Friday, November 14, 2008

TASTING TABLE : NEW YORK

Cocoa Bros: The Mast brothers are leading New York's bean-to-bar charge

The status of high-end microbatch chocolate is quickly catching up to its cult coffee counterparts: Mass production is out; single-origin beans and small-batch roasting are in. Leading this movement in New York is Mast Brothers Chocolate, launched last year by barbate brothers Rick and Michael (33 and 29, respectively), who turn hand-sourced beans from small farms in Madagascar, Venezuela and Ecuador into beautiful, deeply complex chocolate bars.

The Masts start with hulking burlap bags full of cocoa beans and process them in a Greenpoint warehouse, then wrap the bars in a motley collection of vintage paper from Florence and London. Their chocolates are sold mainly at outposts in Brooklyn ($7 to $10), though online ordering is coming soon. They also sell sacks of excellent chocolate bark ($12), heavily loaded with dried cranberries, nuts and pumpkinseeds.

Soon, we'll all be able to witness their bean-to-bar operation firsthand: Next month, the brothers plan to open their long-awaited factory and retail store in Williamsburg.