/ Doug's Chocolate Republic /
Review: Marou Ba Ria
Marou Ba Ria
Posted: 1 November 2013
It's nice to see bean-to-bar operations springing up in countries suitable for the growth of cacao beans. You see it all too rarely. Marou describes the bar as "a bold and fruity chocolate made from Trinitario cacao sourced directly from family-owned farms." That's as simple and direct a description as a manufacturer can make and befitting the kind of bar this is. The ingredients are nothing more than cocoa & cocoa butter and cane sugar.
And you can taste that simplicity. The cacao really is fruity, and the bar has that magical snap to it.
This is a rich bar Uncle Ho would have been proud to proclaim came from Vietnam's socialist soil.
price/gram: USD 0.08
Cocoa %: 76
The world is changing
quickly. When I grew up, my image of Vietnam was of
the elongated Southeast Asian nation my country wasted almost $700bn
to try to beat and bomb into submission between 1965 and
1975. I visited Vietnam for the first time in 1994 shortly after it
had opened up to tourism. Watching the poor Vietnamese
bike around the rice paddies in their conical Asian hats,
and you couldn't help but ask yourself, "We bombed the
$)@*$( out of Vietnam and spent $700 billion for this?" I revisited for 10 days
at the end of 2006, only Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) this time.
The country had rapidly developed since my prior visit 12
years earlier. The
'Communist' Vietnamese had firmly embraced the international
economy and all its trappings. Coca Cola, imported handbags, and pirated Western
movies and iPod knockoffs were being hawked at major
Vietnamese department stores, with prices many times being
quoted in dollars. Thirty years after America fled Vietnam in shame, they had actually won the war if you
reclassify it as a war of ideas. Who cares what label is cast on the type of government in power? Communist, Fascist, Corruptist.
can't imagine Vietnam looking much different today if the Americans had actually ousted
Uncle Ho in the 1970's.
I was back in Vietnam most
recently for another 10 days at the beginning of 2012,
shortly after the time, it seems, that Marou Chocolate was
getting off the ground in Ho Chi Minh City. On this
most recent trip to Vietnam, I was fixated on bringing back some
uniquely roasted Vietnamese coffee beans for my wife's and
my weekend coffee rituals. Who'd have thought Vietnam
was also edging into the bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing
industry? Did Uncle Ho even like chocolate?
Does bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing square away with
the Communist ideals of "to each according to his needs"?
It's nice to see bean-to-bar
operations springing up in countries suitable for the
growth of cacao beans. You see it all too rarely.
isn't quite a bean-to-bar producer in Indonesia. They
source their beans from just Sumatra and Java, but they
don't have rigorous financial control and supervision over
the bean growth. Still, it's a start, as to my
knowledge, Indonesia's cacao beans are primarily for export,
with no one of note but Chocolate Monggo trying to turn the
local produce into a value-added chocolate bar.
Madagascar goes a bit further, though they use another local
company, Cinagra, to do their manufacturing. Cinagra does qualify as a bean-to-bar manufacturer.
Marou is operating on the same wavelength as Madecasse/Cinagra,
establishing strong relationships with many local
plantations and turning those beans into chocolate bars in
the same country where the beans are grown and harvested.
Like Monggo and Madecasse,
Marou is birthed from Westerners who relocated to a
bean-to-bar country. Here, the relocatees are two
Frenchman, Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou.
I met a sales representative for the company at a Bangkok
farmers market, and my wife picked me up three bars, priced
at Madecasse and Valrhona
levels. I was happy to find the bars a dollar cheaper in
Thailand than they're selling for at retail shops in New
York. Usually, it's the other way around.
The rep explained that each
of their current five bars (plus a special edition) is named
after the province from whence the cacao beans are sourced.
Looking at map of Vietnam's 58 provinces, you can see the
cacao-growing provinces comprise a small contiguous region
in Vietnam's south surrounding Ho Chi Minh City. The Ba Ria bar, with 76% cocoa solid content, comes from the
Bà Rịa-Vung Tau province in the country's southeast.
Marou describes the bar as "a bold and fruity chocolate made
from Trinitario cacao sourced directly from family-owned
farms." That's as simple and direct a description as a
manufacturer can make and befitting the kind of bar this is.
The ingredients are nothing more than cocoa & cocoa butter
and cane sugar.
And you can taste that
simplicity. The cacao really is fruity, and the bar
has that magical snap to it. The beautiful packaging
doesn't hurt either. This is a rich bar Uncle Ho would
have been proud to proclaim came from Vietnam's socialist
soil. Who knows? Vietnam's official name in a
might be the Socialist and Cacao-Growing Republic of