When I headed off on an extreme press trip in Kansas City last month, I knew I had a whole list of crazy things to do in front of me. One of the first was to tour the Original Juan Specialty Foods Warehouse, and try some insanely hot, taste-bud burning, come meet Jesus hot sauce. In fact, one of the hot sauces is so hot and extreme, that you have to sign a waiver before you can even taste it. So, in an air conditioned van we rode, three travel writers and a CVB rep, to the rather unassuming warehouse, to meet our fate.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Original Juan is responsible for making, bottling and packaging 1,300 products in their 600,000 square foot facility in Kansas City, MO. These are mostly sauces, many of them for the restaurant industry, and 150 of those products are their own unique products.
The majority of the products that Original Juan is responsible for producing are BBQ and hot sauces. They have won a variety of awards for their own sauces, including winning the World Series of BBQ, the American Royal. Now, they do not compete any longer, but instead attend and donate proceeds to charities such as Operation BBQ Relief.
Throughout the tour of the Original Juan factory, one thing was overwhelmingly clear, they have an incredible focus on the quality of the products they produce and for the safety of their employees. Each year they undergo an AIB inspection, and go above and beyond in order to track each lot number and keep possible allergens away from other ingredients.
After browsing the extensive list of sauces and other food related products in their gift shop, we could postpone the inevitable no longer. It was time to feel the burn and try some of the Original Juan’s hottest sauces. First up was the 100% Pain. This was a hot sauce made with habanero peppers, and I placed a toothpick full on the tip of my tongue. It was hotter than anything I had ever volunteerily put in my mouth in the past, but still bearable. After that came Da Bomb, made with ghost peppers. I made the rookie mistake of placing this toothpick full of liquid pain on the back of my tongue thinking it wouldn’t fry my taste buds. All this accomplished was setting my throat on fire.
It was at this point that I mentally tapped out of this challenge. It was clear to me and my burning esophagus that we were not man enough to try the final bottle “The Source.” This sauce is so hot that it requires you to sign a waiver before you are allowed to try it. Only one in our group was brave enough to try, along with two of the Original Juan employees who live and breath hot sauce. I must admit, while I admire their bravery, it was pretty fun to watch them turn purple as the sauce began to blossom in the mouths.
Are you brave enough to try “The Source?” The factory outlet and gift shop is open Monday-Friday 9-4:30, and Saturday 10-3. Group tours for groups of 7 or more are available on Saturdays as well.