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Photos: The Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory And Shop Opens In The Arts District

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Brooklyn-based chocolate makers and brothers Rick and Michael Mast are set to open their flagship bean-to-bar factory and shop in L.A. this Saturday.

The Mast Brothers Chocolate space in the Arts District will offer visitors a chance to see their entire chocolate making process, as well as purchase their artfully-wrapped craft chocolate, as well as confections made with local ingredients and more. They'll even be pouring a unique, non-alcoholic beer they'll be brewing on-site.

Editor's note: When the Mast Brothers started their company in 2007, they claimed to be using a “bean to bar" method to sell their $10 chocolate bars. Only after an investigative feature last year did the Mast Brothers confess to using industrial chocolate early in their career. In January, some retailers said their Mast Brothers sales tanked. They have been working to move past this scandal by opening up their factories to the public.

"We always dreamt of expanding out to L.A.," Rick Mast, who lived in Long Beach for several years before moving to New York, tells LAist. "These days there's such an inspiring creative and food scene going on in L.A. that it's just an amazing opportunity to be a part of it. Just to be close to it and participate in it is really exciting."

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While Mast Brothers bars can be found in shops around L.A., the new space will offer Angelenos the chance to pick-up their full line-up of bars in a variety of sizes, which includes creative flavors like sheep milk, olive oil and smoke. The factory will also eventually produce flavors unique to Los Angeles, as well as freshly baked pastries and confections using locally-sourced ingredients and partnerships with other local producers, including breweries. "There are twelve different ganaches inside of our signature cubes that are all localized to Los Angeles and only available there," Mast explains. "We'll use ingredients we've picked up from local markets, lemons, cilantro, a lot of unique things, so that you can taste the area."

The Arts District location is the company's third factory, following New York and London, and by far their biggest at 6,000-square feet. "We don't have another space like it, it's really a one-of-a-kind," Rick explains. Brightly-flooded with natural light during the day, the factory itself is a sight to behold for visitors who can tour the space. Partly inspired by artist Donald Judd's cube installations in Marfa, Texas, the factory features five massive cubes. Each cube contains a different part of the chocolate making process, where visitors can peer inside through large windows like a living museum to watch each step from bean to bar.

The cubes also double as a way to control temperature during each phase, as Mast explains:

Chocolate is a temperamental thing and you're in the hot California sun in downtown, so the first thing you have to solve is climate control. And the solution to that dictated the design, which are these five modules that are each climate controlled to their own purpose. And it's such a great way to learn and experience how chocolate is made in this really precise, visually dynamic way, which I think is pretty exciting for people to go and check out.

The last cube in the line-up will be used both for hand-wrapping the chocolate bars, as well as producing their chocolate beer. Three fermentation tanks will be used—one for a sweet brew, one bitter and one seasonal—to cold-brew roasted cacao beans in water, which is then carbonated with carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The non-alcoholic beer will be available on tap at the factory and eventually be available on draught and in bottles around L.A. "It gives me the same kind of sense of excitement as when we first started making chocolate," Mast says of the brewing. "It feels like you're reintroducing what chocolate as a beverage can be and I think we're just on the tip of the iceberg of what we can do."

Tours of the factory will be offered every hour on the hour for $5, and include a chocolate tasting at the end. All of the proceeds from the tours for the first three months will go to School on Wheels, a local charity supporting educating homeless youth. After that, a portion of the proceeds will be donated.

"Last year, just in New York and London, we welcomed over 100,000 visitors to see how we make our chocolate," Rick says. "With L.A. it's going to be even more amazing to expose an entire city to how our chocolate is made."

Mast Brothers Chocolate is located at is located at 816 South Santa Fe Ave., Arts District. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, beginning Saturday, May 7. Tours are available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily on the hour.

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