When the true history of the origins of the specialty/craft chocolate movement gets written, Samuel Maruta, his partner Vincent Mourou, and the company they founded, Marou, Faiseurs (makers) de Chocolat, are deserving of a chapter on their vision, mission, efforts, and accomplishments.
Founded in 2010 in Vietnam, the same year as Dandelion was founded in San Francisco, the two companies have taken very different approaches in pursuit of similar goals. Where Dandelion hewed closely to the Silicon Valley tech roots of its founders, Samuel and Vincent’s vision was to build their business in Vietnam – an origin then not known for specialty cocoa or quality chocolate.
They faced not only the challenges of learning to make chocolate and then sell it, but also to create, basically from scratch, the entire specialty cocoa and chocolate industry in Vietnam. In this respect they are much closer in spirit to the work done by Pacari, founded in 2002 by Carla Barboto and Santiago Peralta in Ecuador in – a country justly famed for its cocoa.
Bootstrapping an entire industry in a hitherto-unsung origin country is a Herculean task, with the twin challenges of understanding the cocoa that is available and working to improve agronomic and post-harvest processes while at the same time learning how to make consistently good chocolate consistently by whatever means available and necessary.
And through this entire journey, every time I was fortunate to spend time with Samuel – and from everyone I encountered who knew him personally – his quiet patience, gentleness, good humor, and passion, were evident. The Samuel I knew was both serious in his pursuit of the mission and goals of the company – driven by a sincere desire to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of the entire cocoa industry not just in Vietnam but around the region and globally – and humbly aware of the magnitude of the challenges he faced.
And Marou made some damn fine chocolate. I particularly remember spending time with Samuel on the floor of the Salon du Chocolat in Paris, sharing one of the last (until then) unopened bars on the planet of a chocolate they named Heart of Darkness. Like many of the most vivid experiences I have had over the course of my ChocolateLife in the past 25 years, the chocolate served as a focal point of the totality of an experience – tasting this very special chocolate during during the Salon, and sharing it with Samuel.
I have no doubt that the millions of people who have had a chance to participate in Samuel’s ChocolateLife are all better off as a result of knowing of his work or knowing him personally.
If your life has been affected by Samuel and/or Marou – if you have some anecdote you’d like to share, I encourage you to share it with the ChocolateLife community in the comments.
Story header image original photo credit:
Minh Bách Trương via Unsplash