The exact origins of the jelly bean are lost in time, and only a part of its history is known. Most experts believe the jelly center is a descendant of a Mid-Eastern confection known as Turkish Delight that dates back to Biblical times. Jelly Beans!
The shell coating is an offspring of a process called panning, first invented in 17th century France to make Jordan Almonds. The panning process, while done primarily by machine today, has remained essentially the same for the last 300 years. The French began by rocking almonds in a bowl filled with sugar and syrup until the almonds were coated with a candy shell. Today, large rotating pans do the heavy work, while master confectioners apply their true art in adding the ingredients to create just the right shell.
Somehow the two processes made their way to America. Jelly beans quickly earned a place among the many glass jars of "penny candy" in general stores where they were sold by weight and taken home in paper bags. It wasn't until the 1930s, however, that jelly beans became a part of Easter traditions. Because of their egg-like shape, jelly beans became associated with the Easter Bunny, who is believed to deliver eggs as a symbol of new life during the spring season.