/ Doug's Chocolate Republic /
Review: Marou Lam Dong
Marou Lam Dong
Posted: 1 November 2013
Lam Dong's description is "a very fine, rounded chocolate with delicate hints of spices, from small farms of Lâm Đồng province at the foot of the Central Highlands of the Annamitic range."
Marou has announced their intent to eventually add unique ingredients, some indigenous to Vietnam I imagine, to their bars.
This would be preferred, as this 74% Highlands bar didn't taste a world different from the 76% Ba Ria or 78% Ben Tre.
price/gram: USD 0.08
Cocoa %: 74
Marou's Lam Dong bar is the
third bar I sampled from new bean-to-bar chocolate maker
Marou based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Like other bean-to-bar
manufacturers which came before this 2-year old operation,
Marou's mission is clear. It strives to
develop intimate relationships with local farmers and turn
their beans into gourmet chocolate. And just like
those other outfits, unlimited funds
are not at their disposal. Their roaster is a 1937 Devigne and Janin, shipped to Vietnam after being used for
coffee roasting in France for over 80 years. Willie
Harcourt-Cooze of Wille's Cacao makes his bean-to-bar
products using a restored 1920's batch roaster and antique
conching tanks from Spain. All these bean-to-bar upstarts
probably say that the ancient gear brings out unique flavors
no modern equipment can. True? Maybe. It
doesn't hurt the equipment is a $@)(* cheaper though, does
Lam Dong's description is "a
very fine, rounded chocolate with delicate hints of spices,
from small farms of Lâm Đồng province at the foot of the
Central Highlands of the Annamitic range." This
province is about 250-350 km away from the
Bà Rịa and Bến Tre provinces which grew the beans of the
other Marou bars I scarfed down.
So did beans grown in
Vietnam's Central Highland region differ markedly in taste
from those grown near the Mekong Delta?
I'll say what I have said already. Marou knows how to execute on a fine bar. They source
high quality beans and then stay out of their own way to
turn these into top tier chocolate. But their
technical diversity is
limited. That is not the slam it may appear to be.
Anthony Hopkins is an Academy Award winning actor, but you
don't see him doing comedy roles, do you?
Marou is certainly ambitious
releasing six bars between 70% and 80%, with just a 2%
difference in cocoa solids from one bar to the one above or
below it. The company obviously feels that the terrain
in the province of Tiền Giang is infused with different nutrients,
minerals, and flavors than that of
Đồng Nai. And you know what, it probably is. But
will the average chocolate lover in Paris or New York be
able to discern those differences? It's more common
for a chocolate manufacturer to add something to the
chocolate to highlight certain notes. Hence, you'll
see blueberries added to some, nuts to others. Yeah,
sure, many times it's a gimmick. A chocolate
manufacturer only makes one or two chocolate blends.
To push the product range, they'll add almonds to one bar,
peanuts to another, raisins to yet another.
Marou has announced their
intent to eventually do this, add unique ingredients, some
indigenous to Vietnam I imagine, to their bars. This would be preferred, as this 74% Highlands bar didn't taste
a world different from the 76%
Tre. Although disappointed by the lack of
variance, I couldn't really rate the second and third bars
any worse than the initial Ba Ria I tried.
Marou's dedication to detail
is to be commended. It's still a new company, and I'm
sure over time, there will be better differentiation between
their various offerings besides the different color wrappers
which, I'll go out my way to say, are beautifully designed.
For now, if you happen to chance across these in a chocolate
shop, pick up just two to savor a taste from Vietnam besides
spring rolls and pho.