Vietnam. Today more than ever, the name of this country is linked to fine chocolate. During the 19th century, cocoa was introduced on the fertile soils embraced by a climate loved by the cocoa tree. Only as recent as the beginning of this century, the chocolate producing world turned it’s head to this luscious country. Not only the big industrial boys. More importantly several adventurous small batch bean to bar producers dedicated their work to colorful Vietnam.
Arnauld Stengel followed into the his father’s footsteps running a cocoa business in the Asian state. Their company Vietcacao collects the cocoa pods grown by small family farms and organizes the post treatment of the cocoa beans. Their aim is to supply fine aroma cocoa to the chocolate world.
It’s only a small step from growing cocoa to creating chocolate. Arnauld started Erithaj in Strasbourg, France with this specific idea in mind. By joining forces with A. Morin – another French bean to bar chocolate producer, Erithaj has both the raw material and the knowledge necessary to create fine chocolate dedicate to Vietnam.
From the moment I held this bar in my hands at the Salon Du Chocolat in Brussels, I fell in love with the packaging. The design is incredible stylish. Thick white paper hugs the bar, while a black sleeve is wrapped around it as a second layer. The latter features a golden Water lily and the Erithaj name. Underneath, the origin Hàm Luông and the cocoa percentage – 80% – is mentioned. It looks and feels special.
The bar itself is wrapped in aluminum foil. It is a hefty 100g bar. Thick and scored in rectangular pieces. A wonderful sight.
Most of the crops grown in Vietnam seem to be of the Trinitario variety, offering the possibility of nice and aromatic cocoa and chocolate if treated right. The package confirms this variety on the back. Research on the origin reveals the Hàm Luông being a branch of the Mekong river, situated in the the Ben Trè province in Vietnam. Erithaj offers other bars with Ben Tré as origin. It is unclear why this Hàm Luông bar is named this way, but one can assume the cocoa used to create the bar is collected along the rived it is named after.
Origin: Hàm Luông, Ben Trè Province, Vietnam
Price: € 5 for 100 g
Colour: Medium dark brown
Aroma: Earthy, warm spices – a notch of chili pepper comes to mind, chocolate,
Taste: The chocolate has a noticeable mouth drying start. It needs some time before the first flavor notes kick in and they do so with intense coffee notes and a dash of acidity. The chocolate resists to melt, yet becomes filming on the tongue. Earthy cocoa remains the most obvious tone. There is a moment when spices pop up – cinnamon and ginger – but these exciting notes are gone to soon. They are overwhelmed in more espresso bitters. The aftertaste focuses on roasted cocoa and becomes more chocolaty. It lingers in the mouth for an extended time, but once more the pungent earthiness dominates any other flavors.
This chocolate promises nice flavors in the aroma, but due to the distracting filming quality of the melt, these notes are hardly noticeable. Vietnam cocoa can release wonderful and unique exotic flavors, but this bar only offers them sparsely. It feels as if to much cocoa butter was added in order to create a smooth texture. By doing so, the shine of the cocoa liquor aromas is taken away. The overall experience is powerful at the start, but creates no further flavor evolution.
Frankly, I gave this bar four different tasting sessions before coming to a conclusion. The best period to try it seems to be during the evening, when it revives your palate. Even then however, it doesn’t develop to a glorious flavor adventure. A pity, as I really wanted it to shine brightly instead of merely glimmering.