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Good Taste: Jelly Belly Visitor Center and Factory Tour
April 3, 2006 by Howard Blas

Jelly Belly Visitor Center and Factory Tour One Jelly Belly Lane Fairfield, California Tel.: 800-JB-BEANS Tour info: 800-953-5592 Free drop-in tours daily 9am-4pm (A train and video tour are also offered at a second plant, in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin; tel.: 866-TOUR-JBC), Kosher

For an experience that will please your palate in an anti- “Sideways” sort of way, head through California’s Napa and Sonomo Valley wine country to the Solano Industrial Park, home of the Jelly Belly factory.

For the uninitiated, Jelly Belly jelly beans are colorful, four-calorie, no-fat treats that come in assorted flavors like buttered popcorn, cappuccino, watermelon and margarita. A special line of sugar-free, sour and “rookie” flavors (honey graham cracker, apricot and chocolate cherry cake, to name a few of the latter) are also available.

A 40-foot smiling red jelly bean with a chef’s hat greets you as you line up for the 40-minute tour of the 35,000-square-foot visitors center. Along the way, view the jelly bean art on the walls and the shrine to late president Ronald Reagan, known for his over- consumption of jelly beans dating back to his first run for governor in 1966, or grab a menu-and-recipes brochure, available in assorted languages, including Hebrew. From atop the elevated walkways, you can watch the candy-making process, from cooking and molding, through coating, finishing and polishing. Short video clips teach you that “it is estimated that over 14 billion jelly beans will be eaten this year” and that the Jelly Belly name can be printed on the candy at a rate of 20,700 beans per minute.

Then, in keeping with wine country tradition, you get to taste the fare: three flavors at a time, multiple times, from a candy scooper in the gift shop. We tried jalapeno pepper, followed by garlic, with a chocolate pudding chaser. So indulge. No designated driver needed here.

Howard Blas
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