The inspiration behind Cayman’s first Taffy Company was a little unusual to say the least.
Co-owner Doug McPherson’s wife, xxx, had a craving while pregnant a couple of years ago for ice cream, pickles and saltwater taffy. The ice cream and pickles were, as you can imagine, easy to source on island. The taffy remained somewhat elusive.
Determined to bring taffy to Cayman – and to perhaps prevent many other future fathers going off on a useless search for the sweet – it wasn’t long until Doug had enlisted friend Kevin Macphie.
After a tireless search tracking down the taffy recipe – according to Doug it is a closely guarded secret by those in the sweet making industry – and endless taffy-making attempts, the entrepreneurial confectionery duo have fine tuned their candy-making skills and finally set up shop.
The result is Cayman Taffy Company at Seven Mile Shops on West Bay Road, which opened its doors last month.
Cheerily painted in soft pastel hues, customers are greeted with the sweet smell of saltwater taffy in almost every flavour imaginable.
Large barrels overflow with exotic flavours such as coconut, Jamaican rum, pina colada, mango, banana and watermelon. Traditionalist will enjoy such tempting flavours as orange, strawberry and vanilla.
Their biggest seller out of the 17 flavours is peanut butter and chocolate. New ones are added regularly.
All taffy is made fresh on the premises and visitors can watch the entire process as Doug and Kevin make up batches of the mouth-watering, preservative free candy, using restored vintage equipment, some dating back 100 years.
A soft chewy candy, the history of saltwater taffy can be traced back to the seashore of Atlantic City, New Jersey, US, where in the late 19th century it became the quintessential souvenir of a trip to the beach. Why it is called saltwater taffy remains a mystery, although many credit it to the fact that it was a seaside treat.
The recipe is remarkably simple, although the two confectioners are shy to divulge exact details.
First a mixture of sugar, water, butter, corn syrup and flavourings – this is certainly not health food – is mixed together.
Next it is heated to a precise cooking temperature in large copper kettles for about half an hour.
The taffy is then poured onto a special water-cooled table where it is left for a further half hour. Once it has reached the correct consistency it is transferred to a stretcher for about five minutes where it becomes light and fluffy, doubling in size.
At this point, a marbling affect or additional flavour is sometimes added.
It is then rolled and fed into the wrapping machine which cuts it down into bite-sized pieces. The whole process takes about two hours.
Customers can either pick and mix their own bags of taffy, or buy one of the many pre-packaged souvenir items, including buckets, bags and coffee mugs filled with the sweet tasting candy.
The dynamic duo make about a batch a day, each one with a shelf-life of about 90 days.
‘It’s the ideal treat in hot weather because unlike chocolate it doesn’t melt,’ Doug said.
The two confectioners hope to branch out into making other types of candy by the end of the year, offering those with a sweet tooth plenty of choice. Saltwater taffy is just the sweet beginning.