Saturday, June 22, 2013

Award Winning Dark Chocolate Bars

Have you heard of Marou Chocolate, Sisters and Brothers?  These award winning chocolate bars from Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat does several things we love here on The Chocolate Cult.  First they are single-origin from Vietnam.  Second they work directly with the cocoa farmers making this a “bean to bar” chocolate.  Third, while the company, Dark Chocolate Imports, that sent us these samples is in the USA, the actually cocoa processing and chocolate crafting is done in Saigon and uses local sugar cane but "French" methods.  Their website is rather simple but you can find the bars under the "Store" tab underneath the title header.

We were sent four of their five bars and as you can see in our photo above they are wrapped in gemlike colors and gold lettering that really makes them stand out.  While the photo above is not organized in terms of cacao percentage we will look at them in that order and we did the testing in one sitting so we could tell the subtle differences (if any) between them.  Yes, we did a basic water cleansing of the palate between each sample.  If you want to do this testing on your own, you know have the basics again.  Each bar is 3.5oz and costs $9 frankly given where they come from this isn't particularly expensive. If you'd like to find them in a store, they do have retailers in seven states.  Checkout this map from their website that shows where the cocoa beans are grown for these bars.

Our first bar is called "Tien Giang 70%" from organically grown cocoa beans from "farmers of the Cho Gao Co-op in the Mekong Delta" according to the website.  This is in the grayish blue wrapper and as you can see it had a little accident in the shipping that split the bar.  While the top of the bar has lines etched into it these do not go all the way through or even more than a 1/4th of the way through the 3/8th inch thickness of each bar.  1/4th of the bar is a serving so if you practice moderation please keep that in mind.  This has a light but intense cocoa scent that spreads when I break off a piece with a very loud snap.  Taking a bite also makes a snapping sound.  At first I get a smooth flavor that turns a bit fruity then a touch of spice before fading into the bitterness you expect from darker chocolate.  It is well-balanced and the flavor lingers for about a minute so you can eat it slowly and savor it.

The "Lam Dong 74%" bar is crafted in small bars so I would expect it to cost more but it doesn't.  It is produced from woodlands near "the Vietnamese Central Highlands between Madagui and Bao Loc."  This has a darker scent, almost a coffee like undertone to the fragrance when I bring a small piece to my nose.  The flavor is more simple than the previous bar.  It begins with a smoother dark chocolate essence that turns a very slight mocha before settling back into the smooth dark flavor that cannot be described as bitter in any sense.  The light blue wrapper is a nice indication of of how smooth this really is, so smooth that I think if you like a darker milk chocolate you should give this bar a try.

Trinitario cacao beans are used to make the "Ba Ria 76%" bar and they are "sourced directly from family-owned farms in the Ba Ria Province."  Trinitario beans are a hybrid species created through selective farming of Criollo and Forastero beans back in the early 18th century.  The sort of salmon colored wrapper seems calming and yet with a hint of spiciness  let's see how the bar stands up to that color suggestion.  It does have a tone of spice underneath the dark cocoa when I take a whiff of it.  This has a slight bitterness to begin and then a subtle hotness starts as I keep chewing that fades back into a slight bitterness.  Hey, that means the color's suggestions to my brain were either correct or my brain affected the flavor; either way it was great.

Finally we have the "Ben Tre 78%" bar from cacao beans grown in the "Ben Tre Province in the Mekong Delta" where they are planting the cocoa trees with coconut trees and not using monoculture production.  The quarter of the bar I break off with a loud snap has a dark and almost earthy scent to it and that suggests to me that underneath the lime green wrapper will be an intense chocolate flavor.  The first thing I am surprised by when I take a bite is that there is no bitterness here but instead a dark smooth flavor that turns with each bite into a slightly almost lime or lemon like tones that blend back into the smooth chocolate.  At 78% cacao I'm surprised and again I think that if you like darker milk chocolates you could try this one and be pleased.

Adding no additional flavors or ingredients beyond the basics of cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar cane, to their bars allows the subtle differences of where the beans are grown to shine through.  Dark Chocolate Imports is the American shop that allows us to try this award-winning international chocolate.  The requirement for PayPal as a method of payment is limiting to many people who are not comfortable with using a third party for making payments but as I linked to above there are a few stores in seven different states if you'd prefer to go find one at a brick and mortar retailer.

For the pureness of the chocolate, the empowerment of the farmers, and their focus on quality versus mass production, Marou Chocolate Bars earn Sacrament Status and are now in the running for best chocolate of 2013 that we've tested and featured on The Chocolate Cult.

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