Rick and Michael Mast are indeed brothers. As they say, "We've been brothers our whole lives." The bearded siblings are putting out some of Brooklyn’s finest organic, fair-trade chocolate.
The beans are imported directly from South America or the Dominican Republic. And sometimes they go to get the beans themselves. “We chartered a 70-foot schooner to pick 20 metric tons of beans up from the Dominican Republic. We figure why not limit our participation in the industrialization of food. The same people who grew the cacao from the La Red co-operative delivered the shipment to the boat.” The boys paid a fair price along with some good beer.
Back in Williamsburg, the beans are roasted on trays the size of a home cookie sheet in small convention ovens, which gives them more control. “We know it’s ready by taste.” They use machinery custom-made by fellow New York Mouth chocolatier Cacao Prieto (a former aerospace engineer) to remove the hulls and grind the beans into nibs. The chocolate-making machines are powered by granite wheels that macerate and smooth the roasted beans and sugar for several days. The chocolate is then ‘aged’ in metal bins.
Each bar is hand-wrapped in distinctive paper. “We originally just wrapped our chocolate in butcher paper, in hopes of doing anything we could to communicate the message that chocolate is food — not candy. We soon realized that the packaging needed something more so we tried to retain the feel of butcher paper but with beautifully designed patterns.”
The papers are indeed beautiful – each flavor is wrapped in a signature pattern from paisley to gingham to whimsical modern graphics, all designed by the owners, their crew or family and friends. People want in! Artists from around the world have submitted their own potential patterns to the brothers, but they’ve decided to keep it in the family.
The brothers are truly trying to build a community in their Williamsburg factory, not just make chocolate. “Nothing substitutes for people coming in, meeting us, and seeing our place. We want to have a place where people walking by eating ice cream can pop in and discover how chocolate is made.”