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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review: Marou Ben Tre

     
Marou Ben Tre 
Posted: 1 November 2013    8.0 
Marou Bentre from Vietnam 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.
Avg price/gram: USD 0.08   Cocoa %: 78  Size: 100g   
       


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 operation, 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 Vietnam.           

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!         

Should this 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, respectively.          

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.  

If you liked reading this, consider savoring these reviews:
 Redstone Margarita from USA -- 34% cocoa solids
 San Churro Milk Chocolate from Australia -- 36% cocoa solids
 The Complete Chocolate Republic Index


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  Vietnamese chocolate maker Marou will take a Vietnam bean from the province of Ben Tre near the Mekong Delta and turn it into delicious cacao.