At weekends, Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Diep, the founder of Alluvia chocolate, often takes tourists to the cocoa garden in Hoa My village, Binh Ninh commune, Cho Gao district. According to Diep, Cho Gao cocoa is a new specialty of Tien Giang province, along with other age-old specialties such as Hu tieu My Tho - a kind of noodle with minced and sliced pork, shrimp, squid, pig innards, bean sprouts, and chives and broth; Go Cong shrimp paste; and more.
More than 90km from Ho Chi Minh City, this cocoa garden is owned by Mr. Xuan Ron, Diep’s father. The cocoa trees were planted in early 2000. Cocoa harvested in Tien Giang has a different taste from other regions in the world. Cocoa beans in Vietnam are exported to some of the world’s most famous chocolate brands. In the garden, Diep and her husband established a chocolate workshop.
In the garden, tourists can see with their own eyes cocoa trees aged from 5-15 with ripe cocoa pods of different colors.
Visitors can taste cocoa pods as well. Most people are surprised by the sour taste and mild aroma of cocoa and feel curious about making chocolate from white cocoa beans.
The seven stages of the chocolate making process include cocoa bean harvesting, fermenting, drying, roasting, grinding, tempering and molding, and wrapping.
Kelvin, a French citizen who has been living in Ho Chi Minh City for four years now, and his family visit the cocoa garden to find out more about the making of their favorite chocolate. “Diep tasted the seeds before offering them to us, so I believe that the products here are clean and safe,” Kelvin said.
The workshop’s artisans guide tourists to pour chocolate into molds and wrap them. Tourists can bring chocolate bars made by themselves home without any charge.
Tourists can taste a variety of solid and liquid chocolate of different flavors, such as coconut, chilly, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, orange, and more.
Touring the cocoa garden, visitors can go fishing, play folk games such as tug-of-war, pick fruit, and enjoy banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe).
Translated by Mai Huong