Brooklyn – as well as a being a mantropolis of beards, plaid shirts and food trucks – is also a hotbed of creative artisans who are bringing back the art of a hand crafted way of manufacturing food. It might be pickles, beer, cheese, ice-pops or, in this case: chocolate. Michael and Rick Mast, brothers who established their chocolate-making business in Brooklyn about five years ago, are a fine example of this new wave of hand-crafters. From small beginnings in their own apartment, to now running their shop in a 100 year old renovated factory, the brothers are bean-to-bar chocolate-makers, they make every step of their chocolate bars a thoughtful and exquisite process.
Michael and Rick have been to the Dominican Republic and met the very farmers who grow their cocoa beans and set them sailing towards the Brooklyn harbour in giant burlap sacks. They take these beans to their factory on North 3rd street, where you can step inside, and as the pungent aroma of the cocoa hits you, witness for yourself the story of the Mast Brothers chocolate unfolding in front of you.
Rock music plays loudly, stations are set up around the space where teams are carefully placing the fragrant bars in that glorious gold wrapping. It’s incredibly fun to watch the whole process take place right there. With stacks of gold-wrapped chocolate bars lying around everywhere, it’s hard not to compare the experience with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – or Amelie for that matter. All your senses are alert to the sights, sounds and smells of chocolate in the making.
Once I pop on a protective hat, I’m granted access to the kitchen towards the back, where the chocolate is tumbling happy in giant mixers. This process takes place for a couple of days and the only other ingredients added are olive oil and a slight amount of sugar, and most bars are over 70% cocoa. The chocolate is then set out in platters and allowed to „age“. You can pick up bars such as Maine Sea Salt, Hazelnut, Almond, and Serrano Chile. There are also other handmade treats such as „Seasonal bark“ with cranberries and pecans, or brownies and truffles – all made with the Mast Brothers chocolate.
Before going in the giant mixer, the beans have already been roasted – during which, the shell of the bean comes off and this is discarded, though not wasted of course. A local brewery in Brooklyn takes these leftovers shells and uses them to create a rich chocolatey stout – on another outing I stumbled across this and tried it out – fantastic.
I take home a few bars of the Mast Brothers Chocolate and experience a taste like never before: rich, luxurious, and unique flavours of indulgence, you only need to nibble on a few squares to feel thoroughly satisfied. When I meet old friends and new during my New York trip, everyone is raving about it, people are genuinely excited to learn about the Mast Brothers chocolate.
„There’s a lot more to it than just making chocolate and selling chocolate to our customers, the chocolate itself represents more than just a candy bar. It represents a new way of hand-crafting food. An old mentality, that’s now new again. And I think it’s spreading like wildfire too.“ – Rick Mast.
More about their craft is explained in this wonderful video about the Mast Brothers, produced by The Scout.
Visit the Mast Brothers chocolate-makers at 111 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY, 11249
Open every day, 12p – 7p