H&C News was recently introduced to the delights of Marou, a new brand of high quality chocolate that has just arrived in the UK – from Vietnam.
Vietnam is not a country that we (and perhaps you) would have associated with artisan chocolate – until now.
We were however impressed by the background to the development of Marou (see below), and so we undertook to sample the chocolate, which is produced in five distinctive bars plus a bar specifically developed for chefs – each bar having its own unique characteristics depending on its provenance.
Of course, the sampling turned out to be a pleasure: the two bars that we tried were delicious and with subtly different flavours – as you’d expect since they originate from different areas of Vietnam. The differences between the chocolates may be subtle, but they’re noticeable even to the uninitiated: changing elements of both spice and fruit balanced with dark chocolate that varies from intense to more delicate flavouring.
To the dismay of our co-workers, we insisted on checking that the taste was as good as first impressions, but one who did manage to join the tasting commented:
“So beautifully packaged, it’s almost too good to eat! But it’s not – where can I order some?”
The Marou journey
For the past 12 months, Marou Chocolate has been developing a new business based around Vietnamese cocoa beans and their use in artisan chocolate. Marou is the first artisan chocolate maker using Vietnamese cocoa beans that is actually crafting the chocolate and its exquisite packaging in Vietnam.
The aim: to put Vietnam on the world map for gourmet chocolate – both for growing the raw ingredient and producing the final fabulous chocolate bars.
Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou (hence ‘Marou’), both from France and living in Vietnam, met when jungle trekking, discovered a shared interest in chocolate, shared a strong instinct that they could create quality Vietnamese chocolate – and began the journey to Marou.
They were certain from the start that the quality of the cocoa bean was the key element in determining the quality of the end chocolate produced. But it took a lot of discussions with farmers, and experimenting at roasting, winnowing and grinding the beans before they arrived at the quality they required.
From bean to bar
Vietnamese agricultural expertise has been combined with French passion, commitment and chocolate-making skill to create Marou chocolate.
The local farmers helped Marou to understand how the cocoa beans were grown: there was no need for flavours and other fancy additions – the beans themselves created a collection of chocolate for them, by conveying their own unique characteristics through the chocolate.
There is quite simply only sugar added to the cocoa, to balance the taste very delicately. Each region is made to a different percentage – ranging from 65% for the catering bar for chefs through to the highest of 78%.
Only the best beans are selected through a co-operative relationship with the farmers.
And the machinery used is steeped in history – with the 1937 Devigne and Janin roaster having made a journey from Marseilles to Vietnam by boat, after being in the care of a French family of grocers and coffee roasters for 83 years!
Handmade all the way
A stunning tasting chocolate was not enough – they were aiming for a product crafted by hand from start to finish which meant that the packaging must also reflect the brand – the right balance of modernity and tradition.
The result is vibrant, stylish wrapping with the chocolate from each region being wrapped in a colour that is drawn from the hues of the cocoa pods. The actual design has been influenced by ceremonial papers that were printed by artisanal printers and have a feel of the history of Vietnam, yet allow the incorporation of modern typography and illustration.
The paper is hand produced on original screen printing presses and then each bar is wrapped by hand and sealed with a Marou sticker – handmade all the way through the process.
The bar itself even has a unique design with a lattice of shapes so that you can break a size to suit you – again this is joined with the central logo.
This approach has been recognised during year one in business. Wallpaper Magazine selected Marou to create a limited edition bar complete with packaging for their third annual handmade edition.
This resulted in taking the design even further with embossing by hand and the inclusion of the recognised Wallpaper asterix mark. The slightly thinner 80% bar and the unique hand-printed packaging made it to the 2012 Salone de Mobile in Milan.
Now available in the UK – Middletown Hill starts to spread the word
Now, Marou is available in the UK. Jonathan Tailyour has lived and worked in Vietnam for many years, has been involved since the start of the business, and has seen the approach to working with local farmers, the production methods and the development of the award-winning packaging.
He too is passionate about the chocolate, and comments:
“I feel privileged to be able to bring Marou to the UK market – already I am receiving such positive interest. Friends, family and anyone else who tastes it want more, and chefs have started working with it in their kitchens to create culinary masterpieces.”
Marou is already available from Fortnum and Mason: London/ Monmouth Coffee Company: Covent Garden, London/ Cocoa Cabana: Didsbury, Manchester/ Jones Deli: Chelford, Cheshire/ Maynard’s Farm Shop: Weston Under Redcastle, Shropshire/ Chocolate Gournet in Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Worcester. www.chocolatiers.co.uk stock Marou by mail order. More information from:
Middletown Hill – Jonathan Tailyour
01939 260879 or mobile 07949 194541