Turns out good beards don't mean good chocolate
December 17, 2015 1:46 PM   Subscribe

How the Mast Brothers fooled the world into paying $10 a bar for crappy hipster chocolate

In “Mast Brothers: What Lies Beneath the Beards,” a new series of posts on DallasFood.org, Scott, the first-name-only blogger who in 2006 presented detailed allegations that the now-defunct Noka Chocolate was selling another company’s chocolate at significantly higher prices, has targeted the Mast Brothers’ story. He alleges that the company—whose business is staked on its authenticity and commitment to transparency—did not originally make its own chocolate from scratch, as it claims it always has. As artisanal food surges in popularity, whether it’s chocolate, liquor or jam, the Mast Brothers’ story highlights how a company can have great success selling a product of dubious quality as something “artisanal” or “handcrafted” with beautiful packaging and handsome, bearded founders.

Previously.
Also previously.
posted by holborne (151 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait until they find out how much of the rye whiskey sold in this country all comes from the same factory in Indiana, often with a cute and entirely fictional story attached.

Artisan stuff sells. Artisan stuff produced in industrial quantities is enormously profitable.
posted by zachlipton at 1:53 PM on December 17, 2015 [45 favorites]


Yeah I get the sense that most origin stories are lies, in whole or part, particularly in the field of business. There was no Pez dispenser at eBay, Zuckerberg didn't do it alone, etc. Life is messy and blurry and confusing and doesn't lend itself to tidy stories.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:55 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, and 'Authenticity' is bunk, for the most part.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:56 PM on December 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


The tour guide at the Williamsburg factory told Quartz that the brothers figured everything out themselves through “trial and error,” referencing only ancient Incan or Mayan (she couldn’t remember which) techniques.

Yeah, Incas, Mayans, some sort of south-of-USA culture, they're all basically the same, right?
posted by BungaDunga at 1:57 PM on December 17, 2015 [22 favorites]


In the chocolate community, the suspicions of remelting began early.

There's a chocolate community? Mmm, chocolate community...
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah I get the sense that most origin stories are lies, in whole or part, particularly in the field of business. There was no Pez dispenser at eBay, Zuckerberg didn't do it alone, etc.

Those seem significantly different from "our 'artisinal, hand-crafted chocolates' are just rebranded Hersheys bars." It's as if Facebook was just an HTML frame or CSS skin over Friendster and selling it as "the next big social network." There are fabricated "how we started" stories, and fake "how we make our product" details, and they should not be confused.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:04 PM on December 17, 2015 [31 favorites]


This feels like some thin gruel. They were not 100% "bean to bar" when they started, in 2008? But now they are. They're chocolate isn't very good? Tell that to the people buying it. They used to not have beards but now they have beards? (Seriously, that tweet is ridiculous)

Maybe the chocolate is over-hyped, their story pumped up a bit, their egos over-inflated. But there's not scandal here.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:17 PM on December 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


our 'artisinal, hand-crafted chocolates' are just rebranded Hersheys bars

Not at all what the story is. Cool favorites, tho.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:18 PM on December 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think that the challenge is that there are people who genuinely care about chocolate quality (in ways that may be undetectable to people who don't know that much about chocolate) and artisinal-ness, and then there are people who just want a nice hostess gift, which a fancy chocolate bar in really nice packaging is. To the former people, the Mast brothers seem like horrible frauds, but they're selling a lot of chocolate to the latter people, who don't care that much that some of their claims aren't entirely true.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:21 PM on December 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't read the linked material, but the pullquote from below the break and was cheekily referring to "Noka Chocolate was selling another company’s chocolate." Still, I feel that there is a significant difference between fake background (Facebook was built by Zuckerberg) and fake product (our chocolate is made like x, but is really y).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:22 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hersheys is dog chocolate.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:23 PM on December 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


There is an insinuation that they are still using industrial couverture for some products if you read to the last chapter about them refusing to allow tours of their new facility. Which is a big deal. Its essentially accusing them of fraud.

Other than that, what ArbitraryAndCapricious says.
posted by JPD at 2:24 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well they fooled Thomas Keller enough to write the foreword to the Mast Brothers Chocolate cookbook. I'll bet he's very disappointed, especially when he went out of the way to explicitly say that they are authentic artisans (unlike superficial "trend artisans"). It's not just about consumers; this affects everyone who cares about ingredient sourcing, ranging from home cooks who make desserts, to pastry chefs in Eleven Madison Park or Per Se.
posted by polymodus at 2:26 PM on December 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hershey's is pretty gross, but they were using Valrhona, which is a pretty far cry from Hershey's. And I truly think that you're mostly paying for the packaging, which I like quite a bit.

(I have never had Mast chocolate. I am not in the market for a $10 chocolate bar. But I do occasionally admire the packaging when I see them at the fancy grocery store.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:26 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The claim is the stuff Keller tasted was just re-melted third party.

Which actually now makes a lot more sense to me, as if you look at one of the previouslies I was saying their chocolate sucked - which at the time was very obviously correct to me, although I have not had a piece since then so it is entirely possible they have gotten their act together and are now making decent product.
posted by JPD at 2:28 PM on December 17, 2015


Interesting article. DallasFood.org has some interesting articles and their massive series on gianduia is infuriating if only because it's so hard to find it in the US. And I want some!

Speaking of the aforementioned rye fraud, my wife received a settlement from Templeton rye earlier this year.
posted by misterpatrick at 2:31 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just dropping into this thread to plug Taza Chocolate, an actual bean-to-bar maker that's been roasting since 2005, learned their techniques by going to Mexico and asking people, and makes some of my favorite chocolate in the universe.
posted by xthlc at 2:33 PM on December 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


This feels like some thin gruel. They were not 100% "bean to bar" when they started, in 2008? But now they are. They're chocolate isn't very good? Tell that to the people buying it. They used to not have beards but now they have beards? (Seriously, that tweet is ridiculous)

I mean I agree to a point. The basic claim is that they misled everyone about the basic nature of their product for several years when they first got started, then eventually started doing more themselves, and at around the same time their chocolate got a lot worse. All the while they were shameless pitchmen.

But part 4 of the Dallas Food story discusses this a bit at the end:
Some may contend that this is all ancient history—that, whatever the Masts’ indiscretions in their first two years, they did eventually open their shop to the public, scale up the equipment, order cacao in serious quantities, and fully become what they had pretended to be. But trust is vital in the chocolate business. As a cranky old chocophile once wrote, “Not that you lied to me, but that I no longer believe you, has shaken me.” Now the Masts are in the midst of another transition. They’ve taken on a partner to help fund their growth and are currently making the rounds soliciting substantial private equity investment for an even greater expansion. At the same time, they’re becoming less transparent about their operations and, therefore, demanding more confidence from their customers.
They've essentially closed off their factory except for a couple of machines for demo purposes and removed all source claims from their packaging. The question is why should they be trusted now when they've continued to repeat their lies about their first two years in operation and are now becoming more opaque about their sources and methods.
posted by zachlipton at 2:35 PM on December 17, 2015 [40 favorites]


I for one am tired of all this prejudice against beards. I like my beard. It's a good place to store chocolate.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 2:36 PM on December 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


I always told myself I wouldn't be suckered or influenced by branding & packaging. What I didn't account for is that branding and packaging are always evolving to sneak past my bullshit detector. In fact, I'm starting to suspect my bullshit detector is completely broken when it comes to these things.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 2:37 PM on December 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


What I didn't account for is that branding and packaging are always evolving to sneak past my bullshit detector

Leslie is an ad
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


God damn it I literally just bought some of this as a gift hours ago.
posted by evisceratordeath at 2:46 PM on December 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


Get a chunk of whatever they're accused of remelting and some big "A,B" labels. Possibly a present for a different person.
posted by clew at 2:50 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


God damn it I literally just bought some of this as a gift hours ago.

Eh it's all good. Buy one more bar and tell the whole story. It'll make for a fun gift-giving (and sharing) experience. (on preview, what clew said)

These guys sound like jerks. I mean, they clearly love chocolate and wanted to make their own. But to repeatedly lie to what was ostensibly their community, people who share a passion etc — lie, to their faces, about important things, for years! Come on!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:51 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


“Most of the chocolate was simply inedible, by my standards.”

Was it locked in a crow-bar-proof safe? That is the only kind of inedible chocolate I can imagine.

Also: the word "Artisinal" in Ngram Viewer.
posted by Cassford at 2:54 PM on December 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm sure Valrhona makes different grades of chocolate, but the stuff they sell under their own label is pretty damn good, and I would buy it over many other brands.

I get the disdain for the fake artisinal front, but unless it was lower-grade or otherwise mis-handled, there's no way I'd call Valrhona inedible.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:05 PM on December 17, 2015


This is why I respect the people behind Bubbie's pickles. They are in the fancy pickle market but don't lie about who they are, where the pickle recipe comes from and who the Bubbie on the label is.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:09 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


This ought to be a fable, the story of selling someone else's high quality chocolate as your own creation, and then somehow having to learn how to make a product as good as a venerable French chocolatier lest your fraud be discovered.
..with a weird twist ending that their failure at meeting the benchmark they'd set for themselves doesn't seem to have mattered much.
posted by Flashman at 3:11 PM on December 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


Hersheys is dog chocolate.

not really to defend Hershey's, because it is kinda dog chocolate and as my understanding goes mostly wax, but it and Dove (which isn't much better) are also about the only chocolates I can reliably eat because they're pretty good about having nut-free facilities. this doesn't seem to be the case with a lot of smaller chocolatiers. it's the same problem with peanut oil and how bigger restaurants/fast food places seem to have moved away from it while a lot of smaller/actually-not-terrible-for-you ones haven't.

all of the fancy chocolates I've tried to buy since these allergies popped up have been failures. I have spent way too much time in chocolate aisles looking increasingly sadder with every bar I pick up.

that said, I got to tour the Theo Chocolate Factory like 5 years ago and it was really cool to see the entire process. they're legit. I was super bummed you could only get them in Seattle at the time but lo and behold now you can find them all over the place (or at least in every REI ever, so I'm not complaining). I recommend the tour if you can go, and also, the buttered toast chocolate bar because dang. also they used to have a 75% dark chocolate called "Madagascar" which was named for pretty obvious reasons, but they discontinued that. I swear to god that was the best chocolate I've ever eaten. why, theo. why.

I wonder if there's gonna be more of this kind of scandal/drama what with chocolate prices rising because it's so in right now and in such high demand. calling out sketchy companies, etc. Higher demand so there's more to gain or lose now, right?

in other words tho: this is why I can't have nice things and why I am frequently seen surrounded by chocolate and yet somehow looking pathetically sad
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 3:13 PM on December 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


I get the disdain for the fake artisinal front, but unless it was lower-grade or otherwise mis-handled, there's no way I'd call Valrhona inedible.
I think the inedible chocolate and the Valrhona chocolate are different chocolate. They sold some good stuff, which they didn't make even though they claimed to be making it, and then they started selling some terrible stuff, which they did make. So their first offense was lying, but then their second offense was selling bad chocolate when they tried to stop lying and do what they'd said they'd been doing all along.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:14 PM on December 17, 2015 [31 favorites]


I see no social value in defending people who clearly display a lack of integrity in their work. This concept is not that difficult.
posted by polymodus at 3:19 PM on December 17, 2015 [22 favorites]


the only chocolates I can reliably eat because they're pretty good about having nut-free facilities

My sister-in-law has the exact same problem and loves chocolate and so is always sad, too. Right before Thanksgiving I found this article about making your own chocolate, which I didn't know you could, maybe that's common knowledge but it was news to me. So for Xmas her husband and my mom-in-law and I put our funds together to buy a melanger for her, although first we're going to attempt making chocolate with it so we can give the chocolate to her for Xmas. We're trying it out this weekend. I am SO EXCITED and also a little bit nervous.
posted by barchan at 3:25 PM on December 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


Hmm. Bulleit rye has been a staple of our drinks cabinet recently, is it worth hunting down what it is relabeled from?
posted by Artw at 3:34 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The comment about bourbon is a little more complicated. It's not that Bulleit is literally some other product that Diageo re-labels. As a non-distiller producer (NPR), Diageo/Bulleit will presumably have some proprietary grain selection and mixture (mash bill) that they instruct the distiller (in this case Four Roses) to distill. The result is usually aged elsewhere at some other facility owned and operated by the NPR.

So you can buy a Four Roses product and know that they also distill Bulleit, but it's not exactly the same thing.
posted by AndrewInDC at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just buy Rittenhouse. And Valrhona.
posted by notyou at 3:48 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Bulleit rye has been a staple of our drinks cabinet recently, is it worth hunting down what it is relabeled from?

Not much of a secret - it's one of those MGP ryes from Indiana like so many of the rest.

It's still delicious though, right? And under $25 a bottle! It's one of those things that makes me reconsider how mad I am about this MGP rye thing. On one hand, it is basically the Budweiser of rye whiskey, but on the other hand the availability of rye has just exploded in the last decade or so. It used to be, like, Crown Royal and Old Overholt, and that's it. Now there are so many options. I don't like being lied to about artisanal crafting more than anyone else, but if they would just come clean about who makes what, I'm not sure I'd mind all that much. I don't know. I would like there to be space in the market for small producers.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:49 PM on December 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


Almost all the Rye in the United States is made at MGP but they don't sell any of it directly. There are different mash bills and aging lengths available which does allow for variations in the bottled products that are sold under other labels. So you won't necessarily be able to swap out any rye on the shelf under the assumption that you are getting the exact same product. Rye is relatively inexpensive for the mid-price point bottles so happy experimenting.

As AndrewInDC mentions, this is different for bourbon whiskey which has many more producers. I can't find a reference but I seem to recall MGP's dominance has to do with the relative difficulties in making rye whiskey and the fact that Rye hasn't been popular until very recently and the MGP people had a monopoly on knowledge and talent.
posted by mmascolino at 3:49 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bulleit Rye (which I like) is literally MGP 95% rye according to everything I've seen, and Diageo has been up front about that. The Bulleit bourbon is a little more complicated, and it sounds like it doesn't actually come from Four Roses anymore, but I'll agree it seems to be a proprietary mix they've contracted out.

I was talking about American rye in my comment, which is largely rebottled from a couple of MGP products, sometimes with a nonsense story about the legendary recipe attached. The situation for bourbon is a bit different.
posted by zachlipton at 3:51 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Full of beard hair. 1/10. Would not conspicuously consume again.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:03 PM on December 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm really glad Scott is out there digging up the dirt on fraudulent chocolate makers. His older report on NoKa was, imo, a low-key classic of internet investigative journalism. When I read this headline I was like "that chocolate detective guy is back!!!"

It's very first-world-problem and sort of frivolous when compared to the worst instances of consumer fraud in the world, but I still like it. I guess I just can't resist anything that takes corporate bullshit artists *and* rich gullible conspicuous consumers down a notch.
posted by scose at 4:11 PM on December 17, 2015 [23 favorites]


All I could think of, hearing about these guys was the Timmy Brothers.
posted by edheil at 4:16 PM on December 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh my. The top "recommended video" on the Youtube page with the Timmy Brothers is in fact the Mast Brothers! And after that, the amazing David Rees, Artisanal Pencil Sharpener.
posted by edheil at 4:18 PM on December 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


g that takes corporate bullshit artists *and* rich gullible conspicuous consumers down a notch.

These guys defrauded people and because they're hipsters that's ok?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:18 PM on December 17, 2015


On the one hand, it is a first-world problem, but on the other hand, chocolate is a ridiculously exploitative industry, and one of the reasons that people buy bean-to-bar chocolate is so they can know that their chocolate is ethically sourced. So when people fraudulently claim to be making that kind of chocolate, you could argue that they're contributing to extremely non-first-world problems.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:18 PM on December 17, 2015 [29 favorites]


That's good journalism, and (except maybe for the very end where he goes a little over the top) excellent writing. It made me care about a subject that I know almost nothing about.

Boo to the fake chocolate makers!
posted by Kevin Street at 4:19 PM on December 17, 2015


To understand why this is a scandal you have to understand how much of skill it requires to make excellent chocolate by hand, and how insulting it is to sell re-melted coeverture chocolate as handmade.

Hand making chocolate is fairly brutal. To get that nice shiny bar with the good snap and bright flavors and even distribution on your tongue requires hours and hours of processing through many stages and is easily prone to error.

Chocolate is also one of those commodities that unless you are very very careful about how you source it, you are supporting slave labor and some really nasty groups. That's one of the reasons people crap on Hersheys. They use palm oil in their products which is responsible for things like the clear cutting of Borneo. They and many many other big name chocolatiers also source from the Ivory Coast and well...yeah.

I met the mast brothers years and years ago when I worked in the industry and I am disappointed to learn this news...but not that surprised. For them to actually make bars with a temper that good, on small equipment, without soy lecithin or other emulsifiers AND YET have the final product be mostly bland would be a tour de force of dubious skill.

I could go on but instead of harping on the negative here's some positive. Go buy Theo bars. Buy Rogue bars if you can get them. Olive and Sinclair is great. Askinosie is the most hardcore when it comes to fair trade. Dandelion is ridiculously good.

French Broad Chocolates (full disclosure: I worked for them) is excellent and truly handmade by couple of people. Their website also sells a lot of really great bars by other companies. Sad to see Mast is still on there for now - I suspect not much longer.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:24 PM on December 17, 2015 [108 favorites]


Just dropping into this thread to plug Taza Chocolate, an actual bean-to-bar maker that's been roasting since 2005, learned their techniques by going to Mexico and asking people, and makes some of my favorite chocolate in the universe.

Note: Taza is kinda polarizing since their authentic stone-ground processes tend to make the chocolate taste gritty, which is generally the opposite of what I am looking for in a chocolate bar. But that's personal preference and it's great for hot chocolate!

(Personal favorite chocolate: Lake Champlain. Especially the dark.)
posted by maryr at 4:39 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


That is the only kind of inedible chocolate I can imagine.

i guess you have never tasted a US-brand milk chocolate then
posted by poffin boffin at 4:42 PM on December 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm somewhat hesitant about posting this because I have to admit spending $10 on a chocolate bar -- a chocolate bar that I didn't even like! -- but at some point (I was probably feeling sorry for myself in Williamsburg) I bought one of their chocolate bars.

It was fairly bad, but I thought that was just because I didn't like chocolate that dark. But then I got good dark chocolate, and ate it nibble by tiny nibble over the course of about a week, and I still don't like very dark chocolate but I like it better than the Mast Brothers bar I had.
posted by Jeanne at 4:47 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


one of the reasons that people buy bean-to-bar chocolate is so they can know that their chocolate is ethically sourced

Chocolate is also one of those commodities that unless you are very very careful about how you source it, you are supporting slave labor and some really nasty groups.

The solution to this problem does not lie in backing bearded "artisan" marketing geniuses. It lies in reforming the global supply chain through regulation, and through a more equitable global distribution of wealth so that exploitation can be avoided. That's a tough state of affairs to achieve, sure. But dropping $10 on a chocolate bar because the label vaguely claims it's "ethically sourced" mainly serves the purpose of making yourself feel better. Buying expensive chocolate isn't activism.
posted by Jimbob at 4:59 PM on December 17, 2015 [23 favorites]


I read this through another site this week, and it reminded me of how much appearance drives people's buying choices. Sadly, people like the Mast Brothers, but also quite a few others, are giving "artisan" food crafts a crap name.

Definitely second the recommendation of Theo Chocolate if you can find it. They do excellent chocolates, but what I find interesting are their "fantasy bars". Coconut curry chocolate? Sounds bizarre, works brilliantly. Fig, almond, fennel? Ditto. They are also doing great work in developing a sustainable, ethical bean source in the Congo. This is huge, and the bars I've had were outstanding.
posted by petrilli at 5:06 PM on December 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


people like the Mast Brothers, but also quite a few others, are giving "artisan" food crafts a crap name.

What does "artisan" even mean? As far as I can tell, it now means "middle class dudes doing jobs working class people used to do for a lot less money".

When I hear the term, I imagine someone who's spent decades travelling the world, studying under masters of their craft, learning the job inside out, doing the hard work. I don't think it's supposed to mean "figured some shit out by myself and got some fancy labels printed".

I was at a cafe once that was serving "artisanal fruit toast". Which ancient master of fruit toast preparation was the creator apprenticed to?
posted by Jimbob at 5:08 PM on December 17, 2015 [21 favorites]


Buying expensive chocolate isn't activism.
No, it's not. That's true. But I don't actually need chocolate, and I don't feel comfortable sating my sweet tooth with stuff that's made by child slaves. If that's self-indulgent, I can live with that. It's not like you have to choose between not eating slave-produced chocolate and doing activism. You can do both!

Incidentally, I think that $10 is unusually expensive for good chocolate. I popped over to the grocery store across the street to check, and they're selling Theo bars for $2.99.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:16 PM on December 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


Ethical, honest, not insanely expensive alternatives would be appreciated, especially if their shipping is reasonable.
posted by Beholder at 5:33 PM on December 17, 2015


I have the beard, now I just need the branding and the shamelessness. I wonder if they thought they would really get away with it?
posted by Dip Flash at 5:35 PM on December 17, 2015


What does "artisan" even mean? As far as I can tell, it now means "middle class dudes doing jobs working class people used to do for a lot less money".

if only.

it means dudes with trust funds, dudes cashing out from hedge funds or tech, dudes sleeping with dudes from hedge funds, paying kids with college degrees to do manual labor while convincing them they are learning a ancient craft.

try getting a bank loan to start a chocolate factory. what collateral do you have?
posted by ennui.bz at 5:39 PM on December 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


French Broad Chocolates (full disclosure: I worked for them) is excellent and truly handmade by couple of people. Their website also sells a lot of really great bars by other companies.

They sell Videri bars. People kept telling us about Videri in Raleigh and I kept mentioning it to my husband but we hadn't gotten around to going there. He is a dark chocolate lover so I went and picked up some bars for him for his Christmas stocking. I think he is going to like their chocolate a lot; I ate one of their 90% dark chocolate hearts and was amazed at how not bitter it was-- just very rich and chocolatey. Once he gets his surprise for Christmas I suspect we will be making more trips to Raleigh to visit the factory.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:46 PM on December 17, 2015


But trust is vital in the chocolate business.

more so than in any other business?
posted by mattoxic at 5:52 PM on December 17, 2015


The "bros to beards" picture highly amused me in no small part because it reminded me of the similar before-and-after pictures of the Duck Dynasty people.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:54 PM on December 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


Ecuadorian chocolate is ridiculously good.

Pacari (family owned) and Kallari (co-operatively owned) are both excellent.
posted by nikoniko at 5:57 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also: the word "Artisinal" in Ngram Viewer.

For comparison, the word "artisinal".
posted by kenko at 6:00 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


i used to like kopali organic nibs but then they disappeared so now i just live in a sad chocolateless world of despair and hunger
posted by poffin boffin at 6:02 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


And also, artisanal firewood.
posted by staggering termagant at 6:07 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here ya go, poffin. Last time I'll link to them cause it feels weird but I haven't worked there in years now so eh.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:14 PM on December 17, 2015


Valrhona is decent and I often get the Callebaut bittersweet couverture sold in chunks at fancy grocery stores for my everyday eating chocolate, but it's a different product than most bean-to-bar chocolate. Often bean-to-bar makers use nothing but cocoa beans and sugar, whereas more "commercial" (using the term loosely!) bars will had added cocoa butter to smooth it out.

I've taken the tour at both the Theo and Mast brothers factories. I thought they were a little vague about the particulars (because I'm a huge nerd and take factory tours by myself and ask questions like "How exactly do you determine how long you roast each bean variety for?"). I mostly chalked it up to an overwrought mythology, because Brooklyn. This is disappointing to hear but almost a little reassuring that they weren't actually flailing around trying to figure it out all by themselves when there were most definitely other small chocolate makers around at that time.

I did always like the Black Truffle and the maple bar, where they used maple sugar instead of regular.

Among the others listed in this thread, Dick Taylor chocolate had been my jam lately. I'll happily ignore any exposés about them for a while, thanks.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 6:21 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


“We’ve 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 told an Australian publication.

This is some kind of amazing balls-out obvious lying, right here.
posted by kenko at 6:23 PM on December 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


Looking forward to reading. The author's articles on Noka were amazing and are worth the read.
posted by kreinsch at 6:24 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Quartz article is pretty good too.
posted by kenko at 6:25 PM on December 17, 2015


I recently purchased some Trinidadian (or, more accurately, Tobagoan) chocolate at one of the duty free stores in Piarco Airport.

It cost me $20. I wasn't planning on spending that much, but felt like it'd be almost shameful to cancel the transaction.

But it was so good! High cacao content, not bitter. The packaging claimed that the raw material is shipped to a processing facility in France, turned into something amazing, and then shipped back for sale.

I wouldn't recommend the price, but the product was excellent.
posted by clicking the 'Post Comment' button at 6:39 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not a holiday option because he's currently sold out, but the Meeteetse Chocolatier is the best.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:40 PM on December 17, 2015


Among the others listed in this thread, Dick Taylor chocolate had been my jam lately.

8.50 for a 2 ounce bar! How about they sell the same bar, without the pretentious label, for a couple of bucks less? : )
posted by Beholder at 6:42 PM on December 17, 2015


Oh man:
As a sign of the brothers’ creativity and resourcefulness, Michael Mast wrote that, “We cracked the cacao shells with a hand mill used for crushing barley in home brewing” (MBC, 123). Photos reveal that this was, in fact, a Crankandstein Cocoa Mill. This piece of equipment was not only specially manufactured for small-batch chocolate makers (hence the name), but was developed by the manufacturer in direct collaboration with John Nanci, who was responsible for the gap dimensions, the three-gear system, and elimination of the slave roller. All of this was done nearly two years before the Masts sold their first bar of chocolate. Making his failure to give credit even more audacious, Michael Mast purchased his Crankandstein Cocoa Mill directly from John Nanci on March 13, 2008.
I find this so gross. I also kind of wonder why food journalists weren't any more suspicious any earlier. I mean, "no one has ever done this before!" is the kind of thing you'd expect a food writer to know enough to question.
posted by kenko at 7:02 PM on December 17, 2015 [19 favorites]


I mean, "no one has ever done this before!" is also exactly the kind of headline that draws pageviews, so...
posted by teponaztli at 7:20 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


So would "hipster frauds in Brooklyn!".
posted by kenko at 7:25 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


gah now I went and looked at the world chocolate award winners and tried to see if I could get some of the bars online and I'm 150 bucks poorer
posted by Riton at 7:33 PM on December 17, 2015


Wow the Dallas Foods guy has a thirty-five part series on gianduia.
posted by kenko at 7:33 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's just (hazel)nuts, Kenko!
posted by staggering termagant at 7:44 PM on December 17, 2015


Oh, it gets better: literally the only posts between the Noka series and the Mast series are the posts about gianduia, which include a part 10.5, on "the most common elements of [the character Gianduia's] dress and appearance", and a part 1.5 on pronunciation. The series is very thorough.
posted by kenko at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Glad to hear that Theo are the real deal. I bike past them on my commute and you can smell the factory, which, awesome. Also their bars are $2.50 at the store near me.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:57 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


(And, let it be said, pretty dang interesting, though I'm not going to read the full series right now.)
posted by kenko at 7:58 PM on December 17, 2015


Huh and the first post on the blog is about Noka. The entire blog has had three topics (beneath the main topic of chocolate): Noka, gianduia, Mast.
posted by kenko at 8:00 PM on December 17, 2015


i live about 5 minutes from the Askinosie Chocolate factory mentioned in the article and omygod guys you just don't know
posted by sourwookie at 8:04 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Where does Ritter Sport fit into all of this? The Dunkel Voll Nuss is pretty kickass. Just wish they didn't mark it up 300% when selling it in the USA.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:07 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


All I could think of, hearing about these guys was the Timmy Brothers .

Holy crap. Funny, and suspiciously like maybe they had someone particular in mind.
posted by bongo_x at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Where does Ritter Sport fit into all of this?

Nowhere.
posted by kenko at 9:30 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


My bullshit detector is thankfully tied in with my price detector.

I went with the bag of Riesen instead. On sale, even... with caramel!
posted by markkraft at 9:40 PM on December 17, 2015


god it's 1am and i am buying vietnamese chocolate
posted by poffin boffin at 9:57 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


god it's 1am and i am buying vietnamese chocolate

I love that song.
posted by bongo_x at 9:58 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


This feels like some thin gruel. They were not 100% "bean to bar" when they started, in 2008? But now they are.

I dunno. I feel like this is a bigger deal than some people i guess?

It's one thing to say "100% artisanal!" or even "100% artisanal since $DATE" or even "now 100%..."

It's a totally different thing to say "never anything but 100% artisanal since day 1!"

Claiming that when you weren't puts you in the same scummy boat as cosmetics brands that stopped testing on animals with "never animal tested!" labels. Obviously nowhere near as bad, but it's definitely scummy.

It's the difference between being a drug addict in recovery, and being that person talking mad shit non stop on how morally superior you are to people who still use.

I used to vend at a flea market that had plenty of Artisanal Things booths, and saw an awful lot of this kind of bullshit scummy behavior*. I know part of the reason it rubs me the wrong way so strongly is how much of it i saw first hand, but it's some high grade bullcrap that doesn't deserve a pass because it's just chocolate, or because they're Doing The Right Thing Now. You don't have to loudly trumpet the fact that you used to do the wrong thing, or lie even, but a simple statement-of-the-facts as in my first examples is as far as you should go.

*I'm getting flashbacks to all the scummy things i saw with fake-aged "chabby chic" or otherwise made to look super vintage or lived in furniture sold at obscene prices, that was often not very old and with either painted over damage or just terrible quality but sold as Super Vintage Awesome Quality Thing for $800. The artistic process of hand-detailing it to look that way was interesting, but it was still complete flim-flam-man shit and the people doing it were always huge assholes in other ways.
posted by emptythought at 10:07 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Riesen are the most underrated candies out there, I feel.
posted by holborne at 10:17 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


gah now I went and looked at the world chocolate award winners and tried to see if I could get some of the bars online and I'm 150 bucks poorer

Wow your internet is expensive
posted by um at 10:26 PM on December 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


So, let's say you want to support your local bean to bar chocolate maker. How do you know if they are the real deal? As far as I know, they don't have beards, so I'm at a loss.
posted by FJT at 11:09 PM on December 17, 2015


FTJ-That’s why I don’t like the edit window. Was better before.
posted by bongo_x at 11:34 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this. I hate Mast brothers for no better reason than they opened just as we left Brooklyn and I went by and their chocolate sucked, was expensive and they were snotty. Fantastic paper wrapping though. I watched one of their videos with a friend, shown to me with the preface 'holy shit look at these mooks,' and frankly the "Timmy Brothers" video above comes across as more authentic.

I believe the term 'douche-nozzle' applies here.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:24 AM on December 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


No chocolate scam thread would be complete without a link to the gripping classic "What's Noka Worth," an 11-part investigation into an extreme example of gross artisanal branding and customer gullibility exploitation.

On edit: I'm a maroon. It's mentioned in the OP. At least this egg will be good for my complexion, right? Right?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:12 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


>But trust is vital in the chocolate business.
more so than in any other business?


Yes? Child/slave labor, deforestation/killing off all the orangutans, unfair trade... it requires trust to believe someone when they say they are not doing any of that, because there is no easy way as a consumer to verify that.
posted by danny the boy at 2:01 AM on December 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does anyone do thorough blind taste tastes of "artisanal" chocolate? I'd like to see how such chocolates perform against one another (and against other chocolate) when stripped of wrapping, molding, coloring, origin tales, biographies, geographies, lists of ingredients, must-be-good pricing, carefully calculated typography, and other fancy bits of presentation.

I get that some people might want to buy stuff that was handmade by bearded young men who make chocolate in Brooklyn largely because it makes them feel good to throw money at bearded young men who make chocolate by hand in Brooklyn, but I'd like to know how the chocolate itself compares to chocolate handmade by, I don't know, bearded old women in Scotland. (Eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog, and plenty of crone-picked cocoa beans...)
posted by pracowity at 2:22 AM on December 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's like high-end audio equipment... Blind A/B testing frowned upon because doing so would display a disturbing lack of faith?
posted by Jimbob at 2:34 AM on December 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Inedible? Dog chocolate?

Come on, Hershey bars aren't my favorite either but they're OK. And I say this as someone who has bought many $10 bars of chocolate.

Also, chocolate is poisonous to dogs.
posted by mmoncur at 2:34 AM on December 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


A few years ago we toured a cacao (and other stuff) farm on Kauai. They were just getting to the point of producing enough beans to make batches. So the tour of the farm was walking around but we spent most of the time itself sitting and tasting a bunch of chocolates (almost all not theirs). It was mostly blind insofar as they cut up the pieces to hide marks but you can't disguise Taza to someone whose had it and obviously the chocolate varied a lot (darkness, vanilla or no, lecithin or no, etc). We had a numbered sheet to take notes on and they'd talk about if the current one was single origin. You could definitely tell differences and some were "better" than others. But these were all fairly high end so "better" is more about what appeals to you personally. After tasting them all they went thru them and identified makers (got out packaging etc.) and origins and full ingredients. It was a cool experience.
posted by R343L at 2:39 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh man, my wife and I take regular food holidays to Torino and the Langhe and we are always sampling chocolate there. I thought the Baratti & Milano gianduiotti were pretty amazing but it turns out he's telling me it is not even worth my time!:

It feels awkward to cut this list off at four makers, rather than five, ten, or twenty. Yet, as much as I may like some of the “also rans,” the quality gap is wide enough that I can’t recommend them, when the very best are no harder to obtain.

Thanks so much for bringing this article to my attention!

As for Mast Brothers...meh. They've been an obvious marketing machine since the beginning. I've always been very skeptical of them and their claims.
posted by vacapinta at 2:53 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you're needing another reco, Askinosie Chocolate is milled from beans (including extracting the cocoa butter) in Springfield, MO. I don't know if their Target range is made the same way, but the standard range is great. They also make a very decent white, for which I will love them forever.

On the Hershey's taste issue, back when I did cocoa and was European, Hershey's would be passed around like Bertie Bott's with exclamations of horror. We did a taste test with a brown crayon once; I think the Chubbi Stump won on mouthfeel.
posted by scruss at 3:13 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Taza is kinda polarizing since their authentic stone-ground processes tend to make the chocolate taste gritty

I once gave a bunch of Taza to my fancy-foodie mom, who didn't seem too impressed, and I'm guessing the texture was a factor. I like the rustic crunchiness, though. It's especially good in the salted almond flavor. They're a regular at farmers' markets and it's all I can do not to eat the entire sample bowl.

On the subject of Hershey's, not too long ago on MeFi I learned that they add butyric acid to their chocolate. There is nothing inherently gross about that, but once you learn about butyric acid, it's kind of hard to un-taste its presence in Hershey's. So I'm just gonna leave it behind that link for anyone who wants to remain unspoilered and continue enjoying cheap chocolate.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:41 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think originally the butryic acid was actually a side product of the process that Milton Hershey himself came up with. Its kinda what drives the uh "unique" american preference in Milk Chocolate. Now folks added it because Americans expect that flavor.
posted by JPD at 5:51 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think originally the butryic acid was actually a side product of the process that Milton Hershey himself came up with. Its kinda what drives the uh "unique" american preference in Milk Chocolate. Now folks added it because Americans expect that flavor.

Wow, that's some real five monkeys, some bananas, and a hose level resistance to change. "Industrial processes of the last century introduced horrible-tasting side effects, but even though we can (and the rest of the world does) get rid of those side effects, we're going to keep making horrible-tasting product because that is the way we have always done it."
posted by Mayor West at 6:15 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


75% dark chocolate called "Madagascar" which was named for pretty obvious reasons, but they discontinued that. I swear to god that was the best chocolate I've ever eaten.

I got some Madagascan single estate chocolate for Christmas last year which was to my taste a bit weird, acidic and fruity. Eventually I realised that taste most resembled American milk chocolate, like Hershey's. I assumed it was the taste that Hershey's were aiming for, but maybe it was just luck as JPD suggests.

I often offer people a selection of broken up chocolate chunks that come from bars that cost less that £1 to expensive single estate 'bean to bar' stuff. I don't tell them which is which, just ask which one they prefer. Often it is the run of the mill Fairtrade 70% chocolate that wins out. That could be because most people don't restrict their chocolate diet to vegan dark chocolate.

Whenever I see a sign on a generic brand of chocolate product that says '50% extra free' I mentally replace that with '50% more unpaid child labour' and it takes the sweetness out of the deal.
posted by asok at 6:20 AM on December 18, 2015


So, what's the scoop generally on "small-batch," "artisanal," "craaft," "maker" or what have you? Is it:

1) A real-deal ethos that has been inevitably co-opted by the market in the same way "All Natural' was?
2) A bunch of hooey from the get-go?
3) Both
4) Neither

This post has me really intrigued about something I think I've paid no attention to, despite being surrounded by it here in Seattle. I (perhaps cynically?) saw it as just a gillion people trying to do what Starbucks and others have been doing since the 80's. Although the face of it now is bearded and non-bearded people born in the 80's and early 90's, it reminds me of that Greg Brown song Who Woulda Thunk It. Baby Boomers--have infused our market capitalism with some of the same idealism they were steeping in during their formative years.
posted by Cassford at 7:01 AM on December 18, 2015


So, I also prefer not-stereotypically-American chocolate, but

"Industrial processes of the last century introduced horrible-tasting side effects, but even though we can (and the rest of the world does) get rid of those side effects, we're going to keep making horrible-tasting product because that is the way we have always done it."

it's not like butyric acid is inherently disgusting. It's one of the cornerstone flavors of parmesan cheese, which lots of people like. Again, doesn't mean it belongs in chocolate, only that it's not some universally reviled thing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:11 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hershey's is disgusting vomit and anyone who willingly eats it has major Stockholm syndrome.
posted by Artw at 7:23 AM on December 18, 2015


Why are we even discussing it in a thread about chocolate?
posted by Artw at 7:23 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The world is filled with food items like that though. Ask an american about Marmite. Ask most non Japanese folks about Natto. Etc, Etc,



Actually the best candy anecdote on that topic was that the mostly raised in England Mars Brothers wouldn't allow the roll out of Peanut Butter filled chocolates in the US market because they personally loathed Peanuts, but they kept try and failing to get Americans to eat hazelnut in chocolates.
posted by JPD at 7:26 AM on December 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not in law, but these guys seem really close to stepping over the line of fraud. "we make X, using Y methods!" When they are really selling Z, made by French dudes. And then they double down on "openness and 100% legit" while, according to the article, in fact obfuscating their practices? In an industry, like diamonds, with serious ethical and human rights issues? hmmmm
posted by Jacen at 7:29 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


fresh direct has bars from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto which are really good and also not available anywhere aside from directly ordering from italy, which is very annoying
posted by poffin boffin at 7:40 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well also, apparently Hershey (and a lot of other chocolate) is barely made from cacao at all, it's made from CCN51 which tastes, well, bland and bad but all we really wanted was the sugar anyways. Planet money did a good story on it.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:41 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hershey's is pretty gross

I've never had a piece of Hershey's chocolate that wasn't sugary, hard and dusty, tasted faintly of vomit, and was quite horrible. I've found that the second isn't my imagination, but is due to butyric acid, but that's no excuse.

Valrhona, on the other hand is wonderful, and as a (very) occasional treat I'll get myself one of the broken blocks they sell in WholeFoods in Columbus Circle...
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:48 AM on December 18, 2015


There are fabricated "how we started" stories, and fake "how we make our product" details, and they should not be confused.

The more lazily accepting people are of the idea that deliberate, willful inauthenticity and lies are and must be not only acceptable but the norm in the marketplace, the more we all get ripped off. Sleazy marketing has started marketing itself so aggressively, it's creating a cultural vortex that's sucking everything up!

It's getting annoying. Stories and words aren't capable of being authentic--they're just pointers to things that either do or don't exist in the real world. Those things being pointed at might or might not be "authentic" for different values of that word. But no story or representation is authentic. So what? That doesn't mean "life's just a big lie, man" because that doesn't even make sense.

If everything's a lie, there's no such thing as the truth, in which case calling something a lie doesn't mean anything at all and is just an exercise in rationalizing an attitude or belief that can't be justified without tipping the table over and calling the whole poker game a sham.

tl;dr: Hipsters get off my lawn!
posted by saulgoodman at 7:57 AM on December 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


One of the virtues of the Dallas Foods posts was in fact that it was pretty clear about at least one of the harms in their getting-started lies: people who were actually doing what the Masts merely said they were doing have to work much harder, with much higher costs, and much lower output. Some people actually are making bean-to-bar chocolate by hand and trying to sell it to people who, for whatever reason, want it. The Masts' lies are harmful to the honest chocolate makers if no one else (I think it's also harmful to the duped consumers who could have gotten pretty paper and Valrhona for cheaper, and pretty toxic generally, including for some of the reasons saulgoodman points out—it contributes to a supercilious blaséness about deception that is actually not warranted).
posted by kenko at 8:23 AM on December 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


Man, I am a person who usually doesn't care about misspellings, so it's surprising how much 'artisinal" is annoying me. Maybe it's the fact that the word is spoken so much nowadays that the only way I can still keep it meaningful in my head is to remind myself that it just means something created by an "artisan," so it's vexing when doesn't work because there's no such thing as an "artisin."

Initially, I felt like this seemed like no big deal. I mean: they were clearly trying to do everything bean-to-bar from the beginning, and just had some supply-chain troubles early on. But considering it, I feel like (a) yeah, some people care about chocolate, and they're within their rights to care about it to the point of researching and writing exposes about it; and (b) this deceptive corporate-speak which infects everything in our society, which people lean on to bend the truth whenever they don't want to admit something, must be fought at every turn.

So, particularly in the spirit of fighting corporate deception, I applaud this expose. Yes, if they said they were making bean-to-bar chocolate, and they weren't, it should be publicized. The public has a right to know.
posted by koeselitz at 8:36 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel like Hershey's has gotten worse in the past few years. Is this just me, or has it actually changed?

I actually used to like it - at least when I got it, it tended to be fairly creamy, and while it didn't taste "chocolatey", I liked the flavor just fine as a "memory of childhood" thing. Now it seems like it has far more of this sort of nauseating waxy flavor that I used to associate with the very, very cheapest "chocolate" that you'd get at the dollar store if you were fool enough to buy it. Is this because it has actually cheapened, or because my tastes have changed?

I like Theo bars, and should in fact pick up a couple of the holiday ones this weekend.
posted by Frowner at 8:45 AM on December 18, 2015


Ack. Another case of the power of marketing.

I tried Mast Brothers' chocolate, it was ok but nothing special. Certainly not $10/bar special.
posted by 4midori at 8:59 AM on December 18, 2015


Hershey's changed their recipe to get a "clean label" this year. If it's worse it's because they're pandering to the "Health" crowd rather than their accountants.
posted by Small Dollar at 10:13 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I am a person who usually doesn't care about misspellings, so it's surprising how much 'artisinal" is annoying me.

Art is anal.

Everyone reading this will now remember how to spell it forever.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:58 AM on December 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


Not trying to sound reverse-hipster here, but I never liked the Mast Brothers stuff at all. But I actually blamed it on my own unsophisticated palate; I don't care much for dark chocolate, preferring milk because it's sweeter. Of course, this makes me a philistine in the eyes of a lot of people I know.
posted by holborne at 1:57 PM on December 18, 2015


Ctrl-F "Olive and Sinclair"; high-fives lazaruslong.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:29 PM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Funny, I worked with a chocolatier once (marketing) and the first thing we agreed on was that Theo chocolate was amazingly overrated. Don't like it at all.
posted by QuietDesperation at 4:23 PM on December 18, 2015


The snobbiest food snob I know was the person who talked up the Theo bars until I bought some. I generally find her judgement to be fairly sound in other areas, so while I can accept that perhaps the Theo ones are overrated, I don't believe they can actually be objectively terrible.

But then it's obviously like any other snob thing - I am happy with a cheap Spanish red wine, but I am deeply unhappy with shoes made from corrected grain leather. Most people don't give a good goddamn and can't even tell.

Theo is about my speed. I sprung for a couple of those Vosges bars last year and eh, they were all right. Callebaut and Scharfenberger are okay, but whoever makes the chocolate used for Wilbur Buds is the best. Etc etc.
posted by Frowner at 5:16 PM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to chime in to second lazaruslong's recommendation of French Broad Chocolates in Asheville NC, which he turned me onto after a meetup years ago and which quickly became my go-to for gifting, especially the World truffle collection and the can't-believe-it's-vegan Buddha collection. Amazing chocolate that gets uniformly astounded responses from the recipients. I was planning to order a bunch this weekend for New Year's gifts and will, of course, have to order a couple boxes for personal quality control purposes.
posted by mediareport at 8:31 PM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


HA! Wait until people get hold of my Artisan Hand-Crafted Petrol. The finest gasoline available! Made from virgin T-Rex deposits deep in the Texas Hill Country. Each ounce of gasoline is triple distilled to offer a pleasing petroleum bouquet--
posted by shockingbluamp at 8:38 PM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh man, my wife and I take regular food holidays to Torino and the Langhe and we are always sampling chocolate there. I thought the Baratti & Milano gianduiotti were pretty amazing but it turns out he's telling me it is not even worth my time!:

No, don't despair! all is not lost! they may not have made his top list but (yes I saw "this blog has a thirty-five part series on gianduia" and just HAD to browse through all of it) he mentions them here as surpassing expectations – despite all the things he says are wrong with them which I can't even begin to understand because to me as an Italian even the basic Caffarel or Pernigotti brands you can find anywhere in Italy in non-gourmet shops and even regular supermarkets are delicious. But then I'm just a regular chocolate addict with no purist ambitions and I sure never "sampled over 47 different gianduiotti from nearly 30 makers"! Not envious at all, nope.

The old-school local chocolate makers and confectioneries though, now, those can be very much worth it, especially for pralines. And come on, if you're already traveling to Piedmont, you can happily ignore any such scorecards and lists anyway. You really can't go wrong there even sampling at random.

By the way, though this blogger obviously knows what he's talking about, I do wonder if he's 100% immune himself to the effect of brand-marketing-price - the more it's supposed to be fancy, the more you paid for it, the less you'll be willing to admit when it's not that good. You can never know how influenced you are by those factors unless you do blind tests.
posted by bitteschoen at 9:56 AM on December 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought the Baratti & Milano gianduiotti were pretty amazing but it turns out he's telling me it is not even worth my time!:

Wait, how so? "Corner cutting notwithstanding, Baratti & Milano capture enough of what makes gianduia great to earn attention for those in the US (7)."
posted by kenko at 10:14 AM on December 19, 2015


Yeah but what vacapinta was referring to was the post with the top list of the very best, which is only four brands - Baratti & Milano are not in there, they're only listed in the notes with all the other brands and "also rans" that he won't recommend... because the very best "are no harder to obtain" (says he - not true!)
posted by bitteschoen at 12:43 PM on December 19, 2015


OIC. I'd still eat 'em.
posted by kenko at 1:21 PM on December 19, 2015


The Mast Brothers’ original bars had a taste and texture that was too much like the palate-friendly kind available at the drug store to be truly “bean to bar,” Scott explains in his first post.
So he means that it tasted nice and not bitter and horrible, and that's how he knew it was bad quality chocolate?
posted by howfar at 7:06 PM on December 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


In lieu of blind taste-testing, it's pretty fun to look back at the 2010 post and read some of the comments there, from some of the same commenters in this thread.

JPD, you are a person of great restraint.
posted by palliser at 9:43 PM on December 20, 2015 [10 favorites]




Article about the whole thing in the NYT today.
posted by holborne at 11:03 AM on December 21, 2015


Yikes, that was yesterday. Sorry.
posted by holborne at 11:04 AM on December 21, 2015


JPD, you are a person of great restraint.

I feel like actually that thread makes more sense to me now. If some folks were getting re-melted Valhrona and I was getting their terrible early days bean-to-bar stuff, then I understand the disparate responses.

And trust me no one has ever called me "a person of great restaint" before.
posted by JPD at 11:52 AM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


While it may not be easy for everyone to sympathize with the defrauded purchaser of a $10 candy bar, I think the Mast slam-down is a win (at least symbolically) for ALL of the small/indie/craft businesses NOT willing to lie to get ahead. ..Well, that and hubris blimps make the best Hindenburgs.

now I want to see those beards torn off--Scooby style--to reveal elastic-stringed Halloween fakes! I want the undercover exposé of these two wearing chinos and tucked-in polos, extolling the virtue of nylon carpeting's stain resistance over jalapeno poppers at Applebees.
posted by applemeat at 3:35 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


i am eating ecuadorian nibs and they are magnificent
posted by poffin boffin at 4:09 PM on December 21, 2015


The picture of the Masts in the NYT story reveals that Rick Mast has very long fingers. He should be a pianist or something.
posted by kenko at 9:27 AM on December 22, 2015


Also this from the NYT article is kind of baffling: "In response to charges by Mr. Craig that their output in their early days was thousands of bars a week — far more than an apartment-based operation could have churned out — they emailed The New York Times a copy of the nascent company’s 2008 tax return, and said they made no profit that year."

Whether or not they made a profit is immaterial to the claim that their production was far larger than was feasible in their apartment, nor does it actually address the size of their production. It's kind of bizarre (except by the nonexistent standards of contemporary journalism, I guess) that this response is conveyed both without comment and without explaining why and how Craig made the allegation he did.
posted by kenko at 7:52 PM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is not the chocolate industry that we wish to be a part of. To that end, we will continue, as we have always done, to not participate in chocolate industry conferences, conventions or competitions until the culture changes.
-from the Mast brothers response.

So their conclusion is that they need to be more opaque? That really comes off as a petty response.
posted by vacapinta at 2:46 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


They want to be part of the chocolate industry where it's easier to scam people, I guess.
posted by kenko at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Given the acrimony between them and other chocolatiers and that joining a club that hates them is unlikely to get them brownie points, why would they bend the knee? Now, if a bunch of the high end companies that carry them decide to stop...
posted by Going To Maine at 1:04 PM on December 23, 2015


As this has mushroomed/blossomed into a whole big thing I started wondering what exactly was the what. Then I came acrosse this Article in eater, via kottke. Sums it up nicely
posted by From Bklyn at 4:36 AM on December 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


No really, it doesn't.

Its one brand defending another brand.
posted by JPD at 11:17 AM on December 28, 2015


Yeah, that eater article seems like a bunch of weak internet journalism justification, with a lot of "we all do it".
posted by bongo_x at 11:35 AM on December 28, 2015


Yeah - the Mast Brothers decidedly built their reputation a taste created by a fraud (some of which we can see in that 2010 MetaFilter thread). The fact that people can’t accurately assess the quality of Mast chocolate is important, but that says more about the market for style vs. the market for tasty product. The fraud is a fraud.

To me, the old BuzzFeed article on Madewell (previously) is a more authentic (heh) discussion of the role of authenticity in today's market: J. Crew only acquired the Madewell brand to give something that more-or-less already existed an air of Old America, and there’s no cadre of clothing manufacturers who are particularly outraged that Madewell’s product is somehow “false”. In contrast, chocalatiers are legitimately mad that the Masts called themselves “Bean-to-Bar” when they weren’t. Madewell always sold clothes, but Mast didn’t always sell handcrafted chocolate.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:40 AM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]




Also related - just check the Mast Brothers Cookbook on Amazon. While there are a number of post-fraud reviews(“I liked the recipe for cupcakes where they tell you to purchase hostess cupcakes, take the packaging off, place on a tray, and serve”), there are also plenty of reviews from before any of this that talk about how the beautiful photography contrasts with the bad flavors of poorly tested recipes.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:51 PM on December 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


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