Alluvia Chocolatier: Vietnam’s Newest Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Maker?

5/5 - (1 vote)

But Wait…Why is it a Question?

To begin, I would want to discuss the subject that is most prominent at the very end of the phrase, which is a question mark. Concerns about the bean-to-bar aspect of the goods sold by Alluvia Chocolatier have been voiced by other professionals in the chocolate industry, as well as by myself. The fact that their English promotional material contradicts itself in a number of different ways raises the possibility that the company does not fulfill the requirements to be considered “bean-to-bar.” This word refers to a firm that not only makes its chocolate from raw cacao beans but also knows where those beans came from. It is obvious that Alluvia is such a company since they cite the provenance of their beans multiple times in their promotional materials. Ho Chi Minh City is where Alluvia’s chocolate bars, which are created in Vietnam and supplied from Vietnam and designed in Ho Chi Minh City, are manufactured and developed (and more recently, re-designed). Since the article was published, Alluvia has been in touch with me to elaborate on a few of the things I will discuss below. In addition, I just returned from a vacation in Vietnam, and as a result, I have republished the post with revised ratings and images, in addition to adding the remaining bars from their collection. To begin, it is true that they manufacture chocolate in its entirety, beginning with the bean and ending with the bar.

I had initially came up with five reasons as to why I questioned the relevance of bean-to-bar as a descriptor of their goods, and I am happy to report that I now have the answers to those issues.

  1. If you look closely, you can see that the stickers that dot the seal of each bar bear the label “pure cocoa powder” rather than “pure chocolate” or “pure cacao.” However, it is possible that they simply took the seal from the cocoa powder that they also sell and thought that it completed the bars’ aesthetic. This is precisely what transpired, and as a result, they have redesigned the packaging of their bars and eliminated the stickers that caused confusion.
  2. Again, this is the contemporaneous conjecture from a few reliable people in the business. These friends don’t know much more than I do about the firm, but once again, this is because there is so little information available in English about the business.
  3. The ambiguous degree of engagement of a Swiss NGO, which is often cited on the organization’s website. The Swiss non-governmental organization (NGO) known as Helvetas, which Alluvia often mentions in their promotional materials, has been collaborating with the government of Vietnam since 2005. Their objective has been to raise the income of local farmers by increasing the quantity of high-quality cacao that is produced in Vietnam in a manner that is environmentally responsible. The father of Alluvia’s chief chocolate maker was really involved in this pioneering endeavor, and ever since it began, Alluvia’s cacao has been verified as having met the standards set out by both the UTZ and the Vietnamese Ministry of Health.
  4. The crumbly and firm texture of their bars, which typically suggests a lack of cocoa butter, which itself reveals that cocoa powder and cocoa butter were used as a basis rather than just cocoa beans alone. This might be a result of the product’s age, or it could indicate a need for more cocoa butter in future recipes.
  5. The fact that Alluvia calls itself a chocolatier rather than a chocolate manufacturer is a very significant differentiator in the industry. In addition to purchasing cacao from local farmers in Cho Gao, which is located in the Tien Giang area, the company also maintains their very own cocoa plantation in the southern part of Vietnam.

*Added bonus: they’ve been around since at least 2013, but this is the first time I’ve heard of them; despite the fact that my fascination with Asian chocolate goes back at least that long. It does indicate on their website, though, that they are just just starting a worldwide campaign, so it is possible that this is the consequence of very new promotional material that is written in the English language. However, I was reluctant to give them the designation of bean-to-bar because of the reasons that were discussed earlier in this paragraph. Mislabeling anything may result in a significant amount of public mistrust and dissatisfaction, as the Mast Brothers have shown in a highly public setting. Even if there is a significant language barrier involved, it is in everyone’s best interest to use extreme caution. Cocoa butter and cocoa powder have been produced by Alluvia since 2013, while bean-to-bar chocolate has been produced by the company since 2014.

How Did My Hands Come to Rest upon These Bars?

I think that Alluvia spoke with me around a few months ago via one of the social media networks that I use. After a time, I had more or less forgotten about it, but when the occasion presented itself, they came flooding back into my thoughts. A few weeks ago, I met up with my lover in the capital city of Cambodia. He had just returned from a two-week trip to Vietnam, and two days before our meeting, he had traveled all over Saigon in search of this chocolate. In all honesty, we hadn’t anticipated that it would be such a drawn-out journey, but that’s exactly what happened. A café run by Alluvia may be found smack dab in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City’s business district. Despite this, he left the downtown area on the recommendation of his GPS, in which he began to have less and less faith as the buildings got more residential.

It turned out that the GPS had merely been provided with incorrect instructions. The address of the chocolate shop that was listed on the chocolatier’s Facebook profile was really that of the owner’s flat. You got it correctly. After speaking with a few others in the neighborhood, my boyfriend showed up at the door of the owner’s apartment on a Friday morning completely befuddled about what he was doing there. My tale was told, and curiously enough, the bars were still purchased after all. However, he said that the other person was quite kind. On the other hand, now that I give it some thought, it might be the reason why my bars have an odd texture (but not the rest of the stuff). They get their cocoa from a neighboring tiny hamlet that grows it organically and are justifiably quite proud of the fact that they do. The Mekong River runs through the community.

The pure 40% milk chocolate bar.

And Now, For the Main Event

100% Dark Chocolate: 5/10

IIt is fairly hard, yet unlike what you would anticipate, it does not crumble easily since it starts to melt with even the slightest amount of stimulation. It’s possible that adding a little more cocoa butter might have been beneficial, but given the climate of Vietnam, I assume that it’s not as essential. The fragrance is reminiscent of rich, dark chocolate as well as sweet licorice. On the tongue, there is just a hint of bitterness and a robust chocolate flavor. There are also overtones of earthiness and very faint hints of dried red fruit, particularly towards the aftertaste. However, you really must give it enough time to melt, as if you don’t, all of the flavor will be locked up in the cocoa solids and you won’t be able to taste it at all. In spite of its lack of sweetness and peculiar dusty undertone, it would lend itself well to baked products because to its absence of tannin and bitterness as well as its rich chocolate taste, while yet being approachable for those who are unable to consume a lot of sugar.

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85% Dark Chocolate: 7.5/10

Surprisingly, as compared to the other three non-inclusion bars that they offer, this one has a far more pleasant disposition. This is my favorite of their basic bars since it has a satisfying snap and a great melt; nonetheless, it is more suited for eating than for putting into hot cocoa. The scent reminds me of ground coffee beans because of its nice moderate acidity and bitterness, as well as its rich and sweet chocolate undertones with hints of coffee. The taste has some juicy acidic overtones, but they are muted in the tongue by an overly polished texture towards the finish, and there is the barest touch of tannin. Very little cocoa taste, yet an excellent representation of the quality of cacao grown in Vietnam. If it were me, I’d purchase it again.

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70% Dark Chocolate: 6/10

The scent has a hint of nuttiness and a more pronounced presence of red fruits; they are maybe a little more juicy and certainly more sweeter, but in a honey-coated kind of manner. A little bit like fragrant strawberries, and really agreeable all over. Although the taste is somewhat acidic, it goes well with the scent. Based on this, I can only guess that they conched the 100% for a lot longer in order to balance out the acidity. In contrast to my most recent tasting experience, I like this bar, despite its dusty overtones and some harshness.

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Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs: 7/10

I wish I had a solid answer for the proportion, but I believe that their 70% dark chocolate must be the backbone of this product. It smells like a rich dark chocolate ganache, with a strong cocoa presence and a hint of fudginess. I would gladly consume this bar since the consistency and taste are major improvements over their standard 70% chocolate bar. A chocolate that, on its own, is fine but not particularly remarkable is improved by the addition of a line of cacao nibs that runs down the centre of the bar. These nibs have a lovely earthy crunch and provide additional flavor to the chocolate.

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Dark Chocolate with CinnaPepper: 3/10

Again, I wish I had a solid answer to the question about the proportion, however I do believe that the basis is their 70% Dark chocolate. The perfume is unadulterated black pepper, and you can even see bits of it scattered about the bar; for some reason, I was anticipating a smell that was more reminiscent of chai. It’s hard to believe there isn’t even a whiff of chocolate here, which is a really unsettling thought.

When you take a bite of it, the pepper is the only flavor you can pick up until the sweet chocolate and cinnamon undertones come through. After that comes the heat of the pepper, which, much like the beginning, lingers and is rather potent throughout the whole experience. I really did give the bar to some of my students after they bothered me about it, and I wish you could have seen the expressions on their faces; it was both amusing and heartbreaking, like seeing a newborn sample a lemon for the first time. You are going to have a terrible time if you do not like pepper, but if you do, you will enjoy it very much.

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70% Dark Chocolate with Coconut: 3.5/10

It reminds me of those chocolate-covered coconut macaroons that are sold for a low price in the United States and other countries. The same as cocoa powder and dried coconut. That is cause for optimism. The bar itself has a wonderful temper and a lovely melt, however it snaps with a deplorably fragile consistency. The subtle bitterness that floats throughout, followed by the introduction of the coconutty richness from the base, and then it’s finished. In light of the fact that they have other inclusion bars in their product line, I fully anticipated that this would be some type of shredded coconut product; nevertheless, it is more comparable to a very dark coconut milk chocolate.

Although the fact that this recipe calls for coconut milk rather than simply coconut should have been my first hint, I was nevertheless taken aback by the order in which the components are listed. Although I wouldn’t hesitate to use this bar in baking, I was let down by the fact that the tastes didn’t develop more throughout the course of the bar. In addition to this, it is abundantly evident that they did not alter their recipe in order to account for the additional fat that was provided by the coconut; rather, they decided to market a chocolate that was softer and more easily melted.

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70% Dark Chocolate with Cinnamon: 2.5/10

I get the impression that I have just put my head into a jar full of ground cinnamon. The tone of this pub is wonderful, however the fragrance makes me a little worried. It melts smoothly, however, much like the rest of their inclusion bars, it is quite one-dimensional and has a feel that is similar to that of gummy over-refined candy at the finish. Cinnamon is one of my favorite flavors, but when it comes in bar form, it overpowers the chocolate to the point that I can’t really enjoy eating it. I think it would be amazing in a mulled or spiced hot chocolate. The aftertaste is excellent, however.

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70% Dark Chocolate with Coffee: 4.5/10

This bar gives out the aroma of espresso beans that have been wrapped in dark chocolate. The freshly ground coffee has a scent that is sweeter and more acidic than this, but this has a harsher bitterness that very much instantly overpowers the sweetness. The taste is far more derived from the coffee than it is from the chocolate, despite the fact that the temper is great, the snap is firm, and the melt is acceptable. The flavor begins with coffee’s harshness, then the sweetness of cocoa makes an appearance in the center, and the coffee makes a vengeful return towards the finish of the experience. On the back end, there is a taste reminiscent of an Americano with a shot of chocolate syrup that lingers. As someone who enjoys coffee, I found that I had a good time at this pub. There was, however, an obvious winner in terms of quality and successfully melding the two tastes together, and it was not the chocolate that came out on top.

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40% Milk Chocolate: 3.5/10

The taste and scent are remarkably comparable to those of the 70%, despite the fact that it has a somewhat difficult melt. The taste is not at all what it was when I had it a year ago; today it is sweet and creamy, and it has nutty overtones. The center has a decent melt and hints of milk, but it has the same dustiness as the other bars and very little chocolate taste. The strong milk taste reminds me of the powdered thing, kind of separate from the chocolate, rather than the smooth splash of cream that I anticipate from a milk chocolate. The milk chocolate melts a little easier than the 70% or 100%, but I find that the flavor reminds me of the powdered stuff.

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Milk Chocolate Ginger: 7.5/10

Because there is a line of chewy ginger running through the middle of the bar, this milk chocolate has a pleasant scent, and its consistency is much more substantial than that of ordinary milk chocolate. The back of your throat is left with a flavor that is both sweet and noticeably peppery.

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Milk Chocolate with Cashew Nuts: 7/10

I wish I had a firm answer on the cacao percentage of this bar, but I’m going to guess that the base is their milk chocolate, which is 40%. The aroma of this chocolate is very buttery and cloyingly sweet. Yes, there is a distinct aroma of cream, maybe with a trace of chocolate. Unexpectedly, after you break off a piece of the bar, you are able to view the cashew nuts in their entirety throughout the bar. Because cashews have a far greater natural fat content than the vast majority of other types of nuts, they have become more malleable over time than nuts such as almonds or peanuts would.

The end result is a crunch that is incredibly light and delicate, as well as a great combination of the two tastes—and just those two sensations. It is a candy bar that only has one flavor profile, and in my opinion, it would be better suited (and more lucrative) if it were a chewy ganache inside of a truffle. However, given how delicious it is, I would not hesitate to purchase this item again.

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Milk Chocolate with Peanuts: 5/10

Again, I wish I knew the number for sure, but I continue to operate on the assumption that the foundation is their milk chocolate with a 40% cocoa content. The candy bar smells very much like the Reese’s peanut butter cups I used to eat when I was a kid. As soon as you break off a piece, you are able to see the complete peanuts resting in the bar; yet, it has a forceful crack when you bite into it. Because the peanuts have become softer, you really need to chew this chocolate in order to release their taste, which is rather potent. Despite the fact that the chocolate used in this bar has a richer cocoa flavor than the chocolate used in the cashew bar, it tastes quite delicious and is extremely sweet. However, it is more similar to a candy bar than it is to a bar of single origin chocolate.

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Overall Thoughts & Impressions of Alluvia

These bars are up to standard. There are even some of them that are very decent. If I had to choose between these and the several Marou bars I’ve tried, I’d go with the latter since they’re a better overall product. If we were having a competition, though, I’d choose the former. The problems are blatantly clear, at least to me, and can often be resolved with relative ease. The texture, and therefore the uneven melting, the slightly overprocessed quality of the chocolates, and the discrepancies in both the information on the package and the promotional materials are the three issues in question here.

As the firm expands its goods to the worldwide market and gets continual input, I am looking forward to even more of those adjustments being implemented. Despite this, I have never really sold any of my micro-batch chocolates, and my experience with chocolate is limited to a few internships. My understanding of how the chocolate companies run their operations on a daily basis is really limited.

However, launching any kind of company is a very challenging endeavor, and it is considerably more challenging when the firm is managed in more than one language. Although I commend Alluvia for working so diligently and selecting chocolate as the medium through which to express themselves, I don’t think I’ll try any more of their products for at least a few more years. I would want to express my gratitude to Alluvia for taking the time to respond to my inquiry and address some of my concerns. The first version of this essay was posted online in August of 2017.

Which of the bars do you think you’d want to sample first?