Pierre Marcolini – A Tale of Two Vietnamese Bars
At the Salon du Chocolat I was talking with Emmanuel about the aging process in chocolate. They were demonstrating Vietnam and the whole bean to bar process and I asked the tough question – in a space like this how do you know when the conch is long enough? How do you know how long to conch? What about overnight – are you conching overnight? What about aging?
So Emmanuel kindly gave me a bar of the Vietnamese made on site and a bar created in the factory and they were quite different. I tried the Vietnamese on site and it was interesting. They were taking beans, roasting them, refining and conching them, adding the sugar and then moulding on the site. They then sprinkled the back with nibs and after they set, packaged them for the extremely eager shopping public.
The bar created on site was wild – the flavours were all over the place. It was fruity then chocolate then earthy and each flavour impacted and then was gone then back again. It was a bit of a mess and so I kept the bar for later to see how it aged.
Given a few weeks the bar mellowed. It was lightly acidic, gorgeously fruity but the particle size was a bit big. So you can feel the chocolate as a bit gritty in the mouth but wow – absolutely fruity gorgeous.
The bar made in the factory was much lighter. The colour of the chocolate was extremely different in colour but that wasn’t the only difference. The smell was of rich roasted cocoa with only a hint of the fruit the newer bar was giving. The particle size was absolutely smaller, making it a creamier chocolate but with the nibs dispersed through the whole bar there were intense bursts of fruity nib flavour you didn’t get in the on-site bar.
What the bar lacked in inherent fruitiness was made up for in the nib intensity. There were so many that the nibs added back into the bar what additional conching seems to have slightly dimmed. There was still a slight fruitiness but the acidity was gone and some of the excitement of the ne bar was lost. A perfectly beautiful bar but without the craziness of its on-site sibling.
Both bars offered something exciting. Where the factory bar has a creamier taste and a sweeter finish, the on-site bar was crazy exciting and all over the place. Both bars were absolutely delightful in their own way and both were a delicious treat. Everyone I shared them with thought they were two different bars and it just goes to show how different manufacture of the same bean can result in such a different product.