Preview: Marou – Dắk Lắk 70% (*****)

During the last edition of the Origin Chocolate event I had the enormous privilege of tasting the brand new bar created by Marou. It was so new they didn’t even have artwork for a new wrapper yet.

Samuel Maruta offered me a bar of this new origin as a sample for my blog. I simply can’t thank Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou enough for this opportunity!

Marou is a pretty special chocolate company. There are plenty of creative and adventurous chocolate makers around. Actually it is a lot of fun to follow the facebook and twitter acounts of many of them to discover the crazy situations these chocolatiers get themselves into while using old equipment or experimental techniques. But Samuel and Vincent take it just that extra step beyond. They decided to create the chocolate in the country where the cacao they use is grown. Vietnam!

So, we have two clever French guys having the best time they can have in an exotic country like Vietnam, pulling all sorts of stunts to get their hands on fine cacao and create chocolate with it. It does include riding and elephant and cruising around the countryside in a classic old school Citroen vehicle. But don’t be fooled, when it comes to the quality of chocolate they create, they are dead serious! Just like their fellow small-scale fine chocolate makers .

Marou Dak Lak  Marou Dak Lak

Even while this wasn’t a finished product yet, Marou always brings its bars in style. A shiny gold foil protects the bar, marked by a simple looking label. A hand written one that is! Stating the origin Dắk Lắk – situated in the central highlands of Vietnam, bordering Cambodia. Vincent and Samuel went great lengths to find that one farmer that could deliver them a high quality, aromatic cacao. The origin is pretty different from the others they used so far and during the Origin Event in Amsterdam they were looking for reactions from the audience on the flavor.

The chocolate itself is stunning like every other Marou bar. They always seem to squeeze the specific flavors from a region from the cacao beans, making every bar distinctly different from the next. The aroma coming from the freshly opened chocolate is overwhelming. The chocolate shines beautifully. The traditional Marou bar design means you get a thick, hefty 100 g bar, scored diagonally. It will break the way it sees fit, not in prefect a rectangular piece – as if to state Marou doesn’t follow any of the classic rules in chocolate making. And we should be thankful for it.

Marou Dak Lak  Marou Dak Lak

Bean: Trinitario
origin: Vietnam – Dắk Lắk Province
Maker: Marou, Faisseurs de Chocolat – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Price: Sample bar – 100 g

Marou Dak Lak
Color: A nice deep brown with red hue.

Aroma: Strong. Sweet and slightly spicy, tropical warm with a touch of tobacco in the back.

Taste: Semi quick starting with roasted bread followed by a strong brown sugar aroma. Gently turning over to liquorice with small twinkles of acidity and bitterness popping up to keep the aroma interesting and ever-changing. Did I just detect anise for a second? A deep and very satisfying chocolate flavor comes forth next. Near the end of the melt gentle wood aromas give body to the entire experience without overpowering the palate. The aftertaste follows the main aroma of the Dắk Lắk bar, slowly turning to volatile cacao, wood and faint spice aromas. The aftertaste keeps rolling and rolling in your mouth for an exceptional long time. The melt of the chocolate is great for such a thick bar, even as it is a bit dryer in appearance than French style chocolate. Unlike the other Marou chocolates I’ve tried so far, this bar doesn’t feature the nice, abundant spice tones and isn’t fruity at all, yet it delivers such an amazing warm and gratifying chocolate flavor, I would call it the ultimate comfort food on a dark, rainy day! It will be taking your mind miles and miles away to a warm and exotic Vietnam. 5 stars!

So in a nutshell, Samuel and Vincent, it would be a crime not to take this bar to the shops! That’s a bar of pure gold you gave me!

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Event: My first tasting session – an introduction to the world of bean to bar chocolate

Question: How does one win over the heart of unknowing people for the cause of fine chocolate. Ideally you lure them into a room, close the door and surprise them with the pure class of the chocolates you make them taste.

Now, as the luring and forcing may seem a bit drastic, I decided to ask people politely if they would care for a real-life experience in the world of fine chocolate. About 15 people couldn’t resist my sweet voice and seductive words…

So how did things work out? After all, these people knew nothing about origin chocolate.

This was the line up for the evening. Seven first class bars, covering a wide range of tastes and regions. A perfect way to let people experience the amazing difference in taste from bar to bar, from region to region, from Trinitatrio over Forastero to Criollo and back.

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 Original Beans – Piura Porcelana – 75%: This light, yet extremely tasteful bar opened quiet a bit of eyes around the table. As a first touch of fine chocolate, it immediately won the heart of most around the table. The roasted start and sweet yellow fruits were clearly discovered and for the first time my guests noticed the formidable length of the aftertaste of a quality bar.

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Pacari – Raw – 70%: Totally different from the first bar, yet its floral/green aroma’s didn’t convince everyone. Still I was happy people were able to appreciate the entire different nature of this chocolate compared to the Original Beans’ bar.

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Rózsavölgyi Csokoladé – Madagascar – 72%: Turning to Africa, my guests noticed the sweet sour touches in this balanced, yet powerful bar. It did get noticed by several people for its fruity and fresh taste. Suddenly some couldn’t decide which was the best so far.

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 Akesson’s – Bali – 75%: As I expected – no one was left untouched by this bar. it just oozes tropical aromas, like banana and papaya. Several people detected an enjoyable spiciness added towards the end of the melt. The texture and melt were considered the very best so far.

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Marou – Ben Tré – 78%: People noticed the bars started to become a bit more powerful. Almost everyone detected the wonderful spices in this great chocolate, and even though the melt if slower than the Akesson bar, it was still enjoyed fully. One of my personal favorites.

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The Grenada Chocolate Company – 82%: At this point you could notice that some sweet-tooths started to get a bit outside their comfort zone. Yet the great woody aromas and subtle fruits were noticed and some detected coffee tones in the back.

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Rózsavölgyi Csokoladé  – Trincheras – 95%: as the final bar I choose a bit of a gentle shocker. 95% cacao makes sure you’ll have a taste explosion in your mouth. The dry start and abundance of tannins surprised some, yet still about half of the audience could appreciate the luscious spiciness and smoked aromas. In fact, many returned to it after the tasting, to sample it one more time.

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By the end of the night it was clear we had two distinct winners.  The Original Beans Piura Porcelana and Akesson’s Bali bar. Expressive and tropical as they are, the bars offer plenty of overwhelming aromas. Closely followed by the Rózsavölgyi Madagascar and Marou Ben Tre bar.

It is great to see how people react when they first come into touch with a total different kind of chocolate than the one they are used to eat. Even better is to see how some held little tasting sessions with their family the next day, with a few bars they bought the night before.

And that my friends, is why I love to do this. To help people getting aware that taste is a wonderful thing. Especially when it comes in the rectangular shape of a gorgeous chocolate bar!

Thanks to everyone for attending and a special thank you to my lovely misses, who – despite feeling sick – stood aside me with logistical help, added her personal insights to the evening and took care of the photography this special evening. She is one of a kind!

 

Review: Marou – Bên Tre 78% (****)

A rainy, dull sunday morning. The kind of day you wish you could be wandering on a sunny beach somewhere on a tropical island.

Anyway, that is not going to happen today, so why not review a bar of chocolate. I know I still have some in the cupboard!

To be honest, I already had the chance to taste this particular bar of brown gold. During the Origin Chocolate Event in Amsterdam, it was paired with rum. I was impressed back than, but after a full day of chocolate tasting my taste buds became a bit overloaded, so I needed to taste it again. On its own this time. Without distractions.

Chocolate made in Vietnam might sound weird. Chocolate, in Vietnam? Most people won’t even know cacao is growing there. Don’t be ashamed, I didn’t know either until some months ago!

The Bên Tre bar is a 78% chocolate, so a fairly high percentage. It is made from cacao beans grown near the Mekong Delta. Marou keeps close contact with the farmers who produce the beans. Their farmers ferment the cacao on the spot and Marou turns them into chocolate in their factory in Ho Chi Minh city. And they seem to be pretty good at it, as their products have been awarded with several medals by the Academy of Chocolate.

So, the bar. It is wrapped in one of the most exotic packages I’ve seen so far. The vibrant green with gold ink instantly brings Asia to mind. The fonts used add to the feeling, as they remind me of Tintin albums for some reason.

Inside, another gold wrapper tightly hugs the bar. An “M” seal makes sure you are the first one to open the bar.

Inside a very generous bar is hidden. Atypical, it is not scored into rectangular pieces, yet diagonally, producing pieces of different size as you start breaking it up. In the middle, a proud M finishes of the design. Neat and sleek. I like it a lot!

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Bean: Trinitario according to several sources, though I could not find any info about it on the Marou website.
Origin: Vietnam – Bên Tre Province, Mekong Delta
Production: Marou, Faisseurs de Chocolat – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Price paid: € 6,50/100 g (Hilde Devolder Chocolatier – Ghent Belgium)

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Colour: red-brown and shiny, it looks very appealing.

Aroma: Chocolate, spices, some wood in the back.

Taste: The bar starts pretty sweet, producing an immediate and massive wave of spicy tones, a wonderful symphony of tastes slowly developing from earthyness to ginger, cinnamon and Belgian speculoos. (You can’t blame me for that last one, given I live in Belgium!)

Just underneath all those taste  developments, a refreshing fruity acidity keeps this chocolate interesting on the palate. The melt is slow at start but once it starts it keeps going and is über-velvety. Yellow exotic fruits (papaya and mango) appear and take over from the spices, while releasing rich cacao. Towards the end of the melt, coffee tones sneak in, adding depth to the taste. Biting the piece of chocolate remaining in the mouth immediately revives the spice tones.
The aftertaste is not particular strong but lingers a long time in the mouth. Due to the lack of bitter tones it is subtle, keeping a reminder of the spices swirling over your tongue.

This bar is sweet and warm, almost a tropical experience. While it is a high percentage chocolate, it is very smooth, mellow and balanced. Vietnam sure hides some spectacular cacao and Marou knows how to bring out the best of the tastes. Don’t hesitate a second if you come across this bar, just buy it and enjoy the richness! And me? I’ll grab any variety I come across.