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The American Dream, Expressed in Chocolate

The American Dream, Expressed in Chocolate

Even though the holiday-for-everything-under-the-sun trend usually makes our eyes roll, we are thrilled about the upcoming American Chocolate Week (third week of March) because there’s so much to celebrate in the United States of Artisanal Chocolate.

Take, for instance, the two chocolate lines we stock. Mast Brothers Chocolate is a labor of brotherly love: Iowa-raised, Brooklyn-based brothers Michael and Rick Mast were having a lot of foodie fun in their kitchen – pickling, brewing, curing – before they started experimenting with chocolate. But what was it about chocolate that inspired them to go for broke? It’s something elemental: two simple ingredients – cocoa beans and cane sugar – unlock a vast, creative world.

“Chocolate really is the most popular food in the world,” Rick Mast said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “Everywhere you go, when you say the word ‘chocolate,’ people just start smiling. It’s this thing everyone loves and talks about and eats all the time and has childhood memories of, and nobody really knows how it’s made. So we thought, since we’ve made everything else, let’s see if we can make chocolate in our apartment… Even the first primitive batches were still some of the best chocolate we’d ever tasted because it just seemed so fresh and complex.”

“It was so fun to have a big burlap sack full of beans in our living room and to really connect ourselves with that,” Rick said. “It started becoming sort of a thing: these brothers that are making chocolate from scratch in their apartment.”

It’s that image – of two brothers stirring chocolate in their BK apt – that the Masts want you to keep in mind as you eat one of their mesmerizing bars. They want you to reconnect with the craft. They want you to geek out in the way you do when you discover things at the farmers market. “Chocolate should be something that connects you to ingredients, where the flavors are complex and connected to the region that they’re from,” Rick said. “We brought it out of this mysterious faraway, enormous factory and brought it to the human scale.”

Connecting chocolate to place is also important to TCHO (pronounced “choh,” silent “t”). For the San Francisco-based company, making “New American Chocolate” is about being obsessed with flavor and innovation, a dual obsession that compelled TCHO to reinvent the chocolate wheel by partnering directly with producers, providing them with the latest in cacao tech (plant genetics, drying techniques, flavor labs). In the world of TCHO, everyone is empowered, from growers to consumers (recipes continuously evolve with customer feedback). TCHO sees itself as a Silicon Valley start-up meets San Francisco foodie. “To us, that means TCHO marries the relentless pursuit of innovation to the obsession with flavor and quality which are hallmarks of our region.”

Only in America.