Monday, July 11, 2011

Abby Bean and the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of chocolate.  Especially good chocolate.  Especially dark chocolate.  I'd been eying Mast Brothers chocolate for a while, but couldn't bring myself to splurge.  Only when a friend generously gifted VM* an Almond & Sea Salt bar did I realize the decadence I'd been missing.

I've eaten a lot of chocolate in my life, but this was otherwordly.  Dark, smooth, and pure: punctuated by a pucker of sea salt and the crunch of roasted almonds- definitely not a mere "candy bar".  As with all of Mast's offerings, the magic lies in the quality, minimal ingredients.

Everything about the taste and the packaging radiates luxury, but the price point is not for the sake of attracting attention.  It is a result of utilizing the finest, fair trade, ethically sourced ingredients to craft exquisite chocolate; and, it is highbrow without being exclusionary. 

Soon after, the same generous friend discovered that, as if Mast Brothers couldn't be any cooler, they offer tours of their Brooklyn factory

You can smell the chocolate from the sidewalk.

But it doesn't prepare you for the visual beauty of the shop.

Most importantly, there are tastings of many of their bar options available as soon as you enter.  

Unwritten: "Please utilize the tongs provided in order to maintain both decorum and sanitation, as well as to prevent A. Bean from having a spaz attack."

The tour began unassumingly and our guide, Ian, was understated and knowledgeable.  At the end of the tour I was happy to see him take a taste along with the group and have him assure us that he is by no means sick of chocolate; otherwise I would have feared he was an alien.

The other employees we came across during the tour were friendly as well, and allowed us annoying crazy bloggers to photograph whatever we wanted.  Note: I don't want to start rumors or anything, but I did spy toasted rice puffs in this room where the chocolate is made into bars...therefore, I anticipate a dark chocolate, vegan, artisanal (or, as Mast puts it: craft), crunch bar in my future.

The tour is enjoyable, informative, and suitable for any age.  The hairnets were an attractive bonus!  I admit, though, that I found it a bit overwhelming to be around all of that chocolate and still maintain my composure.

I took a visual measurement and determined I would not fit in this drum.

One of the highlights of the tour was this awesome contraption.

We were told that the factory will be expanding to triple its size; I can't even fathom that much chocolate under one roof, but I can't wait to see what magical equipment the new space will hold.

When the tour was over, it was hard to narrow down my selections.

I ultimately chose these:

Cocoa Nibs- "Go from bean to bar in one bite. Cocoa nibs are roasted, chopped and winnowed cocoa beans. A favorite amongst craft chocolate makers. Beautiful texture, authentically pure cacao."  I generally find cocoa nibs bitter, so I didn't think I'd like this one.  But one taste of the crunch and I was hooked.  Ingredients: cacao, cane sugar, cocoa nibs.

the VEGAN golden ticket

Almonds & Sea Salt- (because it was that good the first time) "Biodynamic almonds from the Anderson family farm in central California headline this instant classic. The almonds are roasted in olive oil and sea salt, roughly chopped and distributed over single origin Dominican Republic dark chocolate."  Salt and chocolate done RIGHT.  Ingredients: cacao, cane sugar, almonds, sea salt, olive oil.

And lastly (for now): Pecans & Maple- "Made with a beautiful blend of cacao from all around the world.  We slow roast and caramelize organic, American Native pecans with Deep Mountain Vermont Maple Syrup found in Union Square's Greenmarket."  Not overtly maple-y and the pecans are extraordinary; a crunchy keeper.  Ingredients: cacao, cane sugar, pecans, maple syrup.

My next visit will surely include the Hazelnut for two reasons: 1) yum, - "Classic Italian pairing, made with the best hazelnuts in the world grown by our friends Barb and Fritz at Freddy Guys Filbert Farm in the Willamette Valley. Hazelnuts are roasted in-house and paired with our Venezuelan dark chocolate.", 2) Freddy Guys make the best hazelnuts!

And the Madagascar for it's decadent fruitiness- "This dark chocolate put craft chocolate on the map. The organic cacao is sourced from a single farm in the beautiful Sambirano Valley. Bold, with in your face notes of blood orange, raspberry and red wine (72% cacao)."  My companion, myself, AND the seven-year old in our tour group all agreed that the Madagascar was most fab.

Perhaps by then the crisped rice bar will have made an appearance!

Read more about the company and their commitment to their product on their blog.  In particular, make sure to check out this Wall Street Journal article chronicling their recent import expedition.  Don't miss the opportunity to take the enjoyable, chocolatey tour and- most importantly, go get some chocolate.

*Yes, the bar was a gift for VM.  Yes, it came with explicit instructions that I was to let her open it when she was good and ready.  No, there were no rules outlining whether or not it was appropriate to nag her until she did so...


  1. Wow, great post! I didn't know they gave tours either... definitely going to add that to my to-do list for the summer now :)

  2. First, you forgot to mention the major set back of this factory tour- it's in Williamsburg. Second, I love the "salt and chocolate done right" link. Third, when should we expect the rest of the day's events to be blogged? Particularly when Abby Bean and Pecan Sanj were out voted and forced (death march style) to walk across the terrible and gruesome Williamsburg Bridge?

  3. Anthony- and here we thought you'd lost your sense of humor! I have a new rule: all walks across bridges under duress should be followed by lychee martinis.

  4. Abby,

    I'm really happy VM enjoyed her mother's day gift, and Mash found a few new fans.

    However, keep the chocolate to a minimum. I would hate to see you end up like Augustus Gloop.

  5. It's too late, MVG; I get mistaken for him all the time.


Have you got something to say? It would be so nice to hear from you!
(I know captchas suck, but not as much as spam.)