Pulling up to the rather insalubrious frontage of the dockside warehouse where Agapey is located (it IS a working docks after all, so one should expect nothing else) one wonders how it is that here, beside the looming cranes and towering cruiseliners, Derrick Hastick, can produce some of the finest chocolate I've tasted in years of cooking professionally. In a small-ish unit, the former chemical engineer has put together a wonderful little self-contained chocolate factory, where the whole process takes place on one floor, from bean to bar. The 'tour' involves a very entertaining yet technically detailed discussion about the origins of the cocoa plant and its early usage, followed by a tasting of roasted beans and a few samples of chocolate. There then follows an exciting look at the various bits of equipment required to make the chocolate itself, from a wonderful vintage roasting kettle to a granite-stone mill that presses the cocoa beans to the fine paste which begins to look like the finished article. Derrick also makes his own machinery (his engineering background comes in handy, when new and even reconditioned units can be prohibitively expensive to buy and import) for use in the process. Throughout, everything is explained fully, and questions answered. More importantly, one is encouraged to taste the chocolate at all the various stages, so your palate is taken on a journey along with you as you learn the various refining and finessing processes. At the end, at which point the finished bars are available for purchase - exact money, please! - one feels that one has really learned a lesson, albeit entertainingly, and Derrick is a charming and knowledgeable guide to the manufacture of this, one of the most fascinating foods on Earth. Agapey is most definitely worth a visit, even if you're staying just for a few hours. New products are planned, adding to the already impressive range, so future visitors will have even more reason to book a tour. So, my advice is: head down to the docks and learn more about chocs.
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