Image c/o Mast Brothers Facebook
If you live in the New York City metropolitan area, you have almost certainly seen the Mast Brothers impressively packaged chocolate bars floating around inside artisan coffee shops and gourmet grocery stores.
At sometimes more than $10 a pop, these chocolates, produced by two long-bearded Brooklyn-based brothers, have been marketed as the top-notch standard in the “bean to bar” business, meaning that they supposedly have control over every single part of the chocolate making process, from the time the cacao bean is picked to the time you purchase the chocolate bar at Trader Joe’s. But new evidence from analysis published on the Dallas Food blog suggests that the Mast Brothers are only pretending to be an artisan, bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer, and the brothers have been unable to deny all of the finger-wagging claims.
For a long time, Mast Brothers Chocolate has been heavily criticized by titans of the industry. Earlier this year, Clay Gordon, a Good Food Awards judge and the author of Discover Chocolate told Slate in March this year that, “if you were to ask every chocolate manufacturer to rate bars, Mast Brothers would rate in the bottom five percentile. There are defects in every bar and the chocolate is bad.” The brothers have rigorously defended their product, insisting in almost every media interview that their chocolate is the best in the world.
Scott Craig, a blogger from Dallas Food recently set out to debunk the Mast Brothers’ claim that they are solely bean-to-bar chocolatiers in a three-part blog series, “What Lies Behind the Beards.” In 2008, when Craig first tried a Mast Brothers bar, “it had a flat, roasty, anodyne flavor typical of industrial manufacturers using bulk cacao from western Africa.” Since then, chocolate experts have noted that the quality of Mast Brothers chocolate had taken a nosedive. Here’s a tasting note from Aubrey Lindley, co-founder of Cacao in Portland: “Dry, badly roasted, off flavors, sometimes poorly tempered, almost always terribly textured, crumbly, coarse, clumsily-made chocolate.”
“The Masts did not become pariahs in the fine chocolate world because of their beards, publicity or product mediocrity,” the blogger, Scott Craig says. “It was because of their lies.”
Following the egregious allegations posted in the three-part series on Dallas Food, The New York Times interviewed Rick Mast who denied most of the claims. However, he did claim that when they first started making chocolate out of their Williamsburg apartment in 2006, they did use “remelters” or industrial-grade chocolate that is used in mass-produced chocolate bars before they moved over to the bean-to-bar business that got them famous.
This year, according to Craig’s final blog post, the Mast Brothers’ business underwent a complete remodeling: a new shop that looks more impressive but has “dramatically reduced production capacity,” and is almost entirely for show now. The real action takes place in a factory near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is currently closed off to media or public tours. None of the 12 bars featured in Mast’s current chocolate lineup specify the cacao’s source or country of origin, according to Craig.
Since the admission, social media has exploded in fury at the seemingly dubious hipster chocolate makers that may have duped New Yorkers into buying into fancy packaging and a fierce business sense.
— Jonathan Wong (@jonpwong) December 21, 2015
Fuck the Mast Brothers + their chocolatey house of cards. Using beards + nice fonts to terrorize craft chocolatiers. https://t.co/qYFunuim2B
— Matt Varghese (@pxlt) December 20, 2015
“To be boiled down to how you dress or how you wear your beard, or where you live — I think it’s a distraction,” Rick Mast told The New York Times. “Our chocolate is our number one focus.”