I’ve been wanting to take the Jelly Belly factory tour ever since we passed it the first time on I80 between Berkeley and Davis. This past weekend, we finally made it.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos on the tour, which disappointed me, as I had been looking forward to capturing vast vats of shining cinnamon beans, but I can definitely say that we learned a few things we hadn’t known before. For example, when you walk in, it is hard to determine if the mascot of the candy company is a big red bean, or President Ronald Reagan. Eventually, one finds out that the former president is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the popularity of Jelly Belly jellybeans in the United States, having made them the candy of choice in both the California governor’s mansion, and later, in the White House. They must have had at least five different jellybean mosaic portraits of him displayed prominently next to Washington, Lincoln, Franklin, and Monroe (Marilyn, not James in this case).
Here are two of them, and one I was particularly drawn to of young Queen Elizabeth:
Throughout the tour, at different stopping points, they give each member of the group a single bean. This is a particularly effective way to make everyone salivate for a bag by the end, and as I nursed my second bean, a bubblegum-flavored uncured morsel of sugar and cornstarch, I remembered learning about fasting at church in Connecticut. Our Sunday-school teacher told us that while amateurs will rush for a hamburger after a several-day fast, her brother, who had apparently become quite good at it, would spend his first post-fast hours cherishing a single raisin.
I must admit that I was far more in tune to the subtleties of the three beans they gave us on the tour than the many we ate (way too fast) after we were released and able to purchase a two pound bag of Belly Flops, which are the beans that are rejected from the conveyor belt for being either too big, too small, deformed, or discolored. (I have compiled a little collection of the more extreme examples from our bag above.)
And that, my friends, is a sweet way to spend a rainy weekend in California.