As the tropical temperatures finally subdued in Europe, I reach to my chocolate stash to see how it survived. Despite temperatures reaching 38°C (100,4°F) outside and 28° (82,4°F) inside, it seems to have survived. Phew…
Let’s see what I have laying around, to sooth my appetite for great chocolate after a perios of ice creams and IPA beers.
A purple and gold bar draws my immediate attention. Marou!
Oh how they take me back to the days I discovered single origin chocolate. Marou’s Ben Tré bar must have been the third origin chocolate I ever tried. I remember vividly how Vincent Mourou and Samuel Maruta attended the Origin Chocolate Event in Amsterdam, so many years ago as eager new chocolate makers, asking questions to the great Mikkel Friis Holm. But today, they are a force incontournable themselves.
Everybody who follows the origin chocolate scene, has witnessed their rise from experimenting chocolate makers producing in Vietnam, to the established name they are today. Marou takes it beyond pure chocolate production with their Maison Marou in Saigon and Hanoi (café, patisserie, shop,…) and are suppliers to Air France and their products are used by renowned chefs.
I have had the joy to review several of their products. A while back I received their Mekon Kumquat as a gift. I’m not a big fan of the inclusion and added flavor craze that seems to have taken over the bean to bar chocolate scene. To me, in many of these bars, the added flavors take over and the chocolate doesn’t shine anymore – or the flavor combinations seem to be clashing and the end result may seem a bit forced. Luckily, there are chocolate makers who can control the urge to overwhelm and leave room for the natural chocolate flavors. Let’s see if this bar falls in the last category.
You just know this is a Marou bar, from the moment you lay your eyes on the package. The design leaves no question about the origin of the chocolate. The artwork shows Asian decorations and Saigon is proudly displayed under the Marou logo. The orange, gold and purple colors hold a playful promise of the Kumquat fruits to be experienced. The thick paper wrapper feels nice in your hands and the golden foil inside the wrapper adds to the luxurious feel. This isn’t your ordinary, run-off-he-mill chocolate bar for sure.
The bar itself remains in the well known Marou style. Big and scored in diagonal lines with a bold Marou “M” in the middle, it is very inviting and sets itself apart from more plain bars in the market. At 80g, this is a rather big chocolate bar and the form of the tablet makes it look even bigger. The chocolate has an enticing smell from the moment you open the package.
Made with Tièn Giang cocoa, it should offer bold cocoa and fruity/spicy chocolate. Adding the kumquat fruit (a small citrus fruit) the flavor should be even fruitier. So let’s dig in!
Bean: not mentioned
Origin: Tièn Giang province – Vietnam
Maker: Marou Chocolate
Ingredients: cocoa nibs (60%), cane sugar (30%), cocoa butter (8%), dried Kumquat (2%)
Price: € 7,5 – 80g – Hilde Devolder, Ghent – Belgium
Batch: 9162 – best before 28/02/2021
Harvest: Not mentioned
Color: dark brown with a golden hue
Aroma: lush roasted cocoa, sexy woods, spicy background (gingerbread)
Taste: it takes effort to break off a piece and you are rewarded with a hard snap.
Shhh, the show is about to begin. Rest a piece in your mouth, close your eyes and enjoy…
A dark stage. In the back, dark chocolate tones start building, fast and powerful, building in momentum. A symphonic orchestra of flavors keeps rolling, while suddenly a spotlight pierces through the dark. An orange ballet dancers starts dancing over the stage, with crystal clear citrus acidity, she dances on the tip of your tongue – while the chocolate tones in the back keep setting the pace. The dancer keeps popping up on unexpected moments, sprinkling generous dashes of acidity and whiffs of concentrated floral citrus aroma’s. As the melt continues, the kumquat keeps dancing relentlessly, but the main orchestra changes pace and tone. The bold cocoa and chocolate flavors roll off and give way for a new score of toasted bread with honey, dashes of cinnamon and spices and an appealing nuttiness. And so the show ends. While the music fades out, the kumquat leaves the stage and only remains present as a fading memory, while we are left with the return of the grand chocolaty flavors lingering on the palate.
Remarkably, the kumquat as such, does not feel like an out of place flavor or a clear addition to the chocolate. The acidity and more volatile citrus flavors, blend in ever so nicely and naturally, they remind me of chocolates made with very fruity cocoa’s (like the Madagascan origin).
The only thing I’m missing here, are the seductive spices which can be found in the aroma so vibrantly. They would make a wonderful combination with the delicate Kumquat, yet the bolder cocoa flavors push them far to the background and only let them pop up near the end of the melt.
Yet this remains a remarkable infused chocolate. To often, the inclusions or flavor additions draw all the attention and don’t allow the actual chocolate to shine. But Marou blends both together so skillfully, the end result is pushed both elements together to new heights. Wonderful!
Visual appeal: 5/5
Melt and mouth feel: 4/5
Flavor profile : 4/5
Overall: 21/25 (****1/2)