/ Doug's Chocolate Republic /
Review: Marou Ben Tre
Marou Ben Tre
Posted: 1 November 2013
The Ben Tre bar is described on the back wrapper as "an intense yet balanced chocolate from Bến Tre province in the Mekong Delta, where cacao trees are planted among the coconut groves."
Upon biting into this, again, very well-made piece of work, I comprehended that Marou couldn't say anything more. The bar tasted almost identical to the Ba Ria!
Be forewarned. Eating a second Marou bar is a lot like watching your second Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughn film.
price/gram: USD 0.08
Cocoa %: 78
I think of judging a
chocolate company much like I would an actor. It's
easy to see an actor in one production and pronounce him an
amazing thespian -- until you see him cast in
another production in which he plays almost exactly the same
role. After a few such films, you conclude that he's
not such a great actor. The roles he's been cast in
simply fit his limited range.
I sampled Marou's
Ba Ria bar and gave
it high marks. I could tell I was in the presence of
fine cacao turned into a bar worthy of its trinitario beans.
To be honest, the Ba Ria wasn't the most distinctive bar
I've ever tasted.
Willie's out of
the UK produced bars with more of a unique signature.
What I've come to realize the more I sample bars on the
Chocolate Republic is that making a quality chocolate bar
isn't that difficult. Okay, let me clarify that.
Making a high quality chocolate bar involves stacks of
dedication and commitment. Making a high quality
anything involves that. But it doesn't require
genius. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of
Ben & Jerry's, learned how to make ice cream from a $5
correspondence course from Penn State University.
Anyone can learn the fundamentals of ice cream making or,
similarly, chocolate making. It's the raw ingredients
you put into the product which make the difference and the
care you put into the process. Huge chocolate
conglomerates want heaps of cacao beans that meet a certain
very base level of quality. Bean-to-bar manufacturers
sample their beans ahead of time and assess if they make the
grade. They produce chocolate in smaller batches and
do much of the production by hand.
The genius comes from taking
the raw ingredients and the process and turning that into
something above and beyond what we could expect. Upon
biting into my second bar made by Marou, the Ben Tre, made
from beans grown in the Southeastern Vietnamese province of
Bến Tre, I realized that Marou is a diligent pupil. It
sits at the front of the class and answers all the teacher's
questions correctly, it performs
admirably on all tests and reports. But Marou is no
genius. It doesn't bring any new ideas to the table.
All right, that's not
completely true. Marou's "genius" has nothing to do with its
chocolate but its positioning in the chocolate marketing
landscape. As the only bean-to-bar manufacturer in
Vietnam to date -- if there are others, no one outside
Vietnam has ever heard of them -- Marou gets press and shelf
space it would unlikely secure if the Frenchmen behind the
Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou,
were importing the beans from Vietnam and turning them into bars in France.
Then, Marou would just be another French chocolate company.
Indeed, my wife picked up these chocolate bars at the
Bangkok yuppified farmers' market because they were made in
The Ben Tre bar is described
on the back wrapper as "an intense yet balanced chocolate
from Bến Tre province in the Mekong Delta, where cacao trees
are planted among the coconut groves." The Ba Ria had
a very similarly basic description, and I praised Marou in
my review for failing to doctor up the bar with extraneous
adjectives like so many other chocolate
manufacturers do. Marou could have said the bar had hints of
ANYberry and ANYwood with overtones of ANYspice.
You know what I'm talking about. Upon biting
into this, again, very well-made piece of work, I
comprehended that Marou couldn't say anything more.
The bar tasted almost identical to the Ba Ria!
be any great surprise? Examine a map of Vietnam's provinces
and see where the province of
Bến Tre lies in relation to the province of Bà Rịa-Vung Tau. In
American terms, this would be like comparing the corn from
Ohio to the corn of Indiana. Marou's modus vivendi is, I
presume, to document how the terroir of different regions in
Vietnam leads to chocolates with different notes. I
would expect some differences.
Bà Rịa-Vung Tau province is northeast of the Mekong Delta,
but not by much, and Bến Tre is on the Mekong Delta.
But huge differences, no, for
being the same country and with the provinces so near, not to
mention that the cacao content between the two bars differs
by just 2%. Marou currently only manufactures bars
between 70% and 80% cocoa solids. A lot of chocolate makers
will make a 70% and an 80%, but not chocolate bars that
differ from the one before by just 2%. And if they do
bother to pull of similar cocoa solid content bars, the
cacao is sourced from different countries. Willie's is
a case in point. All three Willie's bars reviewed on the
Chocolate Republic contained between 69% and 71% cacao, but
the cacao within came from Indonesia, Peru, and Madagascar,
You won't be disappointed.
Marou delivers a fine product with no additives. But
be forewarned. Eating a second Marou bar is a lot like watching
your second Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughn film.