Striking Candy’s Perfect Sour Note

This Halloween, Scare and Satisfy Your Taste Buds with These Staff Picks

From classic Warheads and Sour Patch Kids to Japanese import Super Lemon and the super bad Sour Smog Balls, our team tested a wide array of tart treats for your benefit this Halloween season. 
Paul Wellman

Forget chocolate, caramels, and licorice. Never mind taffy, fudge, and lollipops. Give us the sour stuff. The more sour, the better.

There’s a small group of us here at the Independent with a sweet tooth, we admit, that trends a little juvenile. But this Halloween, rather than hide our habit, we’re sharing our expert opinions on the Technicolor trove of sour options out there. Fellow sour freaks will appreciate the nuanced analysis here. Dreary ol’ chocolate eaters should pass it on to their trick-or-treat-aged kids.

We’ve divided the reviews into two categories: the mild, fruity varieties appropriate for recreational eaters, and the eye-watering, mouth-puckering brands that only the brave should attempt. Each gets a score out of 10. Please crunch and chew responsibly.


Sour Patch Kids: A legend of the candy world, Sour Patch Kids are a delectable, soft treat steeped in childhood nostalgia and sprinkled with charmingly chunky sugar crystals. They possess the near-perfect balance of sweet and sour that many confectionaries have tried but failed to emulate. They’re so good, a bag at the movies tends to disappear before the previews end. Don’t mess with success. (9.5)

Sour Punch Straws: Another classic from the bygone days of bike rides to the corner store, Sour Punch Straws aren’t super-sour, but they more than make up for their mildness with a juicy flavor and satisfyingly tough texture. Take small bites down the length, or just wad the whole thing into your mouth. We picked the watermelon flavor for this review but prefer apple. Used as an actual straw, the strawberry pairs nicely with a sipped can of vintage Sierra Mist. (8)

Jelly Belly Sours: Your mom’s jelly beans these ain’t. Fluorescently colored and fulfillingly tart, Jelly Belly Sours can and should be consumed by the handful. Each flavor profile ― apple, cherry, grape, lemon, and orange ― pops with a proud individualism, a rarity among the usually homogenous tastes of corn-syrup-based candies. As pleasant as these are, we wish they had a little more oomph. (6.5)

Mamba Sour: Regular Mambas are the overlooked cousins of Starburst ― individually wrapped chews with that distinctive and satisfying waxen bite. Mamba’s sour line attempts to capture their original magic and add a layer of acidity, but tragically falls short on both counts. We were left with flavors so artificial they were almost metallic and a firmer density that hurt our jaws and made us drool. No thanks. (3)

Sour Smog Balls: Run away. Far away. This abomination seemed promising ― made as it was by the creators of Toxic Waste, which we’ll get to later ― but it’s a disaster on every possible level. The crunchy outer shell is sharp, brittle, and seemingly stale, while the goopy innards sit like a puddle of dumpster water on the tongue. Every flavor is worse than the last, all of them leaving the victim with an aftertaste like the smell of plastic in the microwave. We’re not mad, just disappointed. Okay, we’re a little mad too. (-10)


Super Lemon: This was a real find for us. Nobel brand Super Lemon is a major hit in Japan, where it’s made, but can be tough to track down in the States. We got ours at Rocket Fizz on State Street. The candy is a heavenly sphere dusted with a super-sour coating that awakens all five senses and then lulls the taste buds into a trance of lemony ecstasy. Let it orbit around your mouth for the sustained experience, or bite down with abandon. Fear not a chipped tooth ― the marble-sized ball shatters like the glassy top of a crème brûlée. (10)

Warheads: The granddaddy of high-octane sours with the appropriately self-important brand tagline: “Spreading sour as a force of good.” These things hit the mouth with the power of a high-speed sports car. They sting and scream across the palate before slamming into the cheeks and jawbone. We love it, though we’re not sure why. People who’ve eaten too many in a row have actually burned holes in their tongues. So be careful, and stick to the hard candies. Warheads also make chews, liquids, and sprays. They’re all pretty gross. (9)

Toxic Waste: On par with Warheads, Toxic Waste tips the sour scale way into the red. They come in a nifty barrel-shaped container oozing with neon sludge that asks how long you can stand the pain ― 15 seconds? “Total Wuss!” Thirty seconds? “Cry Baby!” An entire glorious minute? “FULL TOXIE HEAD!” The disc-shaped hard candy has a slower sour release than Warheads, creeping up to a crescendo before gliding back down to a more tolerable volume. But don’t let your guard down ― the inner core also packs a wallop. (8.5)

Cry Baby Tears: If you’re a novice to the sport of extreme souring, Cry Baby Tears are the perfect stepping stool to the big leagues. They’re of the chalky candy variety that hums with a consistent level of sour accentuated by some nicely balanced fruit flavors. If you’re not a chalky person, however, steer clear. We had a couple people spit ’em right out. (6.5)


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