Located a little over an hour away from San Francisco in the town of Fairfield, the Jelly Belly factory produces millions of jelly beans a day. Free tours are given every 15 minutes and last approximately 40 minutes. If the magic of the process is not enough to entice you to go, think about the free Jelly Bellies they give you at the end of the tour. But I’m getting ahead of myself… We watched as the whizzing machinery belted out trays filled with rainbow arrays of beans. Our tour guide Christine took us through the each step of the process, explaining how the centers were made, how they were coated, polished and stamped with the Jelly Belly name. The factory floor was filled with rows of cement mixer-looking steel pots, mechanical arms to move the trays, and floors dusted with sugar. Without giving away the trade secrets, we discovered that actual essences of the flavors being reproduced were used. These flavors were used in each step of the process, ensuring that the intense flavor was consistent throughout the entire jelly bean. The part of the process I thought was most important was the quality control. In one of the finals stages, the jelly beans were passed through a large cylinder with holes that matched what the right jelly bean shape should be. Those which were too large or just malformed would not pass through. These beans were branded as outcasts, named Belly Flops, and would never receive the Jelly Belly stamp.
After the tour, all I had on my one track mind was Belly Flops. They are perfectly good, minus the shapes and the lack of the stamp. But they sell at a deeply discounted rate. At the time, they had a sale for a 2 pound bag for $8 (a 50% discount). If you buy two, then the third bag is free. Okay, 6 pounds of Jelly Bellies sounds a bit overkill, but you can share with your friends. They also had a sample bar where you can try some of the Jelly Bellies if you aren’t sure if you will like them. Jalapeno sound intriguing, but don’t know if you want to commit yourself without knowing how they taste? Want to just see if buttered toast actually tastes like buttered toast? Want to know if juicy pear is really all that juicy? The sample bar- what a wonderful idea!