I think when you understand the history of a nation’s cacao production then it heightens the satisfaction you get from eating a chocolate bar from that country. That’s certainly the case with this 72% cocoa bar from Vietnam I bought from Artisan du Chocolat. They’ve obviously had their problems with the war in the past as well as having a communist country that didn’t really support agriculture and then the liberation of the cocoa industry over the past twenty years or so with the help of the Americans and the Dutch. Well this bar has been 10 years in the making since Malay saplings were brought over and planted; the beans from those plants were used to make this bar of wonderful dark chocolate.
This bar was produced from Trinitario beans which may not be as luscious as chocolate made from Criollo beans but the need to have more robust cacao trees in the region is probably more important at this stage given that Venezuela (where much of the Criollo production is based) has a far more established industry. But the quality and originality of this bar is a triumph.
The packaging has the usual simplistic theme but mixed with a wonderful sense of humour as it’s adorned with little conical straw hats synonymous with Vietnam and on the reverse there’s a nice little bit of information about where the cocoa was grown and that it was conched in Kent (where Artisan du Chocolat is based).
Of course the fact that it is conched here will change the flavour somewhat, but I’m sure that the precise nature of the Vietnamese cocoa comes through. What you may find, if you ever get a chance to try it as it’s a limited edition bar, is that there’s a very mild nutty spice edge to it which reminds me of cocoa from Trinidad and Tobago (where the Trinitario hybrid bean actually first came into being) but also a slight citrus note which you’d get from Indonesian cocoa.
I’m not sure if my mind is just playing tricks on me, but there is a hint of rice wine in there too. But what all this makes is for a very light, mild bar of dark chocolate that doesn’t have anywhere near as much of acidity as many of the Pralus bars. In fact, the flavours are delicate that I’d not actually have it with any drink such as white wine as the luscious flavours would be completely lost. Although, that being said, there is a slight alcoholic nature to it at the very end of the melt which reminds me slightly of Baileys.
I do love robust dark chocolate. But on a hot day like this then a bar is absolutely perfect to keep in the shade and nibble a bit every couple of pages as you pass through a novel. This definitely has to be one of my favourite bars this year.