Crio Brü Brewed Cocoa Drink

Crio Brü

“Brewed Cocoa” seems to be a bit of a thing right now. The idea is simple; make a cocoa drink in the same way you’d usually make coffee. So rather than use chocolate or cocoa powder, you simply let cocoa nibs (and sometimes shells) infuse in hot water.

British bean-to-bar maker Duffy has been producing a cocoa infusion using the papery shell of the cocoa bean for some time and I recently wrote about Mast Brothers brewed cocoa, which uses finely ground cocoa nibs.

Crio Brü is a brewed cocoa drink you can make at home, either in a French Press or a coffee maker. Made from finely ground whole cocoa beans (both nibs and shells as far as I can tell), it comes in 340g pouches that cost £12-£13 each.

The Crio Brü were kind enough to send me four different varieties to try, along with a French Press to make them in. Simply put a couple of tablespoonfuls into the press, add hot water, stir and leave to steep before serving.

Crio Brü

Crio Brü recommends steeping for 8-12 minutes, but in practice I found that a little too long. Having had brewed cocoa drinks in the past, the thing I noticed immediately about Crio Brü was just how finely ground the beans are. This is really important as a finer grind means a higher surface area and a quicker, fuller brew. I prefer a lighter cocoa drink, so for my tastes 5 minutes was enough.

Crio Brü

The other thing that comes through right away is that the beans are roasted quite heavily. I’m sure that’s a deliberate attempt to appeal to coffee drinkers who like that fuller roasted flavour, but I would have preferred something a little more gentle. That said, each variety had its own characteristics and flavour.

I added a spoonful of sugar to each cup, which I suggest doing just to take the bitter edge off the drink.

crio-bru-cup

Maracaibo Venezuela

This one has the most interesting and complex flavours, but also the highest roast. There are some great fruity notes in this Venezuelan cacao, but the high roast means it just tastes burnt to me. I’d love a lighter roast version of this one.

Cocoa River Ecuador

A less complex cacao, but the slightly lower roast makes this my favourite of the group. I’d still prefer a slightly lower roast, but this one makes a really quite pleasant pick-me-up.

Cavalla Ivory Coast

Simple, chocolatey flavours with a slightly bitter roasted edge that a little sugar helps to even out. Quite coffee-like in flavour.

Cavalla Ivory Coast French Roast

A higher roast version of the Ivory Coast drink. For me, the most interesting aspect of this one is just how much like a roasted coffee it tastes.

All in all, I love the idea of Crio Brü, but I’d like to see some varieties with milder roasts before I’d buy it myself. I could add more sugar or a little milk to my drinks, but personally I love the natural flavours in cacao and I’d rather not cover them up.

If you’re into coffee with a strongly roasted flavour and want to try something a bit different, you’ll almost certainly love them though. Brewed cocoa is definitely the future!

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York Chocolate Works to bring chocolate making back to Terry’s Factory

York Chocolate Works

The city of York has a long association with chocolate dating back to the eighteenth Century. In the mid nineteenth century, household names like Terry’s and Rowntree emerged. By the mid twentieth century, around 14,000 people were employed in the chocolate and confectionery industry in the city.

With the rise of automation and the acquisition of British companies by multinationals like Kraft and Nestlé, it’s an industry that has been in decline recently. In 2005, Kraft Foods – owner of Terry’s – shut the iconic Chocolate Works factory in the city, moving production to mainland Europe.

The site has stood empty since then awaiting redevelopment. But an ambitious new plan looks set to bring chocolate making back to the historic factory.

The idea is the brainchild of entrepreneur and chocolatier Sophie Jewett. I first encountered Sophie in 2010 when she was running her own chocolate business Little Pretty Things. Making chocolates and running tastings and classes, the business mirrored many other local chocolatiers around the country. I don’t think I ever had the chance to try Sophie’s chocolates back then, and truth be told I hadn’t realised how much drive and ambition she had.

In November 2011, Sophie opened York Cocoa House in the centre of the city. Opening a shop is a big deal for any chocolatier, but the Cocoa House is a shop, cafe, kitchen and event space in one. Make no mistake, taking on a large retail space in a prime location in a tourist city is a huge challenge, but with the help of her staff and the support of the local community, York Cocoa House is now a central part of York’s modern chocolate story.

Early this year, Sophie told me of an even more ambitious plan. She wanted to take over the old Liquor Store building on the old Terry’s Chocolate Works site and had plans to turn it into a modern, working bean-to-bar chocolate factory.

The Liquor Store has nothing to do with alcohol, but is where the raw cocoa beans would come in to the old factory to be roasted. It has a footprint of 2,000 square feet, has a basement and mezzanine, and there are plans to install another floor. It’s a fraction of the old factory space, but converting it into a modern, working chocolate factory is still a huge project.

liquor-store-plans1

It’s Not Terry’s, It’s Ours

Sophie has long put the community at the heart of her business, and her plans for The Chocolate Works are no exception. As well as producing chocolate commercially, the factory will be a community centre of sorts, allowing the public to engage with the chocolate making process from bean to bar.

While most of us love chocolate, few people actually know how it’s made and there are very few places where the local community, schools and other groups can come and see the process first hand. Helping to inspire the next generation of chocolate makers in York is an exciting prospect.

A Modern Twist

Although York has a rich chocolate history, Sophie is keen not to dwell on the past too much. The Chocolate Works project will be a modern, ethical and sustainable chocolate factory. It will be commercial, rather than industrial.

The factory will take cues from the recent explosion of craft chocolate makers, with an emphasis on those ethical values, but it also needs to be a commercial success, so it needs to produce chocolate on a commercial scale. It’s a £1.3 million project that will create around 25 jobs initially.

Almost more important to that is what the project will symbolise for York. Having a modern, British owned working chocolate factory back in the city is vital for the local community. The city is filled with skilled, passionate and knowledgeable industry people who have been keen to help this project, and it’s important it happens to now while the city still has a chocolate industry.

York may have a rich chocolate history, but the Chocolate Works project is very much about the future. I believe that there really is nobody better placed to lead it than Sophie, and with the support of the local community, it’s a very bright future indeed.

You can read more about York Chocolate Works on their website.

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Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

Over the years I’ve been writing about chocolate, my interest in the subject has developed significantly. The more I learn, the more I want to know. The more I know, the more I want to share.

For the past few years, the bean-to-bar industry is the thing that has excited me the most. Part science, part art, the explosion of small craft chocolate makers has coincided with a fall in the price of chocolate making machinery.

A couple of years ago I began to toy with the idea of having a go at making chocolate from the bean myself. I did all the research and worked out that if I was smart, I could probably do it for under £1000. That’s incredibly cheap for something that only twenty years ago was almost exclusively the domain of large industrial corporations. Unfortunately, £1000 is still quite a lot for a hobbyist who just wants to experiment, so I put the idea on hold for a while.

This year, I’ve heard from an increasing number of friends and Chocablog readers (Hi Hazel, Tom, Steve!) who have been making bean-to-bar chocolate at home, and decided it was about time I start researching prices again. Making chocolate is fundamentally a simple process – you just grind cocoa beans together with sugar – but doing it well is a bit more complex. The key piece of the machinery is the grinder, something which until very recently has been the one thing that was out of the reach of the home chocolate maker.

The grinder is important as it serves a dual role in many craft chocolate makers. Not only does it grind the beans to the very small particle size needed for good chocolate, but the continuous movement over a period of hours also “conches” the chocolate. Volatiles that cause bad flavours are driven off over time and the flavour of the chocolate is developed and refined at the same time as the texture.

Then earlier this year, my friend Hazel pointed me at a link to a grinder made by an Indian company called Premier. Like most small cocoa grinders, it’s really intended as a wet spice grinder with a granite base and two granite wheels inside that rotate against each other. It looked well made, and most importantly of all, it was available for just £150. I bought it there and then.

Premier Wonder Grinder

Fortuitously, I had also been talking to my friends at HB Ingredients in Sussex. They have been supplying chocolatiers and bakers with a range of ingredients for years. HB had noticed the rise of bean-to-bar makers and spotted an opportunity to sell a range of products and ingredients specifically for this market.

Their new website, bean-to-bar.co.uk sells everything from quality, origin cocoa beans to sugars, milk powders and cocoa butter. They even sell a similar grinder to the one I bought. This is a fantastic commitment to a fledgling industry and a perfect resource for someone like me. With some cocoa butter and beans from HB Ingredients and another small batch of beans from my friend Hazel, everything was in place to start making my own chocolate!

Getting Started

I’ve been lucky enough to visit several chocolate factories all over the world in the past couple of years, and the one thing they have in common is passionate people. Bean-to-bar chocolate makers tend to be passionate about ethics, flavour and spreading the word about fine chocolate, so I’ve picked up a vast amount of knowledge on my travels.

Naive Chocolate Factory

Everyone has their own way of making chocolate and I took advice from many people before deciding on the best way to execute each stage of the process in my kitchen at home.

What follows are the steps I’m currently using to make bean-to-bar chocolate. My primary objectives have been to keep my costs way down by using equipment I already have, and to make my life as simple as possible. These two things don’t always go hand in hand, and I’m sure my methods will change as I’m able to afford little pieces of equipment to make my life easier.

The important thing to note is that I’ve made some very good bean-to-bar chocolate at home, and I’ve managed to do it for under £300 in total investment. I would love to encourage more people to have a go at chocolate making as it’s one of the most rewarding and exciting things I’ve ever done.

There are other ways most of these steps can be achieved, and if you’re making chocolate yourself I’d love to hear about your methods. You don’t need to do things the way I did, but I’m hoping that sharing my own techniques will inspire others and help me to improve my own process.

Roasting

When you buy cocoa beans, they are usually fermented and dried at the farm before being shipped. Not all chocolate makers roast their beans (“raw” chocolate is very popular these days), but I much prefer the flavour of roasted cocoa.

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Before you even start, you’ll want to sort your beans. Throw away any twigs, stones or oddly coloured, broken or misshapen beans. This is something you need to do by hand, but with small batches it takes no time at all.

Roasting is one of the easiest steps in the chocolate making process as you can do it any any oven. But timing and temperature is critical and varies from oven to oven and bean to bean. Make sure your oven is clean so there are no nasty smells, then spread the beans out on a clean baking tray.

I had to roast my beans in three separate batches, but that was fine as it gave me the chance to test each roast and adjust the timings and temperatures accordingly. After a bit of research I went for 5 minutes at 160C before lowering my oven to 120C for another 10 minutes.

I then left the beans to cool on the baking tray for a couple of minutes and tasted them by peeling off the shell and breaking the bean. They tasted just a little over roasted, so for the next batch I did exactly the same, but simply removed the beans from the hot tray immediately and tried to cool them a little quicker.

This resulted in a noticeably better flavour, so I repeated the process for the final roasting batch and combined all the beans back together again. I was lucky to find a roast that worked well for me very quickly, but you’ll probably need to experiment more when you try it. Actual times and temperatures will vary considerably depending on your oven, the beans you use and your own personal taste.

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There are other methods of roasting you can try at home. I know a few people who simply roast beans in a pan on the stove, but I think the oven method is a little more controlled and will allow me to replicate the process better in future.

Bean Breaking

The next stage two stages in the chocolate making process involve removing the papery shell on each bean and breaking them into small pieces (nibs). There are many ways to do this, and for my very first batch I peeled each whole bean by hand.

This is effective, but incredibly time consuming and by the time I was done, I pretty much wanted to kill myself. It’s worth doing once, but you’ll never want to do it again.

Unfortunately for home chocolate makers, this is the stage where having a custom piece of machinery really does help. Right now, even the cheapest bean breakers and winnowers cost over £1000, and many craft chocolate makers end up building their own contraptions involving all sorts of tubes, rollers and vacuum cleaners. I didn’t want to do that, so I needed something simpler.

Duffy Sheardown told me about the method he used when he first started, so I thought I’d give that a go. First break the beans by putting a couple of handfuls at a time into a food safe plastic bag and whacking it with a rolling pin.

IMG_1973

This takes time and makes a lot of noise, but it’s relatively easy to do. You’ll want to make sure all the beans are broken into small pieces, but you can go back and pick out any unbroken beans and larger pieces and bash them again. When you’re done, you’ll end up with a big bowl of cocoa nibs and shells all mixed together. So the next step is to get rid of the unwanted shells.

Winnowing

Winnowing is the process of removing the unwanted papery shell, leaving behind only the central, solid part of the bean. To be honest, it’s another part of the process where you may lose the will to live as a home chocolate maker, but it can be done and it’s worth doing right.

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

Duffy told me that when he started he would take his big bowl of nibs and shells out into the garden with a hair dryer and simply blast the bowl with it. The lighter, papery shells with fly away leaving behind only the heaver nibs.

The biggest problem I have here is that I have no garden. So I bit the bullet and decided to do it in the kitchen, knowing I was going to make an awful mess. And I really did make an awful mess.

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

There are some tricks to this process, and it takes a bit of practice to do efficiently. You want to lose a minimum amount of nibs while extracting the maximum amount of shells, and some of these pieces are going to be a similar size & weight. Some of them will still be stuck together. So start off gently and agitate the bowl as you go. This will help the larger shell pieces rise to the surface more easily and make the process a little quicker.

I found it helped to get my hand into the nibs (I wear food preparation gloves when touching the beans at this point) to mix it about. But I still found plenty of beans that were still too big to release their shells and the process took over an hour.

I was also conscious that even on the ‘cool’ setting, the hair dryer I was using was also heating the beans and subtly cooking them. My next equipment purchase will probably be a hair dryer that has a cold setting.

Winnowing is the part of my process that I would most like to improve, so if you have any tips please do let me know. At the moment, I don’t have the budget or the space to invest in any dedicated machinery, but I can’t help but think there must be a better way.

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

Pre-Grinding

At the end of the winnowing process you should be left with a bowl of clean, roasted cocoa nibs. A couple of small pieces of shell in the mix don’t matter too much, but you can always pick them out by hand if you like. The purer your nibs, the better your chocolate is likely to taste, so it’s worth taking your time.

At this point, the first thing you should do is weigh your nibs. Work out what cocoa percentage you want your chocolate to be and what the actual recipe will be. It’s important to do this now as you won’t be able to weigh the chocolate once it’s in the grinder. The recipe I’m using most often at the moment is 65% nibs, 5% added cocoa butter and 30% unrefined cane sugar. Use the weight of the nibs to work out the weights of the other ingredients you’ll need and write them down, as you won’t be adding them for a while!

When you’re done weighing and calculating, you could just put the nibs into the grinder and switch it on. But grinders are fairly delicate pieces of equipment and prone to breaking at the drop of a hat, so it’s best to “pre-grind” them into something a little more manageable first.

I’ve heard that the ideal piece of equipment for this is a Champion juicer. Put the nibs in the top and the juicer will crush and grind them quickly to a point where the cocoa butter is released from the bean and you’ll be left with cocoa mass; a kind of a chunky paste.

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

I don’t have a juicer, and although I’ve been tempted to get one just for this process, the £300 price tag is as much as I’ve spent on everything else put together, so I’m reluctant. What I do have is an old Kenwood food processor. The big bladed type, not a blender. So I decided to see what would happen if I put a few scoops of beans in there. It’s an old, cheap machine, so I didn’t really care too much if it broke.

The results were much better than I expected. After just a few quick blasts in the food processor, the nibs were much finer. But after a couple of minutes the cocoa butter started to be released and I was left with a solid ring of cocoa mass. Breaking it up and giving it a couple more minutes and I had a paste that was perfect for putting into the grinder.

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

Grinding

When you first start grinding, temperature is key. Later in the process, friction will help keep the chocolate liquid inside the grinder, but it’s a good idea to give it a helping hand. This is where the hair dryer comes in useful again. Simply warm the granite stones in the grinder before adding the pre-ground nibs and continue to gently heat for a few minutes.

I found that the paste stuck the wheels of the grinder a bit for the first few minutes, which probably doesn’t do the machine much good, but it fairly quickly began to turn more liquid as it heated up and more of the cocoa butter was released.

Bean To Bar Chocolate Making

I added the paste a bit at a time (as each small batch came out of my food processor), heating it with the hair dryer as it went in. If your grinder allows it, you might also want to losen the wheels initially allowing them some vertical movement as the deal with any bigger pieces of nib, before tightening over time.

My grinder comes with a plastic lid that just sits on top of the metal bowl, but chocolate makers have told me that it’s best to leave this off, at least in the initial phases while any moisture and some of the volatiles are being driven off. It’s interesting to think that something as minor as resting a cover on the grinder can impact the final flavour of the chocolate, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that every minor variation in every step makes a difference.

Adding Other Ingredients

The next decision you’ll have to make is when to add the sugar and any other ingredients such as extra cocoa butter. I have been adding my sugar about an hour into the grinding process, but Chris Brennan of Pump Street Bakery tells me that he doesn’t add it until around 12 hours in. Cocoa butter then gets added even later.

It is, of course, up to you. But whatever you decide will almost certainly change the final flavour of the chocolate, so the best advice I can give is to keep detailed notes of exactly what you added and when. It’s great to experiment with these things, but if you happen to come up with the most amazing chocolate in the world, those notes will help you replicate it much more accurately in future.

Aside from sugar and cocoa butter, I’ve not added anything else to my chocolate yet. But you can make milk chocolates by adding milk powder, and even experiment with things like freeze dried fruits. The one thing you don’t want to add is liquids. Anything water based will cause the chocolate to seize immediately. Small amounts of oils might be Ok, but they will have an impact on the final temper of your chocolate.

One thing you can experiment with easily is the type of sugar you use. I’ve been playing with a mixture of unrefined cane sugar and muscovado, but there’s a vast array of interesting cane sugar alternatives that you could use. Part of the joy of making chocolate from scratch is the ability to play with these things.

Conching

If you’re using a wet grinder like mine, the conching process is something that happens in parallel with the grinding. The continual movement of the chocolate helps drive off volatiles and develop the flavour. So the total length of time you conch (grind) for will have a big impact on the chocolate.

For most of my chocolates, I’ve been conching for 24 hours. This means keeping the machine running overnight, which was a little worrying the first time I did it. Thankfully it hasn’t exploded yet and I’m a little more relaxed about leaving it unattended.

I was given some Peruvian beans to try, but it was clear early on that I had made quite an astringent tasting chocolate. For these beans I actually left the grinder running for 42 hours. It certainly helped to round off the flavour a little, but it still wasn’t to my taste.

That’s bound to happen, so the best piece of advice I can give is not to be disheartened if you don’t like the first batches of chocolate you make. Try some different beans or a different recipe, but do keep going!

Ageing

Do you have patience? I don’t. In fact, waiting 24 hours for a batch of chocolate already seems like an eternity for me. Thankfully, the process of “ageing” the chocolate is entirely optional!

Many modern craft chocolate makers will age their chocolate when it comes out of the grinder. They’ll simply pour it straight into large blocks and leave it, sometimes for weeks, before tempering and moulding it.

1.5kg of homemade 70% Madagascan chocolate in one big block. Party!

The flavour of chocolate develops and changes radically over time, and the ageing process helps to give a uniform, more consistent flavour. It can also be used to add flavour – one of my favourite ever chocolates is a dark milk chocolate from Fruition that has been ages in Bourbon barrels.

Stored correctly, a solid chocolate with no fresh ingredients will keep for well over a year, so it does no harm to let it sit for a while. The ageing process is one of the weapons in the arsenal of the craft chocolate maker that helps them develop their own distinctive character. But it’s not something I have time for at the moment!

Tempering

The next stage of the process is to temper your chocolate. I’ve discussed various ways of doing this over the years, but not all of them are suitable for bean-to-bar chocolate. Seed tempering or tempering in a microwave requires some amount of pre-tempered chocolate to be mixed in with the untempered chocolate. Of course, for a batch of bean-to-bar single origin chocolate, you probably don’t want to be mixing in chocolate from somewhere else, so another approach is needed.

Tempering Chocolate

I have found that the simplest method is just to heat the chocolate in bowl to around 45C, let it cool naturally to 28.5C, then warm it with your trusty hair dryer (the chocolate maker’s multi purpose tool) back to 31C, stirring all the time. As long as you’re accurate with your temperatures you should get a perfect temper every time.

Moulding

Moulding is the fun part! I bought some polycarbonate moulds online from Home Chocolate Factory. These make beautiful 50g bars, but they’re not cheap at £19 for a mould that makes 6 bars. I think they’re worth it if you’re serious about your chocolate making, but you can get much cheaper ones.

Chocolate Moulds

I’ve picked up a few tips for moulding from chocolate maker and chocolatier friends:

  • Treat the moulds carefully if you want to maintain a polished finish to your bars. Don’t wash them between uses, but gently polish them with cotton wool or kitchen paper. Mine are quite intricate, so I use cotton buds to get into the fiddly bits.
  • Warm the moulds gently before use. Again, use your trusty chocolate maker’s hair dryer for this.
  • For small batches, don’t overfill the moulds. Use a ladel or large spoon to fill them to the top without overflowing. When cooled, remember the chocolate will shrink slightly.
  • Get rid of the air bubbles! Tap your moulds very firmly on the surface to release any air bubbles. I do this a lot and also rattle them around to be absolutely sure.
  • If the chocolate in the bowl cools as you’re working, very gently heat it with the hair dryer for a few seconds. Don’t overheat it as you’ll lose the temper, but this is a great tip if the chocolate is becoming difficult to work with. You don’t need to rush things.
  • It’s Ok to leave the filled moulds in the fridge to set for a few minutes, but don’t leave them too long. Remember that the fridge is cold and moist and will quickly cause the chocolate to bloom if you’re not careful. Cooling gently in front of a fan works well, but it’s Ok to leave the chocolate to set at room temperature.
  • When the chocolate has completely set, it will come away from the mould naturally. If your mould is clear, look underneath and you should easily be able to see the parts that have come away. If any part of the chocolate is still attached to the mould, leave it! Removing it before it’s ready will leave unnecessary marks on the surface of the chocolate.
  • When it’s ready, carefully turn the mould over and the bars should simply fall out with no pressure.

I need more practice but here's my first ever  batch in the moulds! Ecuador 70%.

I can’t describe the joy of seeing my first bean-to-bar chocolate as it came out of the mould. It looked as good as any bars I’ve seen, and by pure chance tasted fantastic too.

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

Packaging

Of course, you could just wrap your bars in foil, but I wanted something a bit different to present mine in. Inspired by Pump Street Bakery’s “Ziplock” bags, I went in search of something similar and found some rather cool food safe gold ziplock pouches that worked out at just 20p each.

As a chocolate consumer, I always appreciate some kind of resealable packaging, as I rarely eat a whole bar in one go. As a chocolate maker, I wanted something a little different. And with the addition of some labels printed on my home printer, I think I came up with something that’s both practical and attractive.

Making bean-to-bar chocolate at home

Have A Go!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my bean-to-bar journey, and it’s something that I plan to continue and develop. I have registered with the local council so I can sell the bars that I produce, and from the new year you’ll be able to buy some of my experiments on the web site.

For me, part of the joy is knowing that every batch is different, and I can make a maximum of 25-30 bars in a single batch. If you buy one, you’ll be getting something very unique.

More to the point though, I’d love to encourage more of you to have a go at making bean-to-bar chocolate yourselves. The equipment and ingredients are all now readily available and affordable. So whether it’s for a future chocolate making business or just a bit of fun in the kitchen, get in there and start making your own chocolate!

If you need any help, are interested in ordering a grinder or ingredients, or if you want to try one of my first bars, please get in touch. You can email me at dom@chocablog.com or just fill out this contact form.

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to just a few of the people who have helped me to figure this all out, including (but not limited to) Duffy Sheardown, Pablo Spaul at Forever Cacao, Sophie Jewett at York Cocoa House, Chris Brennan at Pump Street Bakery, Hazel Lee, Paul A Young, Marc Demarquette, Paul Wayne Gregory and the team at HB Ingredients.

Happy chocolate making!

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Mast Brothers take up residence at London’s Ace Hotel

Mast Brothers at Ace Hotel

Brooklyn’s Mast Brothers caused a bit of a stir earlier this year when they announced that they would be opening a factory in London. The new factory, café and shop is set to open in early February in Shoreditch and will be London’s first commercial bean-to-bar chocolate factory.

In preparation for the grand opening, the Mast Brothers team have taken up residence down the road in the Ace Hotel on Shoreditch High Street. Based in the lobby cafe Bulldog Edition, you’ll find a full range of bars on offer along with doughnuts topped with Mast Brothers chocolate and their newest creation “brewed chocolate”.

Brewed chocolate is really just another name for cocoa tea; an infusion made with cocoa nibs and water. The nibs are finely ground by hand (grind too quickly and heat will melt the cocoa butter in the beans) and put into something that can best be described as a large tea bag. Infusion is slow and can take up to ten minutes.

Mast Brothers Chocolate Infusion

The result is a drink that has some of the characteristics of fresh coffee with the aroma of hot chocolate. The flavours of the origin cocoa beans used come through to the drink, but not always in the most obvious way.

The Papua New Guinea beans have a smoky flavour that’s very evident in the chocolate, but much more subtle in the drink. Whereas in the Madagascar variety, all the acidity and citrus notes come through, but very little of the sweetness. You can of course sweeten your brewed chocolate or add milk, but I preferred the unadulterated version.

Mast Brothers at Ace Hotel

It’s all very interesting and fascinating to compare different origins, but the process isn’t perfect yet. For one thing, it takes a very long “brew” time to extract flavour from cocoa nibs. They are solid chunks of bean and about 50% fat, so you can’t just use standard coffee making equipment. It also takes about the same weight in nibs as it would to make a 100g bar of chocolate, so it’s not particularly efficient.

It’s something that’s worth trying if you’re in the area, but I think it will take some refinement of the brewing process for it to really catch on.

Mast Brothers Doughnut

It’s not all about the brewed chocolate though. These doughnuts are filled with Chantilly cream and topped with grated Brooklyn Blend chocolate. As is the trend at the moment, they have a lot of filling packed into them, so I liked the fact that it wasn’t overly sweet like some of the doughnuts lately.

I happily demolished this one in no time – although I did manage to make a bit of a mess. If it was down to me, I would have added more chocolate though. More chocolate is always a good idea.

Mast Brothers at Ace Hotel

Speaking of more chocolate, the final thing that Mast Brothers have brought to Ace Hotel is a collaborative chocolate bar. The is a 64% blend made with maple syrup and a little milk powder. Technically it’s a milk chocolate, which is a relatively new thing for Mast Brothers, but something we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

I wasn’t expecting much from a co-branded bar, but as it turns out, it’s really rather enjoyable. There’s a gentle fruitiness to the blend and that touch of milk powder just gives a slightly creamy, malty edge. I could happily munch on this bar while enjoying a brew.

It’s available exclusively from Ace Hotel, so if you want to try it, you’ll have to get down to Shoreditch in the next month. After that, I suspect it may be gone forever.

Mast Brothers @ Bulldog Edition
Ace Hotel
100 Shoreditch High Street
London E1 6JQ

Open Daily, 6:30am – 6pm

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