Hands up who doesn’t like chocolate. Yes, there may be some of you who don’t but I for one relish a treat ever so often and have discovered that there is an entire world of chocolate out there that I was never privy to – the world of bean-to-bar chocolate.
It was only in April this year that I met Kristin Lim from Lincoln St Chocolates, a chocolate maker whose story will be told another day. Since then, I have been intrigued by the artisan process of making really exquisite chocolate from bean (meaning the cocoa bean) to bar (meaning a bar of chocolate). There is such a difference in flavour and experiential tasting that a supposedly simple bar of chocolate, made by hand from bean to bar, has versus the chocky I’ve been picking up on a quick stop at the supermarket. Ordinary People is thrilled to be going on a chocolate journey with Kristin, starting with an interview with Samuel Maruta from Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat, based in Vietnam, moving on to chocolate tastings, chocolate bar reviews and a few upcoming stories on the origins and making of bean-to-bar chocolate. Samuel’s interview can be found here.
While we were planning this series, a timely coincidence occurred and I was invited by Gallery & Co to their launch of a trio of exclusive chocolates by Marou in collaboration with Rice Creative. This is where I met Samuel Maruta, one of the two founders who have put bean-to-bar chocolate firmly on the map in Vietnam.
Bean-to-bar chocolates are produced in small runs because they are made from scratch with care given to every detail from start to finish. One of these details has to be the packaging and Marou is no different. While all their bars are covered in style, their limited edition trio, produced in collaboration with Gallery & Co and Rice Creative, was inspired by architectural elements of the National Gallery Singapore. In their first run of chocolates ever to contain inclusions, Marou worked with Rice Creative on the concepts that encompass the best in amazing package design and unique but perfect flavours.
Starting with a basic bar of 65% signature Marou, single origin, dark chocolate, the team took elements of the tiles from the Gallery floors to design the wrapper and chocolate bar itself. This Signature chocolate forms the base of their other two bars which contain the inclusions of sea salt, inspired by the play of light crystals through the Gallery windows and candied chilli inspired by the tree-like structures at the National Gallery Singapore. Trust me, the chilli bar packs a punch with different facets of flavour, which for me was akin to the taste of tamarind.
Amazing as the chocolate was, I also appreciated the beauty in each hand printed wrapper. Working with traditional Vietnamese Dong Ho printers, a traditional art form produced by a family of artisans in a small village in North Vietnam. Very few families remain that continue the art and Dong Ho printing uses organic paints on hand engraved woodblocks that are then hand pressed onto specialty paper. It is a heritage art form with no less than 21 generations of printers working and sharing their trade with the next generation. No two wrappers are the same as each one is pressed separately and then lovingly wrapped around the gold foil of a Marou chocolate bar. (We were given the opportunity to print the last layer of green onto the Signature wrapper at Gallery & Co and one of these wrappers now hangs, framed, in my house, signed by Samuel Maruta).
Watch the video about the National Gallery Singapore collaboration of chocolate and design below. Thank you Gallery & Co and Rice Creative for the video.
Bean-to-bar chocolate is like a very special present, almost a secret, though the popularity of it is growing all over the globe. We hope you enjoy our series on this form of artisan chocolate making and perhaps will be inspired to try a bar or two, though a word of warning is in order. Once you’ve tried bean-to-bar chocolate, it is very hard to go back to “ordinary” chocolate.
You can view the Marou & Co. Dong Ho Printing Showcase at the National Gallery Singapore
Date: 7 – 31 July 2016
Venue: Gallery & Co.
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10am – 7pm / Friday & Saturday, 10am – 10pm
And it would be worthwhile to pick up a box of the exclusive, limited edition chocolate collaboration by Gallery & Co, Marou and Rice Creative. If you do, be sure and try the pairings of rum with the 65% Signature bar, espresso with the Sea Salt bar (my favourite) and a sparkling rosé with the Chilli bar.
For more information, visit the following links:
You can also find other bars of Marou at hello chocolate who are their official representative in Singapore.
Hello Chocolate Kiosk – Pedders on Scotts, Scotts Square, 6, Scotts Road, Level 2, Singapore, 228209.
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Images provided by Gallery & Co.