Purple Skittles Apparently Taste Different Outside The United States & It All Has To Do With Blackcurrants
There's something oddly comforting about the flavor associations we have with certain colors; red candies, for example, are almost always strawberry- or cherry-flavored, while purple is always grape. Or is it? Because I just learned that purple Skittles apparently taste different outside the United States, and it's shaking me to my core. Yes, Skittles. Yes, a candy. Yes, my core. I mean, it's fascinating, right? It is worthy of the core shaking. Also, it's Monday, and Mercury is retrograde, and I'm still recovering from the emotional high tide of the Harvest Moon eclipse, so yes, I'm feeling a little fragile right now. But seriously, you guys — the reason for the difference is so interesting.
The flavor of "purple" has, to me, always meant a very specific kind of grape; indeed, apparently faux grape taste is actually real Concord grape taste. But according to Atlas Obscura, in other parts of the world where Skittles are sold and consumed (primarily the UK and Australia), "purple" does not mean "grape." It means "blackcurrant."
If you are American and don't know what a blackcurrant is or tastes like, that's because blackcurrant farming was banned in the United States in the early 1900s, when the plant was a threat to the logging industry. Atlas Obscura notes that blackcurrant bushes were introduced to the Americas from Europe — but by the early 20th century, it was discovered that the bushes were spreading white pine blister rust, a fungus which rots wood. The growing of blackcurrants was subsequently banned on a federal level.
By the 1960s, though, federal regulations had chilled out; the decision on whether or not it was permissible to grow them was handed back down to each individual state. Today, some states, like Idaho, have a burgeoning blackcurrant scene. But in 1974, when Skittles were invented in Britain, the flavor was still unknown enough to American palates that it wouldn't have made sense to include it; so, although purple remained blackcurrant everywhere else, when the candy arrived in the United States in 1979, it became grape.
So what does blackcurrant taste like? The New Zealand Blackcurrant Cooperative describes it as follows:
A sweet, earth taste unlike other berries. Fresh gooseberry and passion fruit flavor aromas and hints of raspberry, combined with the floral aromatic notes of cornations and roses. An underlying tannic structure adds complexity and balance to the blackcurrant's acidity and sweetness. The aftertaste is fresh and sharply cleansing, with no residual sweetness.
Think tart, and think tangy. And honestly, I would like to know where I can get some. Because I do love grape, but there's something to be said for expanding your palate, you know?