At the end of the first book:

[...] Ah! Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavored one, and since then I’m afraid I’ve rather lost my liking for them — but I think I’ll be safe with a nice toffee, don’t you?” He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, “Alas! Ear wax!

Can't the most powerful wizard in the world just do magic to find the taste so that he doesn't tastes anything that he may not like?

  • 13
    What fun would that be? Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:36
  • 6
    the same reason people don't look at the guide on boxes of assorted chocolates.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:38
  • 2
    I think he was busy with more important things. FWIW, there is no canon answer to this question. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:39
  • 1
    @phantom42 Why would you not look at the guide? Got to grab the best ones before somebody else does! Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:56
  • 3
    Why didn't XX use magic to YY? This can be asked about almost anything that didn't happen in Harry Potter
    – user13267
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


According to JKR, the whole point of Bertie Bott's beans is that they're hilarious. You literally never know what you're going to get; something wonderful, something mundane or something genuinely disgusting.

JKR: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans are beans that literally do comprise every flavour, so that you have liver... tripe, marmalade, erm, chocolate... vomit is mentioned, earwax is mentioned... that would be hysterical if they did that, I’d love it. [laughs]

If you were to cheat and use magic to identify the flavour in advance (assuming such a thing was possible, these are magic beans after all), that would remove some of the amusement.

You might just as well ask why students don't enchant their fever fudge not to cause a fever

  • I think they must be enchanted so the user recognizes flavor on tasting. How would Dumbledore know they taste like ear wax? Has he tasted ear wax before and remembered it?
    – Zikato
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 10:29
  • 1
    @zikato - He's a old man. I dare say he's tasted earwax at least once in his long life, if only to satisfy his curiosity
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:15
  • and it was such an experience that he remembered the flavour his whole life.
    – Zikato
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 13:18
  • 2
    @zikato - For a dare, I once licked a burnt car tyre. Suffice to say, 25 years later the memory has not left me.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 15:30

Firstly, finding out the flavor of the beans would require divination. Professor Dumbledore was a very powerful wizard, but I believe he wasn't very good in divination. He admits himself in Half-Blood Prince chapter 20:

[…] ‘Divination is turning out to be much more trouble than I could have foreseen, never having studied the subject myself. […]‘

And also in Prisoner of Azkaban chapter 22.

‘[…] The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed … Professor Trelawney, bless her, is living proof of that. […]’

Professor Dumbledore used his great people skills, mind-altering magic, and network of spies to find out a lot of information about the past history and future plans of the Dark Lord, but it doesn't seem like he's ever used divination for that.

(Update: on second thought, it's hard to be sure, because Hermione, who has quit Divination lessons early, has still cast at least one Divination spell in Hallows.)

Professor Dumbledore may have had friends in the Order or Hogwarts who could have helped him in divination magic, and it would have been even in character for him to ask them a favor for finding out the flavor of some every-flavored beans, but he chose not to do that for some reason.

Secondly some magic systems have ways to explicitly block divination. These certainly exist already in the Harry Potter universe too, because the Order of the Phoenix could successfully protect its secrets from even the Dark Lord, who is a very powerful wizard and also had powerful allies. The Fidelius (secret keeper) charm was one method used for this, but I believe there were others, including possibly house elf magic.

Case in point, Hermione has cast some divination blocking spells when they were on the run. This is revealed clearly in Deathly Hallows chapter 19.

‘One thing I would like to know, though,’ she [Hermione] said, fixing her eyes on a spot a foot over Ron's head. ‘How exactly did you find us tonight? That's important. Once we know, we'll be able to make sure we're not visited by anyone else we don't want to see.’


‘Yeah, well, that would've been me,’ said Ron. ‘Your protective spells work, anyway, because I couldn't see you and I couldn't hear you. I was sure you were around, though, so in the end I got in my sleeping bag and waited for one of you to appear. I thought you'd have to show yourselves when you packed up the tent.’

Thirdly, let me point to a very similar example, from later than Philosopher's Stone, of divination failing in such a frivolous way. In The Order of the Stick strip #413, Haley points out in panel 13 that the royal court of Azure City could not buy booster packs that contain the right pre-painted minifigures, despite that they have a very good sage. This is probably common in the Order of the Stick universe, because there are shops making a business from selling spells in randomized booster packs to wizards, many of whom are likely good diviners.

Update: I added the quote from Prince chapter 20, removed a less relevant quote, and reorganized the text around them a little. Thanks to TenthJustice for pointing out this quote in Why did Dumbledore contemplate discontinuing Divination at Hogwarts? and to Slytherincess for locating the quote.

  • 5
    Divination is seeing into the future. Finding out what flavour a particular bean is doesn't have anything to do with the future. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 8:33
  • 1
    @HarryJohnston I tend to disagree, if you look a few seconds into the future you would know what the bean would taste like...
    – Thomas
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 10:28
  • 1
    @Thomas: sure, that would be one way to do it. But not the only one. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 10:30
  • 1
    The point is, what other authors/universes states about divination is irrelevant in Harry Potter. In HP, divination == seeing the future/making prophecies (as long as the canon is concerned). Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 18:26
  • 1
    @AlfredoHernández: I don't think so, though it's hard to tell. We've only seen lessons from two Hogwarts teachers, one of who couldn't teach too well, and one who didn't represent the viewpoint of Wizards. If you only knew of Defense agains the Dark Arts from Professor Quirrel and Lockhart, you could have a skewed view of that area as well. What divination covers in the HP universe may be an interesting question that maybe I should ask on this site though.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 21:20

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