Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Marou Chocolate Tasting Line-Up: A Delicious Way to Experience Vietnamese Cacao

Boy was it hot this summer. And humid. So after dealing with temperatures in the high 20s beginning in early June this year (believe me, that's pretty early for where I live in Canada!), and trying to make chocolaty treats with the air conditioner and dehumidifier running constantly, I can't even imagine how the chocolate makers at Marou Chocolat do it all year long in Vietnam. They are making chocolate in the country of origin - where the cocoa beans are grown.

I haven't had the opportunity to taste much of Marou's chocolate, only their Dong Nai 72% chocolate bar in January of 2015 (see review here) and Marou's Tien Gang 80% dark chocolate in February of the same year. But truthfully, other than remembering how beautiful the chocolate bars were, and how fruity the Dong Nai chocolate tasted, I didn't really remember much about the flavour or texture. This new line-up of four Marou chocolate bars, that I asked a friend to purchase for me from JoJo CoCo in Ottawa, is a perfect way to sample Marou's product offering.

The chocolate bars are more than simple single-origin chocolate bars; each chocolate is being made from cocoa beans grown in different regions of Vietnam. This is even more fun than the usual country-of-origin chocolate tastings because Marou showcases how regional differences can vary so significantly even within a small country. It is much like the amazing Nicaragua-tasting line-up made by Chaleur B Chocolat that I tasted earlier in the year. The fascinating part is tasting the small differences from region to region. Many chocolate makers create just one chocolate bar from a single country, but Marou focuses solely on Vietnamese cacao. And believe me, they do a great job with that cacao.

Marou has also been doing wonderful things in the study of fermentation (cacao is fermented for several days after harvest and prior to drying), as you can see from the series of study on their website.  For more information about Marou Chocolate, visit:  http://marouchocolate.com/. The website has extensive info on retailers who carry the chocolate bars all across the world, with Miss Choco (in Montreal), JoJo Coco (in Ottawa) and Thin Blue Line Cheese (in Toronto) being some of the Canadian carriers of Marou.  For more details on each chocolate bar, check out my tasting notes below.

Marou Chocolate Tasting Notes:

Marou Dong Nai 72%, Batch #2805:  Brightly fruity with a citrus taste and light acidity, which then leaves a bit of a nutty roast taste. A little blackberry-raspberry mix hides behind the heavy molasses taste. A redder shade and more 'milk chocolate' in appearance, although there is no milk in the product (the shade is the result of the colour of the cocoa beans) than the Dak Lak and the Treasure Island.  In one  tasting, I also thought of it as having a bitter-chocolate-and-caramel flavour. They use cacao that has been processed in their own fermentation stations near Cat Tien National Park in the Upper Dong Nai region. The chocolate is then handcrafted in Saigon.

Treasure Island 3/4 Cacao (75%), Batch exp: 09 03 2017:  So strange, shocking almost after eating the Dong Nai. The heavy coconut flavour nearly overwhelms the chocolate for me; it has a strong-tasting coconut oil or coconut milk flavour. Yes, that's it, it reminds me of a vegan milk chocolate bar made with coconut milk.

Dak Lak 70%, Batch #2929:  Tastes of the roast with a hint of smokiness, mint, berry fruit, smooth and full-bodied with a hint of blackberry flavours and a hint of black liquorice.

Heart of Darkness 85%, Batch #3201:  Highly acidic, citrus fruit and a little berry, much like a Madagascar-origin chocolate would taste with 85% cocoa solids.  Quite powerful, and definitely not a 'sweet' 85%, although with the fruitiness, 'bitter' is also not quite the right word. Tart might be the appropriate descriptor here.

Closing Notes: My favourites of these four were the Dong Nai 72% for the roast and fruit flavours, and the Dak Lak 70% was a runner up. I will try the Treasure Island again in the future, to see if the coconut taste was a one-time thing (introduced by external smells perhaps in processing or packaging) or if it is a flavour inherent in the beans. But for now, it was my least favourite.  The Heart of Darkness was a bit too bitter for me, although I do enjoy 85% dark chocolate, I prefer the extra bitter stuff to be less fruity and acidic than this chocolate. I would enjoy these beans with a little more sugar added. But I do know many people who would enjoy this chocolate bar as is.

No matter how I feel about each chocolate bar, Marou is one chocolate maker I will be coming back to time and time again!


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