These Vietnamese trinitario beans are grown by farmers of the Cho Gao Cooperative in the Mekong Delta in the south west of Vietnam near Saigon. Once harvested and fermented these beans make their way to Saigon, where Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou turn them into one of Marou’s beautiful chocolate bars.
I’m beginning to get the impression with Vietnamese cocoa, that a categorisation of earthy cocoa and powerful red berry acidity has many expressions, within the bounds of just one country. Here we have another cocoa made from a particular area within Vietnam and I expect some more of the same and yet at the same time something different. Small variances in this countries terroir seem to have a significant effect on the complexities of the chocolate, while at the same time maintaining a core set of flavours. Opening the bar I’m presented with Marou’s signature big M slab and breaking a piece off I’m immediately hit by the aroma of deep chocolatey cocoa, which opens up with some attention to a subtly complex set of flavours inclusive of green, fruit, sweet, floral and smokey. Placing a piece in my mouth there’s a syrupy but smooth mouthfeel that begins to reveal some floral cocoa flavours on the opening. From here, much like the aroma, the flavours get more complex the more attention that’s paid to them, there’s some tart red berries and gooseberries along with a grassy note, before the bar heads towards some spiced biscuit notes on the finish. This bar has an unusual set of flavours that while complementary can be a little erratic and alongside the soft but tart acidity provide some instability. What this bar lacks in balance and accessibility it more than makes up for in originality and complexity, this is an intriguing bar that gets better the more you try it, but I wonder if some slight adjustments to the fermentation and the conching might reveal an even greater bar lurking underneath. Best enjoyed when you’re in a patient mood, letting the bar express itself under your full attention, there’s plenty of exciting gems hidden within, so long as you’re not in a rush to find them.
Ingredients: Cocoa, cocoa butter, cane sugar
Colour: Medium to darker brown
Mould: Marou big M segment slab
Snap: Very Crisp
Temp/Shine: Glossy matte
Notes: Deep chocolatey cocoa, tart red berries, wet grass, demerara biscuits, violets, smokey
Quality: Subtly complex, deep, robust
Texture: Syrupy, smooth, jammy
Quality: Full, refined
Notes: Red berry jam, gooseberry
Quality: Soft, tart, sour
Notes: Floral sugar, demerara biscuits
Quality: Uplifting, light
Notes: Floral cocoa, tart berry jam, gooseberry, wheatgrass, demerara biscuits, allspice
Quality: Distinctive, unusual, subtly complex
Flavours are soft, but have length, getting longest in the middle, round comes awkwardly on both the sweetness and the acidity
Notes: Fruity, demerara biscuits, allspice
Quality: Fruity flavour fill the end before a buttery demerara biscuit finish with warming notes of allspice lingering on after the finish
Soft flavours suggest at a balance and medium structure provides some anchoring for flavour, but unusual nature of the bar and acidity provide some instability
Bar has plenty of depth and a good degree of dimension within its flavours, there’s a good degree of complexity here, but not always well balanced, structure is uniform if not a little weak for purposes, expression seems honest of terroir, but processing could provide additional development and balance on top of quality mouthfeel
Marou’s Tasting Notes: A full bodied chocolate with notes of spices, fruits and honey, made from fine flavour cacao grown by farmers around Cho Gao in the Mekong Delta.