Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat
Marou single origin chocolate
Noodlies, Sydney food blog gets excited about food, but I don’t do the over the top. No orgasmic sighs or groans (verbally or in my writing). I’m reserved. But this chocolate has me sweating in anticipation ever since I saw it grace the pages of this month’s SBS Feast magazine. I have to have it. I have to write about it. I have to promote it.
Rarely has something got under my skin so.
Vietnam is known for a lot of things, some good, some not. But chocolate isn’t normally associated with this feisty south-east Asian country. Though in fact, cacao was introduced by the French in the late 19th century. It never really took off locally or as an export. There was a brief second revival in the 1980s, encouraged by the Russians, one of a handful of countries supporting Vietnam, back then desperately impoverished nation thanks to the US led embargo.
The third wave is happening now, our unlikely heroes are two French expats, former banker, Samuel Maruta and former film editor Vincent Mourou. They tentatively set off on motorbikes to find cacao trees in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and ended up founding Marou in February 2011. Marou is a merger of the men’s surnames.
The video below demonstrates their painstaking, labour of love; making do with available local resources – Marou’s website proudly proclaims the cocoa press “started life as a rubber press and went through a bit of a rough patch in a junkyard, but now it’s back in action, flexing its 40t of hydraulic muscle to press cocoa butter out of our cocoa mass”. Watch and be inspired by their determination and the beauty of their finished product.
Marou single origin chocolate is sourced from small, local farmers who cultivate cacao trees in the shade of taller fruit trees such as coconut or cashew nut trees. They ferment the cacao beans themselves at their farms. There are five origins from south and central Vietnam, each with their own distinctiveness derived from differences in richness of soil, frequency of rain and other climatic factors. All farms are within 100km of Marou’s plant in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
The single origin, dark chocolate range is named after the source region:
- Tien Giang (70%): a full bodied chocolate with spicy, fruity notes, made from cacao organically grown by farmers of the Cho Gao Co-op in the Mekong Delta.
- Dong Nai (72%): a finely balanced dark chocolate with hints of spice coming from farms in the upper Dong Nai province.
- Lam Dong (74%): a rare and delicate chocolate made in micro-baches from cacao beans cultivated in hilly woodland at the edge of the Vietnamese Central Highlands between Madagui and Bao Loc.
- Ba Ria (76%): A bold and fruity chocolate made from Trinitario cacao sourced directly from select farmers in Ba Ria province.
- Ben Tre (78%): An intense yet balanced chocolate, from Ben Tre province in the Mekong Delta, where cacao trees are planted among coconut groves.
Dear noodlies readers, it’s not hard to see why I’m so fascinated with Marou right now. But that’s just scratching the surface, you see, Ben Tre is my family’s home town, where my dad and generations before him grew up, my mother is from near by Vinh Long.
All week, I’ve been pacing, impatient for my samples of Marou. Of course I’m desperate to try it but even more desperate to give Dad a taste. Above is dad’s wrinkly, 92yo hands reaching for this impossibly beautiful Marou Ben Tre chocolate. It looks precious in gold and green wrapping and he treats it with care, feeling the texture of the paper, tracing the gold lines and squinting in delight to read the words ‘Ben Tre’ in Vietnamese.
We agree not to open Ben Tre. We need to prolong the excitement. Like the best wine in the house, it should be left until last.
So we open Tieng Giang because it’s the lowest percentage. The purple wrapping is held together by soft gum which yields easily under a little pressure to reveal a golden inner envelope with a simple seal-shaped Marou sticker at the centre. Open that, and you’ll see the handsome shinny dark chocolate bar with long rectangular islands cutting diagonally across it. The imposing yet elegant Marou ‘M’ emblem sits at the centre.
Marou chocolate is a tactile experience. The video above shows how each component is painstakingly put together, seemingly by hand; screen printing of the wrapper, hand folded wrapper… The eating process is the exact reverse. First, it’s the visual beauty of the wrapping and shape, then the hands wander over the tapestry-like, intricate paper before unwrapping the outer and inner layers. The smooth, hard bar invites you to shatter it, opening up spicy, rich or fruity flavours. It’s made to be shared, once broken it should be eaten immediately.
Did dad like it?
According to Dad, this chocolate is for grown ups (at 92yo he should know). He thinks milk chocolate is ‘nice’ but it’s for women and children. Dad and I put a piece of the dark chocolate in our mouths waiting for the shards to reveal. We look at each other, each daring the other to speak first.
At last he says “hard, rich, strong, slightly fruity sour”, I smile and add “really good with a sip of jasmine tea or maybe Vietnamese drip coffee”. We both laugh. He doesn’t realise it, but he’s running his hand over Ben Tre feeling the wrapping paper’s texture. I’m here, while he floats home.