âAll the best things happen to us unexpectedlyâ- reads the front of an elegant milk chocolate bar cover. Iâm eating pieces of exclusive coriander-flavoured Russian chocolate from Dmitry Mateychikâs chocolate studio as I begin to write this article. The saying is true. Certainly, I am very pleased to have been invited to a presentation and chocolate tasting at the amazing chocolate museum at Mayakovskaya.
If you live in Moscow, you probably find yourself in the Mayakovskaya area quite often. Itâs highly possible, too, that street called Pervaya Brestskaya (which runs parallel to Tverskaya Ulitsa) sounds familiar to you. And Iâm certain that youâve passed number 2 many times, without looking. But if you could slow down just a bit, youâd probably smell chocolate: thatâs where The Museum of Russian Chocolate has made its home.
The Story: Evgeny, Masha and the Belgians
The museum, that opened in early January this, has a fascinating story. In 2005, Evgeny Trostentsov; a Russian businessman and his partners were setting up a bio and organic food shop in Rublevka (a name by no means unfamiliar to many you). When they saw chocolatiers making chocolate sculptures and candy before amazed visitors at a trade show, they thought it would be a wonderful to be able to show shoppers the same thing at their Rublevka supermarket. This is how Evgeny met Jaque, a Belgian chocolatier. The Belgians didnât have a translator, and soon discovered that not too many people spoke English or French at the show they were participating in. Luckily, Evgenyâs daughter, whose name is Masha, is a fluent French speaker and she stepped in to help the Belgians with translation, and then was invited to come to Belgium where Jaque taught her how to make real chocolate. By that time, it was clear that for Evgeny, chocolate was becoming much more than just one of the many food products for him to sell in his supermarket at Ruvlevka. A passionate collector of vintage and rare things, in 2008 he started hunting for old chocolate boxes and other things that would represent the history of chocolate in Russia. It was far from easy, until one day he bought a blue box, a box of Blikgen and Robinson confectionary from St. Petersburg. Examining it closer at home and reading about the brand on the internet, he realized that the very first item in his chocolate collection had arrived. Magically, other items started coming in, and in 2011 a chocolate exhibition opened in the building of the former Revolution Museum.
If youâre like me, Iâm sure youâve eaten, bought and even taken across the border tons of Russian chocolate, and you know all the famous covers âby sightâ. One might think that chocolate in Russia is at its best at the moment. But, as Masha told me, todayâs Russian chocolate culture is nothing like what it used to be before the revolution and then in the Soviet times.
People, she explains, come to the Chocolate museum to learn more about the history of chocolate and also taste modern chocolate which is sold at a boutique at the museum entrance.
Claire and the Chocolate Museum
Claire Coutin, a Frenchwoman, first came to Russia 15 years ago with her husband, who was relocated to Moscow as an expat, and children.
âNow Iâm back in Moscow for a yearâ, she says, âIâm continuing my personal chocolate story working on various projects and participating in the development of the Museum of Russian chocolate.â
Claireâs chocolate story is quite fascinating. After studying agronomy, she specialised in cocoa and coffee production. She spent 2 years in tropical forest villages in the Ivory Coast, working with small cocoa farmers and conducting research on cocoa farming systems and commercialisation channels. She also lived and worked in famous cocoa producing countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba or Ghana, working on various agricultural projects aimed at enhancing the cocoa sector, as well as other tropical fruits production.
âI met Evgeny Trostentsov, the Director, through friends. He had many innovative projects to do with chocolate, and the Museum of Russian Chocolate History was one of them. I joined the company as Development Director. My role within the Museum is to give international exposure and contribute, as much as I can, to enriching and sharing our knowledge of cocoa and chocolate historyâ.
The museum sees its purpose in making known the amazing and untold Russian chocolate story, from the 19th century until today, and giving visitors a proper chocolate education. âI was surprised to learn about the many foreign entrepreneurs, Europeans and Americans, who established their chocolate companies in Russia during this period. The Chocolate sector was such a dynamic, innovative and competitive sector in Russia in the 19th century! Today, the Russian chocolate market is growing steadily, with new players coming along, motivated by consumersâ increasing interest for premium chocolate.â
The Museum of Russian Chocolate
Pervaya Bretskaya Ulitsa, Building 2, Stroenie 3.
Go through the archway from Triumfalnaya Ploschad, walk north, and the museum is about 50 metres up on the right.
+7 495 233 8212