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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review: Marou Ba Ria

     
Marou Ba Ria 
Posted: 1 November 2013    8.0 
Marou Baria from Vietnam 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.  
Avg price/gram: USD 0.08   Cocoa %: 76  Size: 100g   
       


Vietnam provincesThe 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. Sexist.  I 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.  Chocolate Monggo 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.  Madecasse in 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 few years might be the Socialist and Cacao-Growing Republic of Vietnam.               

If you liked reading this, consider savoring these reviews:
 Lindt Les Grandes White Almond from Switzerland -- 21% cocoa solids
 Ritter Sport Praline from Germany -- 30% cocoa solids
 The Complete Chocolate Republic Index


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  Vietnamese chocolate maker Marou will take a Vietnam bean from the province of Ba Ria and turn it into delicious cacao.