In chocolate-tasting circles, the name ‘Mast Brothers‘ is spoken with quiet reverence. Two brothers from Brooklyn who have somehow managed to make – I’m told by reliable sources – some of the best chocolate in the world.
I had to find out for myself, so I ventured to the only place outside New York that sells it, Paul A. Young’s shop. The shop was heaving with Easter chocolate hunters, all intent on picking up such delights as sea salted caramel eggs, but I only wanted one thing. Mast Brothers.
Other shoppers looked at me strangely when I asked the assistant. But she knew. The chocolate is not on display in the shop, so she ventured downstairs and came back with the last two bars they had. This Fleur de Sel bar and Coffee one.
I paid £8.95 each for these 70g bars. Probably the most I’ve paid for a bar of chocolate, yet somehow they seemed worth it from the start. The packaging is beautiful. Printed on thick, simply patterned paper with the logo carefully glued on separately, as with the ingredients on the back.
Inside, the bar itself is beautifully wrapped in gold foil. It looks and feels like a gold bar. Somehow I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed.
Unwrap it and you’re immediately greeted by an intense, fruity aroma.
The chocolate itself has a nice finish. Attractive and glossy without being overly shiny. There’s no bubbles in the chocolate, but you can tell from the edges that this has been hand molded, rather than produced by some machine that makes perfect bars every time.
The underside reveals the Fleur de Sel. Tiny grains of salt that don’t look much, but significantly alter the nature of this bar.
The bar is thin, but feels solid and snaps with a satisfying click. Place a square on your tongue and suddenly your mouth is filled with amazing flavours.
It might seem strange, the flavours you get depend on which way up you place the chocolate on your tongue. Place it salt side down, and you’re immediately hit by the intensity of the fleur de sel as the small crystals dissolve quickly. The salt flavour briefly overwhelms the chocolate, but it’s a much more rounded flavour than a table salt and quickly fades back.
Personally I love it that way, but if you’re less keen on getting that initial burst of salt flavour, place the square the other way up and the chocolate and fleur de sel melt and release their flavours much more evenly.
And what flavours they are. I’ve always been a particular fan of the light, fruity flavour of Madagascan beans. Up to now, Amano’s Madagascan bar has been my favourite dark chocolate of all time. Up to now.
This bar has three ingredients. Cacao, cane sugar and fleur de sel. Yet it is the most intensely flavoured dark chocolate I’ve ever had. It’s sweet, fruity, zingy and chocolatey, and I absolutely love it. It really is quite hard to believe that so much flavour can come from three such simple ingredients. That’s a reflection not only of the ingredients themselves, but of the expertise and love that’s gone into making the chocolate.
Some might find the salt a little too intense, but I think it’s an essential part of this bar. Not only does it add a unique flavour of its own, but it lifts the cocoa flavours to a new level.
I’m really looking forward to trying the rest of the Mast Brothers range (when I can afford it!), but for now, this is my new favourite chocolate.