Shoreditch is bursting with artsy stores and edgy designer rooms, so if you are walking down Redchurch Street you might just miss Mast Chocolate Shop and Factory.
From the outside, the shop looks just like an art gallery, white walls, floors and furniture contrasted by colourful objects. The only difference is a powerful, hypnotising smell of chocolate that reaches your brain in less than two seconds and immediately forces you into the shop. Or at least that’s what happened to me.
The Mast Brothers run a £10 public tour of the factory everyday for the chocoholics amongst us – and I’m here to take one. I arrive slightly after three in the afternoon and I don’t even have time to look around store. I am immediately whisked through the back doors and told to wear a light paper cap.
The tour starts with a brief introduction to the Mast brothers. Rick and Michael Mast founded their business in 2007, after having had success in local shops and farmers’ markets with their homemade chocolate. The first shop opened in Brooklyn, New York, whilst the branch on Redchurch Street followed in February 2014. A new one will open soon in Los Angeles, California.
Enough of the history lesson; I’m here to learn how to make chocolate. I am taken into a small room, filled with machines and any form of chocolate imaginable, from cocoa beans, cocoa nibs and cocoa butter, to melted, aged and fresh chocolate bars. The guide picks up some cocoa beans and hands one to me: I never thought it would be so exciting and satisfying to crack one open and be able to eat the 100% cocoa straight from where it comes from.
We are taught how each machine works and we have the chance to watch the chocolate maker spread a huge sheet of melted deliciousness onto a marble surface and scrape it off when dried, forming thin chocolate flakes. These flakes are what they use to make hot drinks.
It’s time for the fun part: a tasting session. We are taken into a white room where the walls covered by piles and piles of big cocoa bars that have been left there to age. In the centre there is a table that workers use to wrap the chocolate with the colourful and artistic sheets of good quality paper that give that art gallery-feel to the shop.
There are five different types of chocolate we can taste: the Madagascar, the Papua New Guinea, the goat milk, the cocoa nib, and the chilli pepper. I am intrigued. How can you distinguish between chocolates from different countries? Isn’t it just chocolate? When I try them, however, I completely change my mind. As a chocolate enthusiast, I would definitely be able to recognise them even whilst blindfolded.
Sadly, the tour ends there; leaving me with remnants of chocolate lingering in my mouth, making me want to buy every single scrumptious product in the store.
The tours are held every weekday at 3 and 5pm, and in the mornings during the weekend.