There is a saying among Vietnamese that you cannot skip Cái Bè Floating market once you reach Tiền Giang. Tiền Giang is mainly known for the bustling floating market, picturesque Tân Thành beach, and Mỹ Thuận bridge over the Tien River that connects Tiền Giang and Vĩnh Long provinces. But, there is another place nestled in the east crowned with high, green rows of cacao trees. This is Chợ Gạo – a small district with the province’s largest cultivation of cacao.
The cacao grove was planted a decade ago, and since then has been tended to by local farmers. Alluvia Chocolate’s cacao garden lets visitors have a peek at the bean-to-bar journey, outlining the chocolate-making process step by step.
Alluvia Chocolate was established in 2013 and its first products were cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and roasted cocoa beans. In 2016 machines were imported to produce chocolate, putting Vietnam firmly on the world map.
In this one-day trip, visitors learn about Vietnam and try their hands at being chocolate artisans. The location is 96.3km away from Saigon, and it takes about two-three hours to get there by car or motorbike.
A cacao tree has a lifespan of up to 30 years, with the first harvest after two years of growth. After detaching the cocoa fruit’s flesh, the beans are dried in an eight-step process: picking, fermenting, drying, roasting, peeling, grinding, molding and making final products.
Visitors learn about planting and cultivating a cacao tree. The fresh cocoa fruit, after being opened, reveals its edible sweet/sour white flesh that can be served with other fruit. Dried cocoa beans, on the other hand, are as bitter as raw coffee beans.
After the ripe fruit is picked and opened, visitors observe the European standardized bean-to-bar craft process. Alluvia Chocolate produces chocolate in a closed manufacturing production line. The company’s mission is to introduce visitors to chocolate and natural cocoa produced by local people of the Mekong Delta Region. Its products then go to local and foreign markets.
After visitors have learned about the process, they can mold chocolate on their own under an artisan’s eye. Depending on the type of chocolate, cocoa beans are ground into a thick liquid together with ingredients, such as sugar, milk, coffee, or cinnamon. After, chocolate is poured into molds, then refrigerated. The final result is a smooth and fragrant candy bar.
A day as a chocolate artisan at the cacao garden includes the option of other activities. These include fishing, folk games such as tug of war, or riding a bike over a monkey bridge. The experience ends with a hearty feast of Southwestern specialties such as sour soup and Vietnamese pancakes. This Tiền Giang adventure at Alluvia Chocolate is an compelling addition to the region’s many attractions and one more reason to visit.
This content is also available in: Tiếng Việt