Just like Charlie, every kid we’ve ever met is fascinated with chocolate factories. The Mast Brothers chocolate makers now open in the Downtown Arts District are here to give Willy Wonka a bean to bar run for his imaginative money. Daily tours takes guests of all ages behind the scenes to reveal how creamy dreamy chocolate goes from bean to breathtakingly beautiful bar. No golden tickets required.
The Candymen Can
Brothers Rick and Michael Mast have made a name for themselves with their stylish Brooklyn-based chocolate company, Mast Brothers, a fave of hardcore chocolate lovers and top chefs at The French Laundry, Eleven Madison Park, Per Se and even The White House. They’re also the go-to chocolate for Shake Shack!
Lucky for us, they recently opened the company’s largest flagship shop in LA’s vibrant Downtown Arts District. A complete bean-to-bar operation, the first and only one of its kind in LA, Mast Brothers makes everything in house from start to finish and aims to use locally sourced ingredients. Having lived in LA many years ago himself, Rick Mast, still feels a deep kinship with the City of Angels and always hoped to open a So Cal location. “LA tends to love simple, fresh, beautiful, fun, innovative and delicious things. Our techniques, our ingredients, and our company culture fits that perfectly,” Mast said. Even before the shop opened its doors in May, Mast Brothers already had an impressive local following.
The Art of Chocolate
Upon entering the Mast Brothers factory, you may think you’ve mistakenly wondered into an art gallery. And in some respects, you have. The airy 6,000 square foot space is only matched in beauty by the exquisite chocolate bars prominently on display at the front of the store. Every flavor of chocolate is hand-wrapped in varying dazzling designs, making them works of art unto themselves. No really, they are so pretty you almost don’t want to eat them. We said almost.
Go Behind the Cacao Curtain
While you can just make a chocolate buying pilgrimage, the real draw is the tour, which is offered daily from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., every hour on the hour. (The shop itself is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, and you can also contact them to schedule private tours.) In return, Mast Brothers only asks that you make a $5 donation per person (kids 10 and under are free). All tour proceeds go to School on Wheels, a nonprofit that provides educational opportunities to homeless children.
The objective of the tour is to be completely transparent with guests and educate them about the chocolate making process. After a walk through the factory, kids will be awed by the amount of work that goes into making each and every piece of chocolate. It gives them a whole new appreciation for the way things are made. Not everything just magically appears out of thin air: imagine that!
On the tour, a Mast Brothers guide will walk you through the factory and stop along the way in front of five large, glass cubes. Each cube showcases a specific part of the chocolate making process. You’ll learn everything from how the cacao fruit is harvested (kids will love that it looks like brains) to where the beans are sourced, roasted, shelled, winnowed, ground, mixed, poured into molds and ultimately transformed into the fantastic confections we all adore. (Bonus: There are tastings each step of the way! Holla!) The last cube on the tour shows how each chocolate bar is wrapped by hand, and also reveals the fermentation process of Mast Brothers’ chocolate beer (non-alcoholic). The tour concludes with a delish tasting of chocolate beer, a chocolate cube with ganche, as well as some of the most popular chocolate bar flavors. The whole shebang takes around 30 minutes to complete.
If your tykes aren’t already climbing the walls from a sugar overload, we highly recommend tasting one of Mast Brothers’ famous chocolate chip cookies before you go. (Or getting one to go; best treat ever in an back to school lunch box!) This cookie is life changing. Seriously. You can also try out some additional menu items – maybe a different chocolate beer, hot chocolate, chocolate milk or a few intriguing bar flavors you’d like to sample. The chocolate bars themselves make swell souvenirs of your tour or fabulous birthday and hostess gifts. Little ones will dig the Milk Chocolate, Vanilla and Maple flavors. One of the coolest (and tastiest) flavors was one sampled during the tour that hasn’t been released yet is called Popcorn—an ode to the city’s movie industry. It’s part of Mast Brothers’ upcoming line of LA inspired flavors scheduled to debut exclusively at this location in the fall.
Kids of all ages are welcome, and there’s plenty of room for strollers and all, so it’s a wonderful family outing.
Nearby Sips: If chocolate alone isn’t enough of a caffeine buzz, Stumptown Coffee is next door to Mast Brothers and the American Tea Room is across the street.
Parking: Street parking is available if you can find it. If not, there’s a pay lot across the way.
What Mast Brothers flavor is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
– Jennifer O’Brien