Tuesday, April 10, 2012

David’s Signature Beans Jelly Bean Sampler

David's Signature Beans Jelly Bean SamplerIn 1976 David Klein began selling a new kind of jelly bean he commissioned at a small ice cream parlor, Fosselman’s, in Alhambra, California. It was different in a lot of ways than the jelly beans folks usually sold. They were sold as individual flavors and included new flavors like Root Beer and Cream Soda along with the traditional fruity flavors like Very Cherry and Green Apple plus the required Black Licorice. This was the start of Jelly Belly and a revolution in the way that Americans viewed their sugar candy. Notably, it got people interested in intense and more unusual flavors as well as moving the bar on how much someone would pay for a pound of jelly beans.

The collaboration of David Klein with the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. came to an end when Klein was bought out. His settlement meant that he was paid a royalty for every bean sold (with a yearly cap) but couldn’t compete in the jelly bean category until that contract came to an end. Since its recent expiration, Klein has been collaborating with Marich Confectionery with family members of those that developed the original Jelly Belly in the 70s. The new line of David’s Signature Beyond Gourmet Jelly Beans are now available.

David's Signature Beans Jelly Bean Sampler

The beans are made with real fruit, flavorings and all natural colors. It’s a little frustrating to find out definitive information about the product line, the Leaf website has a couple of press releases, but no standard product information. The Facebook page for the product has a picture of their flavor offerings, which include wasabi, habanero, Thai chili and chipotle, but those weren’t in my sampler.

I found this sampler box on Amazon (sold by Oregon Trail Foods) for $16.95 for a half pound assortment of 16 flavors (plus shipping). I ordered it on Thursday and it arrived the following Monday. The box is a bit problematic, the little sections of the tray allow the beans to hop from one bin to another when the box is tipped, so when I opened mine I had to re-sort my beans. This was difficult for several of the colors which were extremely similar.

While the beans inside look great, I was disappointed at the flimsy and generic package that really didn’t entice me or create any excitement about what was inside. For something over $32 a pound, I expect a little of it to go into packaging.

David's Signature Bean & Jelly Belly Bean

David’s Signature Beans are unbranded and look like little pieces of polished glass. Each one was nearly perfect and consistently shaped. They’re a little larger than the Jelly Belly, which is on the right above. (The flavor on the left is cranberry, the one on the right is the Jelly Belly Snapple Cranberry-Raspberry, which is also all natural.)

David's Signature Beans - Black CherryBlack Cherry is the flavor I heard that was really startling in this mix. The color is quite dark, a milky maroon color. The shell is firm and crunchy with a light and consistent graininess right beneath that.

The flavor is a little bit tart and a little bit sweet. But it’s nothing like real fresh cherries or fake cherries to me. It reminds me of cherry juice, in that it’s a deep and has a sort of boiled berry jam note to it, but nothing distinct.

David's Signature Beans - Black Cherry

The construction of the beans is very consistent. The centers were mostly colored, though not with some sort of imposed artificiality, it’s just whatever the combination of real fruits made them.

In some cases the centers matched the shell like the Black Cherry. In other cases they were colorless.

David's Signature Beans - BlueberryBlueberry is really blue. The combination of coconut, blueberry and pomegranate is very patriotic looking.

The flavor is floral, at first it’s like a raspberry flavor, but then it gets that little kick that I associate with blueberry. It’s a tannin note, kind of like tea. It’s a rather confused tasting bean though, because it ends with a little creamy note, almost a vanilla. So think of it more like a blueberry smoothie.

David's Signature Beans - CoconutCoconut is like a perfect little white bead.

The shell is crisp, but not thick. The flavor is a very strong coconut milk, sweet and with that aromatic nuttiness. There’s no actual shredded coconut in the center, but the flavor is really authentic. It didn’t have that oily note that brings to mind hot and humid days by the pool with suntan oil, it was a bit cleaner than that.

David's Signature Beans - BaconThe bean varieties are interesting. A mix of standard, tried and true flavors as well as a few exotics and novelties.

Bacon is something I consider a novelty.

Bacon is also not a food I eat. I’d say it’s because I don’t eat pork, which is true (though I do eat candies with gelatin) but to go further, even as an omnivorous kid I didn’t like bacon. I don’t want a jelly bean that tastes like bacon. I’m not eating it.

David's Signature Beans - Sampler

Cranberry is very tart and bracing. There’s a light vanilla note to it as well and maybe a little hint of concord grape. I really like a good puckery cranberry, and I think if I were designing them, I’d make it even more sour.

That said, it’s still pretty well rounded and tastes more like dried cranberries than some sort of cranberry fruit juice cocktail.

Ginger is fascinating. It’s a bit of a tougher bean, the shell seems a little crisper. The flavor is immediately rooty, with lots of woodsy notes and less of that lemony tang that fresh ginger juice can have and more of the deep honey notes of ginger ale.

I would buy a bag of these, they also went well with the lemon, which is good, because they look nearly the same.

Grape was a good flavor, it was like grape juice, but missing that concord note that the Japanese seem to have pegged really well in many of their candies.

Green Apple was also very authentic, it was like unsweetened apple sauce, a cooked apple flavor without as much sour zing as a fresh apple.

David's Signature Beans - Himalayan Sea SaltHimalayan Sea Salt was one of the weirdest and least successful in the bunch. Other folks at the office who tried them ended up spitting this one out 100% of the time.

I don’t know quite why I’d want to eat salted sugar, but there it is. I can understand a salted caramel jelly bean, but just a salted jelly bean is mystifying. It was a cross between eating cake batter and licking my own sweat off my arms. It was kind of like a sports drink, but without the actual flavor of fruit juice.

David's Signature Beans - LemonLemon is exactly what I’d expect from a lemonade flavored jelly bean. It’s all tartness and a sort of pasteurized juice flavor.

I didn’t catch much in the way of zest, which is too bad, because I think that would have sent this one over the top.

Though I wasn’t as keen on this one as I’d hoped, it paired very well with other beans such as strawberry and ginger.

David's Signature Beans - OrangeOrange Punch is quite a deep tangerine color. This one describes the flavor better than the lemon, as this did taste more like an orange beverage than an actual orange.

Again the zest notes were missing, so it was more like a really good glass of Tang with an extra spoonful of the concentrate added to it.

Of course if this was called Fanta Orange, I’d want to add it to my soda pop mix and call it fabulous. 

David's Signature Beans - MangoPeach was mind-blowingly good. In most instances I do not care for peach candies, though I love fresh peaches. Here the flavor was well rounded without some sort of artificial note on top.

It’s a combination of apricot and peach, with a lot of tartness, quite a bit of “fuzz” flavor and a clean finish. It reminded me of baby food, really good peach puree.

DSC_8527rbPomegranate was nearly impossible to tell apart from cranberry on sight and for a while I wasn’t even sure I was tasting the right flavor since they all got mixed up in the box.

I think what distinguishes pomegranate from cranberry is the floral notes for pomegranate. It was quite reminiscent of raspberry with a sort of dry finish like Key limes have when compared to Persian limes.

David's Signature Beans - Root BeerRoot Beer is fantastic. All root beer candies should take a hint from this one. It certainly puts the other root beer jelly beans to shame, it’s far more intense and vibrant. There’s a lot of flavor without that artificial red aftertaste that I can get from Root Beer Barrel hard candies.

Of course this makes me wish for a whole set of soda flavored beans in exotics like tonic water, birch beer and guarana.

David's Signature Beans - StrawberryStrawberry is easy to tell apart from the other beans, as it’s speckled. Of course just being pink would have been sufficient to distinguish it.

It’s sweet and tangy, but missing a bit of the floral note that I get with many other strawberry flavors. Instead this was more like jam than fresh strawberry. But these also varied, some were larger than others and some were tarter than others.

It’s best in combination and actually went well with coconut.

David's Signature Beans - Vanilla BeanVanilla Bean was also great. The vanilla flavor was creamy and rich with a lot of dimension. There’s the sweet and soft note of the vanilla extract and then the deeper bourbon notes of the vanilla beans.

There were real little bits of vanilla seeds from the pod which stuck with me for a while. That’s fine because vanilla went well with most of the other flavors, including ginger, root beer and strawberry.

Overall, they’re wonderfully vibrant even if I’m not fond of the direction of each of the beans. However, the price is prohibitive and not quite justified by the product. While I like the use of real, whole ingredients, the packaging was not worthy of a product that’s so expensive. My guess is that if they do catch on they economies of scale might bring things more into line with my expectations ($10 a pound is still steep in my world). The thing that would set them apart though would be the quirkier flavors such as ginger and perhaps other spices. I am curious to try the other more exotic flavors, but I’ll wait to find them in stores when I’m not paying shipping on top.

Other bean flavors I am interested in, if someone wants to make them: cola, lemon cola, rum, gin, molasses, peppermint, cucumber, celery, spearmint, cardamom, lavender honey and an intense all natural black licorice.

You can read more about the history of David Klein and Jelly Belly on MSNBC.

Related Candies

  1. Gimbal’s Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans
  2. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans by Jelly Belly
  3. Trader Joe’s Jelly Beans & Citrus Gum Drops
  4. Lemonhead & Friends Jelly Beans
  5. Sandy Candy
  6. Starburst and Jelly Belly Jelly Beans

Name: 16 Jelly Bean Sampler
Brand: Leaf
Place Purchased: Amazon (Oregon Trail Foods)
Price: $16.99 + $6.95 shipping
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 106
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Leaf Brand Candy, Coconut, Ginger, Jelly Candy, 7-Worth It, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:51 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry     All NaturalCandyReviewLeaf Brand CandyCoconutGingerJelly Candy7-Worth ItUnited States

  1. Thankyou very much for finally doing a review of the legendary David Klein jelly beans. great
    descriptions of the beans. Would like to try Rum, Gin and molasses myself. i csnt wait to try these when next in the USA. looking forward to your sweets and snacks expo stuff, last year was good.

    Comment by Ben Exworth on 4/10/12 at 3:27 pm #
  2. I had the same issues with the packaging, but I really like sorting things, so the bean jumping was sort of fun for me to sort out.

    Comment by Rosa on 4/10/12 at 6:04 pm #
  3. Thank you Cybele for an awesome review. I have always contended that your taste buds should be insured by Lloyds of London. I too love the root beer and the ginger and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. As of this moment there are 10 Amazon five star reviews on David’s Signature Sampler Jelly Beans. We are very proud of these beans and it is so delightful when a professional such as yourself confirms our opinion.

    Comment by david klein on 4/10/12 at 6:55 pm #
  4. Why u can’t try the bacon kind? Be adventurous

    Comment by Alek on 4/11/12 at 11:14 am #
  5. Alternatively, I’d be curious if anyone around the office tried the bacon flavor, and what they thought of it.

    Bacon’s been a big fad lately but I haven’t tried any of it myself :-x

    Comment by Amanda on 4/11/12 at 11:53 am #
  6. Cybele's avatar

    Alek - I created candy blog because I like candy and I didn’t think it would put me in the position of eating meat. It’s in my review policy that I don’t do bacon.

    Amanda - oh yes, I got at least four takers on trying it at the office. Most agreed that it was smoky but two were disturbed at the authentic taste & texture of grease.

    Comment by Cybele on 4/11/12 at 12:03 pm #
  7. Although I enjoy reading your blog I wished you would try bacon flavored beans.

    I noticed 90% of your posts are postive and I haven’t seen a negative post of candies.

    I’m curious which candy was the worst one that you ever ate?

    Also how many people works in your office? I thought you was a single person working doing this awesome site

    Comment by Alek on 4/11/12 at 4:36 pm #
  8. Cybele's avatar

    Alek - I work alone on the creation of this site’s content (though I have a programming and design team I hire from time to time).

    The office I speak of is for my day job.

    Candy Blog is not a money making venture ... it’s pretty much a break even venture. The ads here pay for my travel to one trade show a year, the hosting, those professionals plus all the candy I buy.

    As for candy I have given negative reviews, it’s true, they are not as common as positive. For the most part candy is good, or good enough. For the very bad, I give them very poor ratings:

    Rating: 1 out of 10
    Rating: 2 out of 10

    Comment by Cybele on 4/11/12 at 4:45 pm #
  9. Bacon flavoured jelly bellies?!? Nah… but I agree on the worting - it is annoying though one box I had included a plastic top which seemed to solve that issue…

    I am slightly envious of that closeup shot though. I just don’t have the time (with my 3h commute daily) to do a lot of photo editing and I am wildly envious of those closeups.

    I did notice the watermark - have you had trouble with people stealing images?

    Cranberry sounds like my ideal. I cannot believe you did each flavour though. Kudos to you on that!

    Comment by Judith (Mostly About Chocolate Blog) on 4/12/12 at 2:05 am #
  10. 6515   sunset drive

    Comment by crystal kleist lea on 4/12/12 at 3:01 am #
  11. I would love to find a cloudberry jellybean. And why not skip the gin and try straight away juniper berries? They are mostly for spicing game meats and spirits, but why not sugar candy?

    Comment by Emma on 4/12/12 at 10:10 am #
  12. I don’t understand why in the world they would make a sea salt jelly bean? Unless the chefs at Chopped TV show can do something out of it.

    Comment by Alek on 4/12/12 at 12:47 pm #
  13. Thanks for the review.  I wanted to address a few concerns of yours to also help others out.  First, you must understand, we set-out to create the best jelly beans in the world, using the finest ingredients and not worrying about price limitations, so our beans will be much more than Jelly Belly which now uses artificial colors and flavors in their jelly beans to cut costs. You will start to see some really amazing flavors from us, with different price levels depending on raw ingredient costs.  For example, we will have a Saffron jelly bean and as you might know, Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, so those beans will cost more. 

    Another aspect of our jelly beans is the idea of pairing them together to create complex dishes in your mouth.  You will need to use the salt bean to pair with others for that taste experience, although we find the salt bean one of our most popular as it stands alone.  Just wait till you start to see the dishes we’re coming up with, including Thai Chili (Thai chili bean, ginger, lemon, coconut).

    Regarding the bacon; you will notice all the jelly beans are certified kosher.  We wanted to create the most exotic flavors in the world and also allow people with dietary restrictions to enjoy the taste experiences others had, so we created a bacon bean using only natural flavors, but not bacon. You might try pairing them with the salt and one of the chili pepper beans!

    We are also in the process of coming out with our own packaging, but because of the amazing response by so many customers asking to buy our jelly beans, some of our distributors created their own packaging for their customers.  Ours should be ready shortly, but currently the beans are sold in bulk form straight from us.

    Comment by Ellia Kassoff on 4/15/12 at 10:47 pm #
  14. i have got a BIG wish list for bean flavors including cloudberry, cola and rum plus 90 more ideas

    Comment by Ben Exworth on 11/13/13 at 12:29 pm #
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