Type: Central Fermentary

Location: Ben Tre Province, Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Tasting Notes: Dried fig, Nutmeg, Molasses

Varieties: Trinitario

Fermentation Style: Wooden boxes

Drying Style: Above ground bamboo trellis

Elevation: Sea level

Soil Type: Alluvial

Harvest Season: December to March and May to July

Butter Fat Content: 56%

BEN TRE is a coastal province on the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, a low-lying, tropical region with a vast network of rivers, rice paddies, and swamplands. It has hundreds of miles of canals that reach far into the farmland. The land is extremely fertile, and as such, has been intensively farmed for more than a century. Located between two main branches of the Mekong’s largest tributary, Ben Tre Province is birthplace of cacao in Vietnam. The terrain is flat with an altitude of less than 5 meters above sea level, and many farmers of a variety of crops take advantage of the area’s abundance of fresh water and alluvial soil.

Meridian has teamed up with Saigon-based Marou Faiseurs De Chocolat to import their hand selected Vietnam cocoa to the United States. Marou was founded in 2011 to support the Vietnamese cacao industry and has been tremendously successful at putting Vietnamese cacao in the international spotlight with their line of bean-to-bar chocolates. Besides crafting award-winningchocolate, Marou works directly with family-owned cocoa farms across Vietnam to bring their fine cocoa to markets. They provide these farms with technical support and financial assistance, purchasing the cocoa well beyond Fair Trade cocoa prices. The cacao that Meridian sources through Marou represents their high standards of quality starting at the farm level.

Marou sources from a variety of regions throughout Vietnam. In each region, they partner with cacao groups of 30-40 members. Each group has a leader who, besides having a farm of 2-3 hectares, also buys wet beans from the others in the group and ferments them in wooden boxes at their farm. Marou has a very hands on approach to quality control; each bag is tested at selection, and farmers received feedback and technical assistance throughout the harvest season.

Cacao arrived in Vietnam in the late 19th century. It remained a small crop until about 15 years ago, when development organizations began encouraging the planting of seedlings in the Mekong Delta region. While this dramatically increased the amount of cacao grown in Vietnam, it still remains a tiny share of Vietnam’s agriculture compared to its massive rice, cashew, and coffee industries.