The Sours Take Manhattan

Sour Snacks VIII

Here we are again with another look at sour candies. I actually slowed down on these articles for a bit as I was starting to run out of new treats that I hadn’t seen before. Thankfully, though, there’s always something that will come along eventually and, if I wait long enough, I can find good new treats to add to our growing list. Sour is a flavor people (like me) can’t stop eating, and so there will always be new sours upon which to suck.

We’re going to start with the least impressive candy from the trio and scale up, towards the one that I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed:

Jelly Belly Sours

When they first became popular (I was a tiny child, so we’re looking at the 1980s for that), Jelly Belly Jelly Beans provided something we hadn’t really seen before: jelly beans that actually tasted good. Up to that point the market for jelly beans was dominated by the likes of Brachs, and they were a candy that was generally limited to Easter. They were filler for baskets, and not good filler at that. Weirdly gritty (with sugar), a dull crunch on the outside, and a flavor that was mostly just sweet with maybe a hint of some fruit (or god-awful licorice) to the beans. They were gross.

Jelly Belly changed that. They had jelly beans with a texture you could actually enjoy, something much more akin to jelly. Plus, they had flavors that tasted good. When they advertised flavors like orange, lime, and cherry you could trust you’d actually taste orange, lime, and cherry. And that doesn’t even get into their signature calling card, the oddball flavors like butter popcorn, toasted marshmallow, and cappuccino, which actually had the flavors as advertised (and somehow still tasted good in jelly bean form). It was crazy.

That sparked a solid reevaluation of what jelly beans could be and now jelly beans from most manufacturers are actually good. That, naturally, puts pressure on Jelly Belly to try and push their own flavors and get new ideas out there. While it’s still fun to see the weird flavors they can create, sometimes Jelly Belly comes out with a mix that fails to impress, and that is certainly the case with their Sours mix. It’s not that they’re inherently bad, just that they don’t rise to the same flavor standard as the other beans from the company.

Packaged in bags of five flavors – Sour Apple, Sour Cherry, Sour Grape, Sour Lemon and Sour Orange – the Sours are a pretty generic looking mix of colors. Five standard colors (green, yellow, orange, red, and blue) without any kind of mottling. Jelly Belly beans usually look cool, but these beans are as generic as they come. That also extends to their flavor. While none of them taste bad, they all taste pretty basic. The stand out flavors are orange and cherry, which are both bold and taste (more or less) like the fruits they’re emulating. Lemon is okay but not as strong, while I struggled to tell that green was apple and blue was grape. They were fine.

But the big issue is that the candies aren’t sour. I’d struggle to even call them tart. If you took these and mixed them into a bag of normal Jelly Belly beans I don’t even know if you’d be able to pick out the sour ones from the rest of the flavors. Not by taste alone, certainly, and that’s a problem for sour candies. At best I’d call them “tart”, but even that feels like a stretch. In the end, these feel like “baby’s first sour candy,” a jelly bean with maybe the barest hint of something “more”, but not enough to really stand out when shoved into an Easter basket.

Sour Patch Kids Extreme Sour

I don’t think anyone is going to make the argument that Sour Patch Kids (the basic flavors) are really that sour. They have a nice sour coating on the outside, but they very much go in for the “sour then sweet”, leaning hard on the sweet. The kids themselves, in basic form, are soft, sweet gummies and they taste good. Once that sour coating dissolves off, though, they aren’t sour, and the coating doesn’t last long. They’re a good starter sour candy, but at a certain point those with a love for pucker power will look for harder hits to take.

I have been burned in the past by statements of “super sour” on packages of sour candy. Most don’t live up to that hype and I generally expect that if you have to say your candy is “super sour” then it probably isn’t. Remarkably, though, Sour Patch Kids were able to put out a version, their Extreme Sour candies, that live up to the “super sour” flavor on the bag. There’s enough punch in these candies for my tongue to notice, and the flavor mix is just right to sate my desires for sour all day long.

Starting off, when you put one of these extreme sour kinds in your mouth, there’s a noticeable hit of bold sour. It’s strong, maybe even slightly painful for a second or two, which is the right kind of pop in my opinion. As you chew they do get sweeter, but not to the same level as normal Sour Patch Kids. If I had to guess I’d bet they mix a little of the sour flavor into the gummy mix, leading to candies that remain fairly bold (if not as sour) through the full experience. The flavors are strong, solid, and good, and I find myself popping them one after another to continue the sour ride.

With that said, there is one flaw with these candies, and it’s inherent to all the sour gummies on the market: once they get old enough, they get hard and chewy. The bag I bought was clearly on the cusp, and while I don’t know how long a bag of gummies has to sit to go from soft to firm, I find that too often these kinds of candies are in their firm and overly chewy state. This bag wasn’t as bad as some I’ve experienced, but they were still more toothsome than I would have liked. It slowed me down some, and I found I wanted to take breaks between chews. They’re still good, but I would have liked to get a fresher bag for a truly glorious experience.

Face Twisters Sour Taffy Combo

And now we have the surprise entrant. I saw this taffy bar at a local grocery store, mixed in with their July 4th supplies, and I grabbed it because, well, it was different and new (to me at least). I’ve never heard of Face Twisters before, but because of this one random bar sitting in a section of random stuff, I now have an entirely new brand to look for when I’m out and about on the prowl for sour confections.

The packaging for the bar is pretty simple. It has big “Sour” lettering on the front, and images of fruit, and that’s it. It doesn’t try to say it’s “extreme” or “super sour”, it just is sour. It was in the July 4th area because its two flavors are red and blue, Cherry and Blue Raspberry. You have to want the connection to be there to see it. The grocery store saw it, and I’m glad I at least noticed the candy as I went past because, yeah, it’s actually pretty good.

The two flavors of taffy aren’t super sour on their own. Each comes across as slightly tart, bold enough to be flavorful but not so sour as to cause pain. They strike me like Airheads flavors, but if Airheads could actually make a sour candy that was legitimately tart (and not just sad). The taffy isn’t as soft as Airheads, mind you, with a more firm, toothsome chew. Not bad, but certainly not the experience I expected from taffy (although I blame Airheads for that, too, as they’re the dominant taffy chew on the market, so they’ve trained me).

But once you bite in, and start chewing the bar, that’s when the sour comes out. There’s clearly a layer of sour mix in the middle, a strong bit of sour taffy that holds the two other flavors together. As you chew, the sour comes out, getting stronger and stronger until it’s almost painful. It’s like the opposite of every other sour candy, sweeter and then sour, until it’s slapping you in the face. I liked it, but then I like really sour candies, and I felt like this was the right mix of flavors to really suck me in.

I was surprised by this bar because, frankly, it’s hard to expect good flavor (let alone good sour flavor) from a “no name” brand. Face Twisters, though, impressed me, and I will now be looking for more of their candy to consume. It’s good stuff.