I have a bit of a soft spot for this bonkers band of bearded brothers from Brooklyn. The first bar of theirs I tried, a Madagascan chocolate with Fleur de Sel was one of my favourite bars of last year.
Of course, first impressions are vital, and when it comes to packaging, nobody does it better than Mast Brothers. This bar is no exception, with a heavy, copper coloured paper outer wrapper hiding the gold-wrapped chocolate inside. Unwrapping a bar of Mast Brothers chocolate is an experience in itself.
As you can see, the packaging, both on the reverse and inside, helpfully gives plenty of background information about the bar and the village of Chuao in Venezuela where the cocoa beans come from.
I’ve talked before about one of the main problems with chocolate called “Chuao”. More chocolate is sold with that label than beans produced by the village. Some chocolate may use beans from the surrounding regions, others may not even be Chuao at all. For the consumer, it’s practically impossible to know for sure. So I’m going to assume that this bar is exactly what it claims to be, and just go on flavour.
The tasting notes describe it as:
“Spicy with notes of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and tobacco. A lingering buttery finish.”
I thought it would be intesting to compare it to a couple of other Chuao bars I have in my stash, so I broke out a bar of Amano and one of Soma’s latest batch, both of which are 70% rather than the 76% cocoa solids of this bar.
The first thing to say is that the Soma Chuao is nowhere near as good as the bar we originally reviewed. I’ve actually tried two different batches of the Soma since our original rave review. Both have been different, but neither have been a patch on the original. I think that goes to show the difficulty artisan bean-to-bar chocolate makers face in maintaining quality. Tiny variations at any stage of the chocolate making process can have a huge impact on flavour.
While it’s still a pleasant bar, it just doesn’t have the same fruitiness earlier batches did. The Amano bar is sweeter, fruitier and more buttery, with a hint of tobacco. There are some similarities between the two, but the Mast Brothers bar is very different again.
Immediately, it’s much more intense than the others, with a slightly bitter note. It’s a more complex flavour, with the tobacco and spice notes being much more prominent than the other bars. But for me, it doesn’t hold together quite as well as the others. I personally prefer lighter, sweeter and fruitier notes in my chocolate, and this didn’t quite do it for me.
Having said that, it’s still a bar I’d happily part company with money for (The Chocolate Society were kind enough to send this particular review sample). But if I had to pick one of the three Chuao bars in front of me now, it would be the Amano.