This week, lovers of artisanal chocolate have seemingly lost a hero—Mast Brothers—due to several detailed allegations against the Brooklyn chocolatiers in an exposé by DallasFood.org. In this four part series, the author known only as Scott explains how, from day one, the self-proclaimed chocolate innovators were not “bean-to-bar”—a designation for production in which every step is under the makers’ control—but were rather melting down portions of chocolate from Valrhona, a commercial French chocolate maker, and repackaging it as its own.
The story has gone viral, and has since been investigated in depth by Quartz, which independently verified several of the blog’s claims. It includes early correspondences from the brothers that specifically note their use of Valrhona chocolate in their early days of production.
Since the Internet has been ravenously licking its gotcha chops about false bean-to-bar claims by Mast Brothers—which first incorporated in 2007, recently opened a fancy new shop in London, is expecting another soon in LA, and, according to the piece in Quartz, “pulled in $28,000 in chocolate sales in just one December weekend” in its Williamsburg alone—Rick and Michael Mast have issued a public statement denying claims that they ever outsourced any of their chocolate.
“We think it is important that there are watchdogs in any industry. Ultimately, we admire, and are even flattered by the in-depth research and attention to detail that is done about our company in pursuit of understanding…
Any insinuation that Mast Brothers was not, is not or will not be a bean to bar chocolate maker is incorrect and misinformed. We have been making chocolate from bean to bar since the beginning and will continue to do so. Through the years, we have continuously improved our methods, recipes and tastes. We love making chocolate, and we have the audacity to think we are pretty good at it, too.”
Quartz, meanwhile, quotes several chocolate industry experts on record saying that not only do they remember early conversations with the brothers in which they openly admitted to using the French chocolate to get started, but that, furthermore, as they moved away from the smoothly textured commercial base, the taste of Mast Brothers products suffered; some openly called their very prettily wrapped bars outright bad.
Lies or no, the proof is in the chocolate. No one denies the packaging is gorgeous, but the product just doesn’t live up to the package’s promise.