Further to my earlier post about the Bean to Bar Chocolate revolution, I had the great pleasure of meeting a fellow blogger, Eva, and her husband, John, from Kitchen Inspirations. They had come from Canada for their 30th Wedding Anniversary for a tour of London, Spain and Paris. Eva asked if I could think of anything foodie to do during their visit. What better than a factory tour of the Mast Brothers London shop?
The shop is very definitely industrial chic. Minimalist, with no distractions to take away from the chocolate. An even better sign is the free tasting of their new truffles. They were sublime.
Onto the tour then. We were met by Ola. She firstly discussed their newest venture, not what I was expecting – chocolate beer; and the origins of the company.
After this, we were whisked off into the boiler room of the chocolate world. I say that as it was sweltering inside. I will tell you later what produces all the heat. The Mast Brothers use several different origin cocoa beans to make their chocolate. They believe that as each bean has different characteristics, so why not use different beans for different flavourings. Hence the origins of the beans aren’t on the labels.
First off, we were given a cocoa pod to feel. They are really heavy! Every pod contains four beans surrounded by a white pith. This white pith is not where cocoa butter comes from. Cocoa butter comes from the bean itself. For every 70g bar of 70% cocoa solids, one entire pods worth of chocolate will be in it! Now we can see why good quality chocolate gets some of its price tag. The beans are then roasted, similar to coffee, to give them flavour and make more manageable. The roasted beans are then fed into this machine.
It splits the bean and shells apart. Here we have the cocoa beans on the left, shells on the right. The shells are what are then brewed to create their cocoa beer. Next grinding/conching. This is where the magic happens.
The beans are added to this machine and ground for up to one and a half days. This is where all the tasting is done and flavourings added. These machines produce tremendous amounts of heat. I guess its like having the radiator on all day. From here, the chocolate is put into trays to cool then bagged and left on the shelf for the flavours to mature.
As the chocolate matures, the cocoa butter can dry itself out and once these packets are opened you get something like this.
Not what we require. This is cocoa butter bloom as opposed to white sugar bloom. To remove this the chocolate is now tempered and then poured straight into moulds.
You are then taken through a tasting session of some of the varietals on offer. After this, we headed back into the showroom for a lovely cooling alcohol free cocoa beer. I really think that stuff will take off.
Their are quite a few flavours to go and try. The chocolate is certainly up their with the best you’ll ever have. You just need to find the one that suits your palette the best. I’m strange and love salt with a lot of sweet products. The Sea Salt chocolate is probably my favourite, but luckily for me there’s now a salted collection!
This factory tour is great, even if it is £10. Any foodie or chocolate lover would love to see the hard work, love and attention put in to this product and its success. Not to mention the drinks and truffles.
As for Eva, John and I, we went for a drink afterwards at the superb Counter Albion ,where we talked about everything and anything for what seemed 30 minutes, but what actually 4 hours! I can’t wait to go to Toronto for my reciprocal invitation.