Have you ever heard of Taveners candy? If yes, then we salute you as a true candy connoisseur. If not, don't feel bad. Not many have, at least not outside the UK, even though it has been going strong for almost 120 years now.
Let's rectify that! Here's what you should know about Britain's beloved candy manufacturer (and maybe try a candy or two of theirs yourself).
What is Taveners?
Taveners is one of the oldest UK-based confectionery brands, mostly known for its hardboiled sweets like hard candy drops and caramels, with pastilles, wine gums, and fondant candy mixed into the assortment.
While outside its native country Taveners has little name recognition, its sizable candy collection, long history, and a very recognizable brand mascot (a charmingly smiling gentleman with a top hat, standing by a bicycle) have earned it love and appreciation among the masses, even if some of their regular customers still cannot remember the name.
It's a shame, considering Taveners long and steady presence in the confectionery world. We're here to rectify that. A brand as old and reputable as Taveners deserves to have its name known, at least among food connoisseurs.
The History Behind One of the UK's Oldest Candy Brands:
A man by the name of William Henry Tavener established what is now one UK's oldest steady-going candy brands in 1904.
The interesting little tidbit most websites mention about this guy is that he didn't start out with dreams of becoming a candy magnate. Initially, his interests lay in pickling and making sauces. He was already an established food manufacturer when he decided that pickles and sauces were good, but he was so used to them that they weren't enough to occupy his mind.
The official Taveners website didn't mention when exactly his spheres of interest shifted from savory foods to sweets, but it does say that when William Henry Tavener got invested in something, he went full throttle. Once he decided that hardboiled candy was what he wanted to devote his time to, the man became obsessed.
And what William Henry Tavener was obsessed with creating was a piece of single best naturally flavored hard candy. This was not a man interested in looking for shortcuts, and he made that clear from the moment he first started producing hardboiled sweets at his shop in 1889.
What the official website doesn't mention is that for William Henry Tavener, the successful businessman, the sweet-making was an exciting side gig, but he wasn't in a rush to create a confectionary empire. He would likely never take the candy-making out of his little shop, but then his sons got involved.
William Henry Tavener is the name most tightly associated with Taveners candy, but the real mastermind behind the company's transformation into a confectionary giant was his son, Herbert.
Herbert Tavener was an active-duty combatant in World War I. Once the war was over, and he came back home, he needed something to occupy himself with. So he convinced his father to sell him the sweet-making side of his business.
Tracking down the details is tricky since most sources barely stop to mention William's sons when discussing the company's success, but we do know that by 1928, Tavener candy-making process transferred to a four-story factory in Vauxhall (Liverpool) that couldn't keep up with the demand.
Around this time, Herbert's younger brother, Henry, left whatever he was doing and joined his brother's efforts to take over Britain's candy-making market. The factory was transferred to a building on Beech Street, with a new wave of product expansion following in the early 1930s. During this time, the brothers added some of the company's signature products to the lineup, including the uber-popular "chocolate eclairs" (candy, not the pastry).
Since the 1980s, Taveners has changed ownership a few times, finally joining the lineup of Irish food giant Valeo Foods under the Tangerine Confectionery. Tangerine Confectionery has since been redubbed into Valeo Confectionery (what can I say, branding is a harsh business, just ask Mark Zuckerberg with all the Meta stuff).
But while the management was changing hands, it was business as usual on ground zero: the candies are still made in the Liverpool factory on Beech Street, using the same original recipes, churning out the signature hard candy drops, pastilles, gums, and more, carefully wrapped in packages branded with a charming gentleman in a top hat.
Why Tavener's Candy is Still Going Strong Over a Century Later:
And maybe that's why almost 120 years later, Taveners candy is still staple British candy, even if you aren't likely to encounter many people who know the name outside the country's borders.
Regardless of the changes in the management, Taveners has remained dutifully loyal to the initial vision of William Henry Tavener: make good sweets, use natural ingredients, and emphasize well-balanced flavors.
Taveners' sweets are an inextricable part of many kids' childhoods, the retro candy bringing adults back into their school years with every bite.
But that's the thing: the well-balanced, moderately sweet flavors without annoyingly cloying notes characteristic of many modern sweets are easily enjoyed by adults as well, even those who don't boast much of a sweet tooth.
Maybe that's the secret: well-balanced flavors are easy to enjoy even as you grow up and your tastes change. It's not just nostalgia being a powerful ingredient; it's candy being genuinely good.
Taveners' Signature Candies Everyone Should Try:
Taveners might not have the highest brand recognition in the country, even under their own parent company (that is, arguably, Anthon Berg, though its name also isn't the most well-known one). What it does have is the most extensive assortment of products among the brands owned by Valeo Confectionery.
People opting for "candy with bicycle man" often comes with little name recognition but strong visual association. For one, while modern PR teams would likely opt for a more straightforward visual ambassador, the Bicycle Man is very recognizable. For another, the candy itself (both packaging and shape) has long become a staple.
This combination of recognizable visual stimuli and much-appreciated unique taste has made Taveners a worthwhile investment for Valeo.
That said, even among Taveners' vast assortment, some candies reign supreme over others. If you've never had any Taveners candy before, these are probably the ones to start with:
An interesting flavor combination of caramel and mint, these candies are more moderately sweet than a typical caramel candy would be. If you love the overall caramel flavor, but the overt sweetness starts to irritate you or feel unpleasant after a while, these little candy drops might be the answer! The light hint of mint tempers the sweetness and adds a touch of pleasant freshness to the candy. The mint itself isn't significantly expressed, essentially remaining an undertone, so even those who denounce the choco-mint combination might find this one enjoyable.
Sour Lemon Drops
Most candy companies offer lemon candy; it's one of the most popular flavors among hard candy drops. So, this option might not feel like something to write home about at first sight. But it does have a winning card up its sleeve: the flavor stands much closer to the original citrus than most other candies. While most lemon-flavored sweets tend to temper the sour notes with sugariness, only leaving hints of authentic lemony taste, Taveners leans into the tart, tooth-cutting flavor as much as it can. The sweetness is there, but it's tempered, letting the more natural citrusy flavor shine.
Coffee, too, has become a favored flavor among hard candy drops, but Taveners once again leans into the original flavor more than others tend to. The coffee flavor is robust and well-expressed, and the sweetness is more moderate and leveled than coffee-flavored desserts typically tend to be. While letting the bitterness shine through in coffee-flavored desserts has become a more favored choice recently, finding similar qualities in candy is still not so common. These drops might catch your interest if you're looking for candy with a well-expressed coffee flavor.
One of Taveners signature products and likely its most visually recognizable one, coconut mushrooms, are precisely what it says on the tin: small mushroom-shaped candy with coconut flavor. Coconut mushrooms are fondant candy, which significantly ups their sweetness level compared to the hard candy drops. The mushroom cap is brown due to the thick layer of chocolate and is generously dusted with coconut flakes. The chocolate-coconut flavor combination is nicely balanced and more strongly expressed than the fondant.
Another rather unique member of Taveners' candy lineup, chocolate limes are a hardboiled candy with a soft center. The candies have a very strongly expressed lime flavor with a pleasant sourness that doesn't go into bitterness and is well-balanced with the creamy smooth chocolate center. It may seem like a rather odd combination of flavors on the first try, but the more you have it, the more addictive it feels. It's a flavor that hits almost all of the human palate's weak points: there's sourness, there's sweetness, there's crunchiness, there's creaminess. It's primed to be odd and memorable and yet unexpectedly enjoyable.
Assorted Flavor Candy Drops
Almost all candy companies offer a similar assortment, and it's no surprise Taveners isn't an exception. The two most prominent candy assortments in their lineup are the classic Assorted Fruit Candy Drops and Assorted Tropical Fruit Candy Drops. The former is focused on traditional citrus flavors, with lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit flavors mingling together in the tin. The flavors are moderately sweet but without overwhelming the pleasant citrusy bite, making them feel less sugary and more well-balanced. The Tropical Candy Assortment ranges wider in flavor profiles, combining pineapple, passion fruit, kiwi, and peach candies. The pineapple and peach lean more into classics, while passion fruit and kiwi add more original flavor notes. It's a well-balanced assortment most people will find pleasing and yet novel.
Contrary to what you might think, chocolate eclairs are not pastry. It's a type of candy, very famous in the UK. Chocolate eclairs are elongated crunchy caramel candy with a smooth and creamy chocolate center, not unlike the chocolate limes we discussed earlier, only with a bit less unique flare. Originally made famous by the mega-corporation Cadbury, who've discontinued the production, those who miss the classic flavor now flock to Taveners.
No, wine gums are not made of wine. They're a type of candy prevalent in Britain: firm but chewy pastilles, most commonly flavored with fruit. The most exciting characteristic of wine gums is their fun shapes: kidney, crown, rhombus, etc. Wine gums may be named after wines or other alcoholic drinks but contain no alcohol unless labeled otherwise.
Wine gums are basically hard candy drops transformed into chewy pastilles: the same robust fruity taste but a different texture.
To the surprise of absolutely no one who knows a bit of candy history, a company that's been around for over a century boasts a large selection of licorice candies. This classic flavor is a must for any self-respected hard candy producer, and Taveners steps up to the challenge: its licorice hard candy drops are intensely flavorful, with typical licorice bitterness and sourness nicely tempered by delicate sweetness, and accentuated with a hint of saltiness. Taveners' selection includes classic soft licorice candy and Pontefract cakes (chewy round licorice pastilles), but the hard candy drops are our favorites.
Check Out Yummy Bazaar's Online Candy Store for More!
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Image Source: Taveners candy images taken from the official website.