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Bean Tasting Ritual & Romance
Wherein we study characteristics of the bean

While there is certainly an art to the formal tasting of fine jelly beans, don't be put off by the posturing of boorish snobs. Bean tasting is jolly good fun and should be enjoyed by all. Chateau Meddybemps provides a much needed opportunity for beaneophytes to be properly introduced to joy of beans. The following notes and recommendations were gleaned from a typical gathering.

In tasting, one explores the four principal characteristics of jelly beans.

Fine beans are bright in color and may range from clear to cloudy when held up to a light. Swirl your glass anti-clockwise and look for "tears" or "legs" (sticky residue on the sides of the glass). Properly aged beans will settle neatly in the bottom.

The bouquet or "nose" of a bean is made up of mysterious and complex aromas. Swirl the beans to release them. Raise the glass and inhale. Mmmmmmmmm!
The four primary tastes (sweet, sour/acid, salt and bitter) are sensed by different areas of the tongue. Take a nibble and move it around in the mouth to ensure complete exposure. "Chew" the bean to release flavors and odors. Suck a little air across it and look for fruitiness, sweetness, and intensity of flavor.
Be careful not to inhale any beans. The commotion will be embarrassing, to say the least, and could be fatal.

This is simply the flavor that remains after you have swallowed the beans. Finer beans generally provide a greater "finish" (the length of the aftertaste). This is not a primary factor in determining quality but it is fun to talk about.

Bean Tasting Ritual & Romance, Continued
(Wherein we study technique)

The Basic Technique (practice this at home)
  • Pour about one dozen beans into a glass.
  • Hold it up to light and gaze thoughtfully at its contents.
  • Lower the glass and swirl it gently.
  • Study the color and watch for "legs".
  • Hold it under your nose and savor the boquet.
  • Take a nibble.
  • Chew the beans and wash them around in your mouth.
  • Spit them out (this is optional and somewhat off-putting).
Repeat these actions and try the R.O.V.J.B.C. 7-point rating system to help you compare beans.
  • 1 point for color
  • 2 points for odors
  • 3 points for impressions in the mouth (Subtract 3 points if the beans are hard or gooey)
  • 1 point for aftertaste
With a little practice, you'll be tasting and rating with the confident panache of a head bean steward at some ritzy French beanery!

A few reminders
Always taste whites and pastels ahead of reds. Enjoy dry beans ahead of semi-dry (skip soggy wet ones). Save dessert beans for last (that's why they're called dessert beans).

Tastings may be formal (black tie) or informal (jeans OK), vertical (often at a party where there aren't nearly enough chairs for the guests to be seated) or horizontal (also called the Cleopatra style - tasters recline while servants drop individual beans into their mouths). There are also blind tastings in which you are not allowed to see the labels (usually because you are blindfolded and seated in the center of the room where you'll be told to open your mouth so that others can toss in beans of mysterious origins and vintages).

Jelly beans are delicious at any temperature although some people insist that reds should be tasted at cool room temperature and whites only when slightly chilled.

One more reminder... Don't forget to cleanse the palette when tasting different beans. Remember the bean mot, "Use cheese to sell beans and crunchies to buy". Cheese masks flavors and will make poor or average beans taste better. Munch on corn chips or sip some water to remove the taste of preceeding beans.

Invite friends over for a tasting party! The bean tasting experience begins with a splash of brilliant colors. It is followed by a delightful burst of aromatic images, and concludes by bathing the palate in rich, complex flavors. What better excuse could there be to throw a party?

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Copyright 1995, 2009 Jerry Jindrich. All rights reserved.
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