pm #
  9. Meredith, I have seen these gums at Cracker Barrel.  HTH

    Comment by Kimberly on 6/11/09 at 3:57 am #
  10. I LOVE the clove gum! It’s the best (and the hardest to find!) You can usually find some of these at Cracker Barrel, or World Market. I actually found mine at World Market recently! And they had three boxes of clove (I was shocked! Usually when they get clove in, people buy it BY the box, and they’re left with nothing to put out on the shelves.) I’ve always just felt the Blackjack was licorice, so it’s interesting it has those other flavors.

    Comment by Nathan Aaron on 6/11/09 at 4:58 am #
  11. I love Blackjack gum! I grew up in Pittsburgh (even so, this gum is surprisingly rare), and would always grab it when I had a chance. I stick with the basic licorice flavor, but maybe next time I’ll give clove a try.

    Comment by L. on 6/12/09 at 3:54 am #
  12. To Order Classic Gums: Black Jack, Clove, Beemans

    Comment by tony on 6/13/09 at 7:29 pm #
  13. mmm… I remember teaberry gum! I grew up in NH and we used to find these berries that were (thank goodness) safe to eat that we called checkerberries. I always though teaberry gum tasted like that. I never connected it with wintergreen.

    Comment by Jeff on 6/14/09 at 9:14 am #
  14. Funny, we were just talking about these gums the other day. Loved that commercial, we’d used to due the shuffle on the playground.

    Comment by jMo on 6/16/09 at 4:01 am #
  15. Thank you!  I love all of these gums, except Blackjack, although I’m glad its still around.

    Another tasty gum that’s getting rarer, while not as old as these, is Fruit Stripe.

    Comment by DJ on 6/16/09 at 9:11 am #
  16. i found my clove gun at right aid

    Comment by jess on 7/03/09 at 4:33 pm #
  17. btw it is delisious

    Comment by jess on 7/03/09 at 4:33 pm #
  18. Ah, Teaberry - there was always a pack in my grandmother’s purse to settle us down in church.
    I need to go find a pack.

    Damn, now I’m tearing up.

    Comment by spinetingler on 9/22/09 at 5:04 am #
  19. I bought all of these gums and enjoyed them all in the halcyon days of my childhood in the 1950s. Thanks for a well-written article that really captures the essence of those special treats.

    Comment by Michael Novak on 5/14/10 at 8:28 am #
  20. When I was younger, my biological father used to bring us back candies from Pennsylvania that were called teaberries. They looked like tiny little round balls, and they were quite a mess if you spilled them. He would buy them in pounds, and bring us big bags plastic bags of them. Does anyone else know what I’m talking about, and/or where I can find these? I remembered him telling us that they stopped making them at some point, but I’d love to find them again.

    Comment by Em on 5/18/10 at 11:15 am #
  21. I’m happy to know these gums are still being made with only sugar, since I was shocked and deeply disappointed as I’ve discovered that Wrigley’s regular gums contain sugar substitutes as well as sugar—so many trusted brands have cheapened their products with artificial ingredients but they don’t pass the savings on to the customer—I hate being ripped off!

    Comment by liz on 7/07/10 at 7:42 am #

    Comment by renita on 10/15/10 at 11:00 pm #
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