The exact origins of the jelly bean are unclear, but they first came to public attention during the American Civil War, when Boston-based William Schrafft urged people to send his jelly beans to soldiers on the front.
Jelly beans are thought to be a combination of the Turkish Delight, with its soft, chewy centre, and Jordan Almonds’ candy shell. The jelly centre is shaped into a bean, and wrapped in a soft candy shell via a process called “panning”, where the jelly is tumbled in a pan of syrup until coated and dried into a layer. Jelly beans go through “soft” panning, which create much thicker and softer coats than hard-panning, and the syrup (typically glucose) does not crystallise, so powdered or caster sugar must be added to help it dry.
It was sold as a penny candy in America, loose candy that is sold by weight or by the piece, depending on how much you scoop into a bag, and remained popular until chocolate came into the picture in the early 20th century.
The idea behind gourmet jelly beans was to create a jelly bean using natural flavours wherever possible. The very first gourmet jelly beans were created by the famous Jelly Belly company in 1976, and came in eight flavours: Very Cherry, Lemon, Tangerine, Green Apple, Grape, Root Beer, Cream Soda, and Licorice.
US President Ronald Reagan was famously fond of jelly beans, and the Blueberry flavour was created in his honour, to be eaten in the Oval Office as part of a patriotic set of red-white-blue beans.
April 22 is officially known as National Jelly Bean Day.