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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review: Marou Lam Dong

     
Marou Lam Dong 
Posted: 1 November 2013    8.0 
Marou Lamdong from Vietnam 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.   
Avg price/gram: USD 0.08   Cocoa %: 74  Size: 100g   
       


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 it?      

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% Ba Ria or 78% Ben 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.       

If you liked reading this, consider savoring these reviews:
 Tesco Madagascan 71% Dark from UK -- 71% cocoa solids
 Cadbury Old Gold 70% from Australia -- 70% cocoa solids
 The Complete Chocolate Republic Index


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  Vietnamese chocolate maker Marou will take a Vietnam bean from the province of Lam Dong in the Central Highlands and turn it into delicious cacao.