I took this tour as I was inspired by a blog that my former boss posted about the Mast Brothers Fleur De Sel chocolate bar that he had bought from the chocolatiers Paul A Young in London. Whilst I had known of the Mast Brothers fame and had bought several of their bars as gifts for people back home I had done little to investigate their growing empire. First alerted to these beardy wonders back in 2008 in an Edible article, they were the first people to start bean to bar production in New York. They have steadily grown and are now to be found in many gourmet shops, several hip clothing stores and even top restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Per Se.
The tour itself was of the short and sweet variety. Admittedly the production facility is fairly small, with a roasting and conching room, a tempering room, some storage and admin space and then the store front which also doubles as the packing room. What is amazing is how quickly the business has expanded since 2007, now producing upwards of 1000 bars per week. Even as they have grown though they have stayed small, their mentality is to create not just a product but a community that includes the farmers, the chefs, the packaging designers and the customer. The very fact that their storefront is part of the factory ties you into the experience, as you see the bars being packaged and smell the beans being roasted.
The little tasting we did at the end of the tour brought home the uniqueness of the different bars. We tried three single origin bars, Venezuelan, Dominican Republic and Madagascan, all with their own flavour profile ranging from very dark, tobacco like flavour to sweeter citrus notes. Of all single origin chocolate the Madagascan has always been my favourite and The Mast Brothers version was no different, with strong hints of berry and citrus fruit.
You can taste all of the different flavours in the store where the patient girl behind the counter will happily offer you samples. These were my picks, mainly as gifts but with a Madagascan tucked away for my own eating pleasure, be warned the Serrano pepper bar certainly packs a punch……..
I would definitely recommend the tour ($10 at Paper Tickets) if you are interested in the process, but do not expect too much in-depth info, the main advantage is that at the end you are in the store where the bars are reasonably priced at $7 each or 3 for $20.
Some more links to Mast Brothers info,
http://www.theselby.com/1_8_10_mast_brothers/ good photos….
They are going on an amazing sounding trip taking a 70 foot hand-built Schooner to Dominican Republic to buy 20.000 pounds of cacao, really doing their bit to cut down on the use of fossil fuels, totally wind powered journey. Sounds awesome, I offered my services but was politely declined…..