Interested to find out what we deem as the best sweets from England? It’s a tough battle, but here are the top English sweets to spend your pennies on…
England is famous for a lot of things. The Royal Family, for instance. Or Big Ben. What about The Beatles? Oh, and afternoon tea. And don’t forget our national obsession with carrying umbrellas (because it has been known to rain here occasionally).
But if there’s one thing this country should be celebrated for, it’s our world-leading sweets. ‘Candy’ in England is taken very seriously — in fact, it’s ingrained in our culture. The best UK sweets have been spiking our blood sugar levels for centuries and some of the varieties we suck on today were favourites way back in the 1800s. Others are more modern but have still been around long enough for many of us to associate with happy childhood memories.
If you’re enjoying a day out in England and need something satisfyingly saccharine for the journey, fill up a ‘Pick n Mix’ bag with these 17 best English sweets. Just don’t tell your dentist…
English Sweets: The Classics
These British sweets have been around so long that your great grandfather’s grandfather probably got them stuck in his teeth…
Head to any major English seaside town and you’ll find shops selling sticks of rock. The hard-boiled sugary cylinders usually have the name of the tourist hotspot embedded throughout their length, which is about a foot (30cm).
They taste of mint and one could easily take a few days to consume, or, you can just challenge your teeth to finish it as quick as possible. Also, half-eaten rock gets a bit slobbery and sticky so if you ever find yourself worrying about hygiene, this probably isn’t for you.
Like sticks of rock, Humbugs are mint flavoured, as many of the oldest sweets in England are. Their unique selling point is a toffee centre, which you get to once you’ve made it through the tough sugary shell. Mostly favoured by senior members of society, you can guarantee any English grandmother will have a few humbugs knocking around in the bottom of her handbag.
3. Pear Drops
Old sweets in the UK tend to be long lasting!
As classic boiled sweets from England go, Pear Drops are up there with the best. As the name suggests, they’re a little fruity (although definitely won’t count towards your five-a-day) and probably take about 10 minutes to fully dissolve in your mouth. So rest assured that you’re getting value for money.
4. Liquorice Comfits
These brightly-coloured mini tubes look fun and fruity but as the name suggests they pack a liquorice punch — which can be divisive. If you’re not a fan of aniseedy flavours and pick a handful out of the bag thinking they’re a kind of jelly bean, prepare to have your day ruined.
5. Liquorice Allsorts
In terms of sheer liquorice intensity, Allsorts are far friendlier than Comfits, with a few fruity and coconutty flavours thrown into the mix. Their popularity was driven in part by Bertie Bassett, a character made of different Liquorice Allsorts, who appeared in various advertising campaigns over the years. These are some of the most iconic sweets in England, although, probably not a nationwide favourite for flavour. Again, an English sweet favoured by the older generations.
If you’re from overseas and this is your first foray into ‘English candy’ these will be a wild ride for you.
6. Jelly Babies
These classic English sweets originated in the nineteenth century. Years later, at the height of Beatlemania, George Harrison admitted to an interviewer that they were a favourite of his. That led The Beatles’ fans to pelt the band with Jelly Babies wherever they went, which, let’s be honest, seems like a bit of a waste. You have to try these powdery jelly delights, although, the whole bag makes you feel sick. Fact.
Sweets in England: The Childhood Favourites
These retro sweets from England are pure nostalgia for many of us…
7. Black Jacks and Fruit Salads
These are two types of incredibly chewy sweet. Black Jacks, the liquorice-flavoured version, were mainly eaten on your way to school so you could show off your black-stained tongue to your mates when you arrived in the playground. Fruit Salads, the lighter, zestier version, acted as a palate cleanser.
8. Wine Gums
Do Wine Gums have any actual wine in them? No. But as a child that didn’t stop you from scoffing handfuls of the fruity chews and pretending you were drunk.
9. Beer Bottles
Booze-themed confectionery is definitely a thing here, which may or may not be surprising, given how central pubs are to our culture. Like Wine Gums, Beer Bottles don’t actually share the same alcohol percentage as the beverage they’re named after, and they’re less likely to give you the hiccups. Although, they do have a rather pleasing beery taste.
At the creepier end of the scale are these milk gums, which are shaped like your granddad’s dentures. A symbol of things to come, perhaps, if you eat too many of these sweets from England.
11. Love Hearts
Back in school, if you wanted to profess your undying love for one of your classmates, you offered them one of these slightly fizzy tablet-shaped sweets. That’s because they’re embossed with messages such as ‘Be Mine’, ‘Hot Lips’, ‘Let’s Party’ or the slightly feistier ‘Dream On’.
Who says romance is dead?
These luminous yellow, eye-wateringly sour lemon-flavoured bars aren’t for the faint of heart. Nor the loose of teeth — Refreshers are so incredibly chewy you can dislodge a molar eating one. Although kids won’t mind as that usually means a visit from the tooth fairy. Kerr-ching!
13. Pink Shrimps
These brightly-coloured English sweets might look like crustaceans, but thankfully they’re fruit- rather than prawn-flavoured. Definitely among the tastiest sweets from England.
14. Space Dust
It may sound like an illegal substance, but don’t worry — Space Dust is a fizzy, popping candy. And while it will make your mouth feel funny, it’s definitely not mind-altering. Always fun to knock the whole packet back in one and feel it fizz down your throat. Just don’t follow up with Coca Cola, it’ll all come out of your nose.
Candy in England: The Newcomers
The English sweets we’ve mentioned so far have been around for many years. But don’t miss out on these tasty newcomers…
15. Percy Pigs
These hog-themed chews have only been around since the 2000s, but they’re iconic enough to have been featured in British Vogue. Apparently, we chomp through more than 20 million packs every year. And just to put your mind at rest, they don’t actually contain any pork.
A day trip in England isn’t complete without a stop at a motorway service station, and if you’re lucky, there’ll be an M&S there where you can pick a bag of these beauties up for the journey.
16. Jelly Snakes
Sometimes, life just calls for a wiggly fruit chew. If that sums up your mood, it’s time to reach for the Jelly Snakes. They’re a little like Wine Gums, but longer and more reptilian. It’s a good idea to eat the heads first to avoid being lulled into a hypnotic trance. Jelly Snakes are a really good texture, taste and shape – what’s not to love about these sweets in England?
They’re about 5 million times tastier than (overrated) Haribo.
17. Refresher Softies
Earlier we talked about the teeth-extracting powers of the Refresher bar. Thankfully its makers have now come up with a softer, bite-sized version that’s a little easier on the jaw. They’re the ideal thing to share on a train journey or road trip, but are totally addictive.
The best UK sweets
So there you have it! If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love the candy in England. We’re only writing ‘candy’ in England to welcome our American friends – they’re known as sweets here.
We’ve only mentioned a few of the varieties available, but they’re undoubtedly some of the best. Just try not to eat them all at once – the sugar high is real!