Sweaty palms, tears and scrunched-up noses aren’t typical reactions in a sweet shop.
But those who know the now infamous secret housed in Havelock North’s Birdwoods Sweet Shop may understand the feeling.
Sitting on the corner shelf, emboldened with large block lettering warning those under 8-years old not to eat them, lies what could possibly be the sourest lolly created.
A drizzly Wednesday afternoon soon brought the heat to this reporter, who was sent as a sacrificial lamb to see what all the fuss was about.
You’re greeted with two things when you enter the charming heritage cottage on the outskirts of Havelock North.
The first is the friendly face of Lynne Nicoll, Glenn Irwin, or any of the other welcoming confectionery crew.
Second is the childhood-inducing aroma of sweet and sour delicacies from across the globe that line the wooden walls.
If you want to take the plunge and try the sour surprise, Nicoll, who’s worked there for 11 years, will lay down the ground rules.
“It’s a boiled lolly with a sour coating that comes from the UK,” she said, revealing the original packaging for Barnett’s Mega Sour Fruits.
“I don’t let people spit them out. Once it’s in your mouth it’s got to stay in your mouth, so be warned.”
The team import the sweet regularly, she said. They have a lot of sour sweets, but Nicoll said these would be “10 times sourer” than your average.
“We’ve been selling it for the last four or five years, but it could be longer. All of a sudden, it’s become a very popular sweet.”
People old and young have come from afar to sample the dubious delicacy, not fearing the restricted-8 warning.
Along with the warning, official advice on the packaging warns that excessive consumption of the Barnetts sweets could cause temporary mouth or stomach irritation.
“Often I say to people I need to see your birth certificate before you can buy one,” Nicoll joked.
With Birdwoods being a popular tourist destination, it’s often-unwitting cruise ship passengers who get stung, as well as their oblivious family members back home.
“People come back again and again for them because they’ve tried them once. Some people also come back and buy them as a joke.”
Even grandads aren’t exempt when it comes to giving the sweets a try. She recalls seeing an older gentleman, who had a fondness for sour things, shocked at the taste.
“It was absolutely hilarious. Some people even come in just for sour sweets.”
Jo Styles and Henry Stephenson from Ōtaki were some of the eager travellers attempting to brave the sweet on Wednesday, expressing positive sentiments after their experience.
“We usually have competitions with the nephews and nieces to see who can hold the sour ones in their mouth their longest. I think I win every time,” Styles said.
Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in late January. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community. He has a particular love for stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.