Why Do Peppermint Candies Form Holes As They Dissolve?

There are few things I enjoy more than treating myself to a piece of candy. I’m not a huge fan of sweets, but every once in a while, I’ll grab a bag of Skittles, Sour Patch Kids or even just a basic restaurant mint on my way out the door. Those mints, innocuous as they may look, are also one of the more mysterious candies, due to the way they dissolve. If you’ve ever thought to yourself—”this mint feels strange”—you’re not alone.

Colorful skittles candies on a white background(Justyna Troc)s

Colorful Skittles candies (Photo Credit : Justyna Troc/Shutterstock)

The vast majority of mints, particularly those wrapped in clear plastic with red stripes around the sides (Starlite is one of the major manufacturers), have an unusual habit of forming tiny holes and dissolving somewhat uneasily as you suck and slurp on the breath-boosting treat. No other candies come to mind when it comes to this bizarre phenomenon, so what makes these basic mints so special?

I think my mint is broken meme

It’s All In the Process

Although you may have come here to find a more exciting answer to your sweet query, the explanation is rather simple. To begin with, peppermint candy has a relatively simple composition, and is generally made with sugar (or some other sweetener), corn syrup, water and peppermint oil. Once all of these ingredients are mixed, they form a dense, taffy-like consistency, and the large chunks are manipulated on a heated table. This allows the candy producers to fold the candy over and over again, hundreds of times, to have an even consistency of flavor and density of the ingredients.

This folding process is the primary culprit in our question of why those odd little holes form in peppermint candies as you eat them. While folding and stretching and kneading the candy ingredients, the candy makers are also trapping pockets of air. As various curious researchers have discovered, those pockets of air appear to form microtubules that run throughout the middle of the candy, as well as micro-bubbles of trapped air. As you begin to lick a peppermint, the candy will begin to dissolve, revealing those microtubules and pockets that were hidden inside.

Smooth and delicious on the outside, meme

The shaping and smoothing of the exteriors of the candy mean that you don’t see these formations or craters on the surface of the candy, but inside, it’s like a miniature microscopic cave system that your tongue gradually reveals! Next time you pop a mint after you finish a meal, and you feel that uneven surface begin to appear about halfway through, you’ll know precisely why those holes are there!

References:

  1. ChemistryIsLife
  2. YouTube
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John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois. He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, an arts nonprofit based in Denver. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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