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The Mast Brothers Scandal That Doesn’t Shock the Chocolate World

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12/2015 update: read more on recent Mast Brothers Issues on

Shawn (May I call you Shawn?) brings up a great point about the lack of standardization within the chocolate industry, and the fact that everyone is constantly trying to get their bearings in terms of where everyone else is.

Bean to bar chocolate making on a small farm in Ecuador in 2015.

The Best Way to Make Chocolate

But that is one of the things that really draws me to chocolate, that there is no “right” thing to taste or even a “right” way to make chocolate (some makers roast beans more than others or conche for a much longer time, for example). There are dozens of craft/micro-batch/artisan bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the US alone, a number which has grown exponentially over the last 5 or so years, and does not yet seem to have reached its peak.

Over the years, I have said many times that I wish I had been born 10 years earlier, or that I had been able to enter the world of chocolate 10 years ago, but I’m quickly realizing that I am right where I need to be. Maybe one day I will be able to join the ranks of those dozens (dare I say hundreds?) of skilled chocolate experimenters around the world, and I do not think that this sentence would have come out of my mouth had I been born a decade earlier. Craft chocolate may have ever even entered my life, a thought I shudder to entertain.

Mindo Chocolates

Growing Cacao to Grow With Chocolate

This explosion of US chocolate makers, to me, is indicative of the learning which people, in particular Americans, are still seeking to do about their food, in particular chocolate. This learning is done through the knowledge imparted by those who seek to spread it, often the chocolate makers themselves, who are so excited not only about their product but about what it represents.

It means a better life for the farmers they work with, a more open commodity chain, a higher appreciation for the nuances we taste in our food. Craft chocolate, to me, goes beyond a higher price tag in exchange for nicer-tasting or prettier foods, and reaches those people and places whose stories would likely otherwise go untold.

It represents a movement of people like Shawn Askinosie, who realized after years as a lawyer that crafting truly exquisite chocolate was his calling, towards a better future for both the people and the well-trained palates of the world. For these reasons, the Mast Brothers scandal has rightly pissed off the chocolate world. Mast has chosen to focus on cultivating an image rather than cultivating a worthwhile community, and this is not what craft chocolate needs right now. Personally, I’m very grateful to be a part of this movement, now, as it is, and to watch myself grow with it in the coming years.

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What are your thoughts on the Mast Brothers scandal?

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