Review: Marou – Bên Tre 78% (****)

A rainy, dull sunday morning. The kind of day you wish you could be wandering on a sunny beach somewhere on a tropical island.

Anyway, that is not going to happen today, so why not review a bar of chocolate. I know I still have some in the cupboard!

To be honest, I already had the chance to taste this particular bar of brown gold. During the Origin Chocolate Event in Amsterdam, it was paired with rum. I was impressed back than, but after a full day of chocolate tasting my taste buds became a bit overloaded, so I needed to taste it again. On its own this time. Without distractions.

Chocolate made in Vietnam might sound weird. Chocolate, in Vietnam? Most people won’t even know cacao is growing there. Don’t be ashamed, I didn’t know either until some months ago!

The Bên Tre bar is a 78% chocolate, so a fairly high percentage. It is made from cacao beans grown near the Mekong Delta. Marou keeps close contact with the farmers who produce the beans. Their farmers ferment the cacao on the spot and Marou turns them into chocolate in their factory in Ho Chi Minh city. And they seem to be pretty good at it, as their products have been awarded with several medals by the Academy of Chocolate.

So, the bar. It is wrapped in one of the most exotic packages I’ve seen so far. The vibrant green with gold ink instantly brings Asia to mind. The fonts used add to the feeling, as they remind me of Tintin albums for some reason.

Inside, another gold wrapper tightly hugs the bar. An “M” seal makes sure you are the first one to open the bar.

Inside a very generous bar is hidden. Atypical, it is not scored into rectangular pieces, yet diagonally, producing pieces of different size as you start breaking it up. In the middle, a proud M finishes of the design. Neat and sleek. I like it a lot!

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Bean: Trinitario according to several sources, though I could not find any info about it on the Marou website.
Origin: Vietnam – Bên Tre Province, Mekong Delta
Production: Marou, Faisseurs de Chocolat – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Price paid: € 6,50/100 g (Hilde Devolder Chocolatier – Ghent Belgium)

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Colour: red-brown and shiny, it looks very appealing.

Aroma: Chocolate, spices, some wood in the back.

Taste: The bar starts pretty sweet, producing an immediate and massive wave of spicy tones, a wonderful symphony of tastes slowly developing from earthyness to ginger, cinnamon and Belgian speculoos. (You can’t blame me for that last one, given I live in Belgium!)

Just underneath all those taste  developments, a refreshing fruity acidity keeps this chocolate interesting on the palate. The melt is slow at start but once it starts it keeps going and is über-velvety. Yellow exotic fruits (papaya and mango) appear and take over from the spices, while releasing rich cacao. Towards the end of the melt, coffee tones sneak in, adding depth to the taste. Biting the piece of chocolate remaining in the mouth immediately revives the spice tones.
The aftertaste is not particular strong but lingers a long time in the mouth. Due to the lack of bitter tones it is subtle, keeping a reminder of the spices swirling over your tongue.

This bar is sweet and warm, almost a tropical experience. While it is a high percentage chocolate, it is very smooth, mellow and balanced. Vietnam sure hides some spectacular cacao and Marou knows how to bring out the best of the tastes. Don’t hesitate a second if you come across this bar, just buy it and enjoy the richness! And me? I’ll grab any variety I come across.

One thought on “Review: Marou – Bên Tre 78% (****)”

  1. Just popped in to quickly re-check your pundit opinion of Marou. Listed as only being sold in Tokyo in Japan on their website but they’re available online after all. As I’ve had several disappointing experiences with fine chocolate recently I decided I better consult your blog before throwing another ton of money out of the window for naught…

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