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Chocolate On The Road: Vietnam

“Basically we’re finding the limits of what there is today [in terms of quality Vietnamese cacao].”

-Samuel Maruta, Marou Chocolate

Many people still think of Vietnam in terms of its contentious civil war, back in the 60’s and 70’s. But while the war has certainly left its mark, for chocolate lovers Vietnam has become one of the best-known cacao origins in Asia. Many small batch craft chocolate makers keep a Vietnamese bean in their lineup of cacaos. But with over a dozen chocolate makers popping up in Vietnam over the years, where does that leave local chocolate makers?

In this episode, we talk to 3 players in very different positions in the Vietnamese chocolate & cacao industry. Each of them has forged a unique role for themselves, from farmer to chocolate maker to industry leader; and those roles are changing every day. Cacao from Vietnam is slowly earning itself a place in history, while also possibly working its way towards extinction.

To read an article version of this episode, click here.

Vietnamese cacao nibs with bits of dried mango; photo taken in mountainous Da Lat.

Topics We Cover

  • some of the complicated history of Vietnam
  • how cacao has historically come to and come back to Vietnam
  • the largest craft chocolate company in the region
  • chocolate manufacturers’ role in revitalizing Vietnamese cacao
  • issues with sourcing non-ingredient materials for chocolate making in Vietnam
  • Vietnam as a representative of the future of Southeast Asian cacao

Show Timeline

0:00-2:10~ Episode & topic introduction.

2:10-10:10~ Background on Samuel Maruta and his company, Marou Chocolate, as well as the history of cacao in Vietnam.

10:10-17:20~ Diving into the modern wave of cacao cultivation in Vietnam, from where it came from to how it’s grown so large. (Van Thanh Trinh)

17:20-20:40~ Discussing the headache that is sourcing cacao in Vietnam, and how it’s changed rapidly over the last several years. (Samuel Maruta)

20:40-26:50~ Looking at what it’s like to build a chocolate business in Vietnam these days, and the role which tourism has played in urging & repressing new businesses. (Ho Nguyen Thao)

26:50-31:05~ Samuel Maruta’s final thoughts on the changes in Vietnam over the last two decades, and whether the Vietnamese people are able to keep up with it all, & the end of the episode.

More About Our Guests

Samuel Maruta: co-founder of Marou Chocolate, a value-added chocolate company started in 2011 & based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Check out Marou’s Instagram, Facebook, and Website.

Van Thanh Trinh: chairman of Binon Cacao Joint Stock Company & founder of Tanda Chocolate, both based in Vung Tau, Vietnam. Voiced mainly through his interpreter, Brian Truc Dao. Check out Binon’s Facebook for more information.

Ho Nguyen Thao: co-founder & chocolate maker at Au Lac Chocolate based in Hoi An, Vietnam, using cacao from farmers in the country’s Dak Lak province. Check out Au Lac’s Instagram and Facebook.

Samuel’s business partner Vincent Mourou was also featured in the Cacao Brands episode.

Cacao pods from Buon Me Thuot, in south-central Vietnam.

Further Reading

Connect With Chocolate On The Road

On Instagram@chocolateontheroad

On Facebook: @chocolateontheroad

Show music is Roadtrip by Phil Reavis, and our transition music is We’re Gonna Be Around by People Like Us.

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