Very few food companies would want to deliberately torment their customers (tormenting them accidentally is another matter), but somehow Jelly Belly has gotten away with it.
The company makes all kind of exotic-flavored jelly beans, of course, including watermelon, cotton candy and even beer. But they also have their so-called “wacky flavors” as well — earwax, booger, even vomit-flavored beans.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you probably got a box of Bertie Botts’ Jelly Beans at some point, which mixed together traditional and, shall we say, more adventurous flavors together. But the outside of the box was a guide that always told you what you were getting, so you could avoid the soap-flavored candy if you wanted to.
You get no such respite with “Bean Boozled,” Jelly Belly’s game that is essentially Russian roulette with jelly beans. Me and the family broke out a box one Sunday night, along with plenty of napkins and water, and put it to the test.
The game is simple. Each box is full of lookalike jelly beans which could be one of two flavors. Is that mottle light brown bean caramel corn, or moldy cheese? Is the black one licorice or skunk spray? Is the light green one lime, or lawn clippings?
Now, each of us has different thresholds for taste — I don’t think I’d actually mind a lawn clippings Jelly Belly on a hot summer day. So the game includes a spinner, which decides for you which color you’re going to try. Then you pick a bean and hope for the best.
The first time we went around the table, I spun and got the mottled dark green bean — juicy pear or booger? I nervously selected a bean and bit into it.
It always takes a couple of bites to really figure out what Jelly Belly flavor you’re eating. I soon realized that I wasn’t tasting the sweet and sour tang of juicy pear. Booger.
And I have to say? Not bad. I mean, not great, but kind of a savory, sticky bean that was vaguely unpleasant, but very do-able. I polished it off.
The spinner went around the table. My oldest daughter pulled chocolate pudding or canned dog food, and got canned dog food, which was disgusting, apparently. My fiancee’s youngest son was given the white bean, which could be coconut or baby wipes. He hates both those flavors, which may have been an advantage or a disadvantage.
Then the spinner came back to me and pointed to a yellowish tan bean. Buttered popcorn, or rotten egg? A couple bites in, I knew. Rotten egg.
Let me digress here and point you to this article from Mental Floss, in which Jelly Belly representatives explain how they get the “wacky flavors” of Jelly Belly so accurate. I bring this up because the rotten egg Jelly Belly was absolutely, authentically disgusting. I felt my gag reflex engage as the noxious taste filled my mouth. I think I almost swore in front of the kids. I was going to hardcore it and finish the egg, but finally had to dash to the kitchen sink and spit it out.
Even writing about it, I can still remember the taste. It was traumatic.
The spinner went around. My fiancé got caramel corn/moldy cheese, and bit into moldy cheese, which grossed her out enough to knock her out of the game. Her oldest son, bizarrely, kept picking the “good” flavors every time.
Soon, too soon, the spinner was back in front of me. I silently prayed I would get blueberry/toothpaste, which sounded like a choice I could handle.
Nope. Licorice or skunk spray.
And of course I got skunk spray, which was an intense and almost painful taste hitting my mouth. I didn’t bother trying to tough it out, and just spit it out. Great job getting that one right, Jelly Belly. It was like eating a skunk’s butt.
Most everybody had dropped out by this point, but the spinner went around one more time and back to me. Coconut or baby wipes? I don’t think I even know what baby wipes taste like, but it had to be better than skunk spray or rotten egg, right?
Fearful, I bit into the pearly white Jelly Belly. And my mouth was flooded with the sweet taste of coconut. Seriously, it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Nothing enhances flavor like relief.
I’m not sure how you actually “win” Bean Boozled — by stopping? Anyway, for the strong of stomach, it was a pretty fun time with the kids at least once. I just hope I don’t acquire a taste for booger.