It was 2006 when brothers Rick and Michael Mast first started experimenting with chocolate in their Williamsburg apartment, long before the neighbourhood’s foodie reputation had fully taken hold. Nearly a decade later, the Mast brothers are synonymous with both quality artisanal chocolate making and - perhaps more surprisingly - a relentless focus on design.
The wrappers enfolding each bar they produce range from geometric minimalism (Milk, Maple) to more organic, kinetic patterns (Smoke, Mint). All are immediately enticing, with strong, flat colours printed onto tactile papers and overlaid with the san-serif MAST logo. As creative director Nathan Warkentin explained in a recent interview, “I wanted the new designs to read less as static patterns and more like paintings with movement. They all have a funky, soulful quality.” Not content to stop at packaging, the striking interior architecture of their new Brooklyn and London stores cements Mast Brothers position as a food brand who want to do things differently, and points potentially to an Aesop-esque architectural portfolio. Los Angeles opens soon.
Design alone, however, will only get a chocolate maker to a certain point. Mast Brothers distinct and celebrated flavour is born from a founding principle: From Bean to Bar. “We had to come up with how everything is done every step of the way because there was no such thing as small-batch chocolate makers,” Rick says. “To really reach the full flavour potential of chocolate that a cacao bean has, it really has to be done small – there’s no magic to it. If you get the best beans, you’re going to get the best product.”
Quality ingredients and exploration are key: no additives such as vegetable oil or vanilla are used, and the brand constantly look to the origins of their beans to work out ways to improve or change flavour and texture. Their obsession with getting involved in every step of the process is extensive: the brothers previously embarked on a fifteen day voyage from the Dominican Republic to Brooklyn, using only wind power and bringing with them 20 tonnes of organic cacao beans. Their ship, the Black Seal, was the first commercial sailboat to unload cargo in a New York port since 1939.