This time of year, flowers and chocolate are probably in your thoughts.
Vietnam grows beautiful flowers (we’re talking 10 roses from Dalat for less than a dollar!) but what about chocolate?
While “Vietnam” and “chocolate” are two words that don’t seem to go together, chocolate was actually introduced to the country as early as 1890 when the French encouraged local farmers to grow the product.
However, it’s really only in the last twenty years or so that cocoa was re-introduced to Vietnam, taking advantage of its ideal combination of heat and humidity.
Seventy kilometers south of Saigon lies the town of Ben Tre, mostly known for its many coconut groves. But because cacao saplings can be intercropped or planted under the shade of larger trees like coconuts, farmers are increasingly eager to get the most use of their land. Cacao trees can also live to be 40 years old and productivity increases with age which makes them an attractive crop.
Vietnam strictly grows the Trinitario variety of cacao, and like wines, coffees and teas, the soil plays a large role in the final taste of the beans. Vietnam’s chocolate has been described as more fruity, with sweet and sour notes, compared to African-grown cacao.
As the saplings mature, taking approximately 3 years to start producing fruit, local farmers strap bottles filled with duck grease and entrails to attract ants which in turn control cacao pests.
From flower to fruit takes about 100 days, with the fruit coming in an oval shape in varying shades of green, yellow and red.
When the pods are ripe, the fruit is cut open revealing a white flesh which is sweet to the taste.
Some farms even make sweet cacao juice and even dessert wine from the fresh pulp.
More commonly, though, the fruit is heaped into large wooden vats for fermentation. This brings out the flavors, the body and richness of the cacao, meaning the cacao farmer has a hand in how the final product will taste.
The beans are then laid out to completely dry under the sun and then bagged and sold.
From there, the chocolate maker takes over. At the artisanal Marou chocolate factory in Binh Duong, an hour north of Saigon, the beans go into a jerry-rigged coffee roaster to develop their chocolate flavor.
The cocoa nibs are then ground to a paste known as cocoa liquor where the solids and butter (natural fat) are released.
From there, sugar, vanilla and milk are added to create the familiar bars of chocolate…
Or ready to be turned into your favorite decadent dessert to be shared with a special someone!
This Valentine’s Day, share a romantic getaway with the love of your life with Victoria’s 3 Day / 2 Nights Valentine’s packages.
Sea, surf and sand make the perfect backdrop for a getaway at Victoria Phan Thiet Resort & Spa on Vietnam’s central coast. The package includes 2 nights’ accommodation in Superior Garden View Bungalow with breakfast, a late breakfast-in-bed, a candlelit dinner on the beach including a bottle of wine, a couple’s massage, an adventure outing and of course, chocolates and more!
Or perhaps your vision of the perfect getaway is to snowy Sapa in the highlands of northern Vietnam! Sit by the fireplace with a glass of hot red wine or relax with a couple’s massage! Between February 13-26, 2016, Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa is offering a special couple’s package that includes 2 nights’ accommodation in Superior Garden View Room with breakfast, special Valentine’s Set Menu dinner for 2 including 2 glasses of hot red wine and a 60-minute body massage for 2!