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Chocolates of Ecuador -- Arriba, Nacional, CCN51

There is debate about the Arriba bean and whether indeed there is any such thing any longer. Some say that Arriba is one bean in a category they would like to call Nacional, and others say it synonymous with that term. Many chocolate makers using cacao from Ecuador slap this fashionable Arriba label on their packages since this carries with it the status of the fine and flavor beans.

And so opening up a general discussion on Arriba, Nacional and Ecuador chocolate, and a place to gather links and references for further reading.

And also specifically attempting to get to the bottom of which companies are using CCN51, and which are using "Arriba" or Nacional beans that are distinguished from that clone. What I have been told so far is that of the companies producing the chocolate in Ecuador, that Plantations uses "mainly the CCN51 clone," and that Republica del Cacao uses "100% pure Nacional beans." And if that is the case, what precisely can 100% pure Nacional mean nowadays? And the other companies who are making the chocolate at source such as Pacari, Caoni, and Kallari, what is the cacao? And what about couverture Arriba from Felchlin and Callebaut? And what is the source of cacao for companies such as Dagoba, Hachez, and Chocolove, some of which do not make their own chocolate from the bean, but who use the word Arriba?

Tags: arriba, ccn51, ecuador, nacional

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Excellent topic, casey. Thanks for starting it. I have nothing to add because I don't have much knowledge on the subject but will be interested to follow along and learn.


As always, I am struck by the care and thought you've put into your reply.

The story goes (and you are basically right), that traders coming into the port of Guayaquil looking for the famed Ecuadorian "pepe de oro" (golden seed) were told to go "arriba" up the Guayas river to find the beans they were looking for. Today we know these areas as Los Rios, Manabi, Quevedo.

It is also important to note that the bean variety has always been called Nacional. Arriba is the name given to the unique flavor, which is not a genetic characteristic as Sam has noted because rootstock transplanted in other countries does not give rise to beans with the same flavor. So there is something about the terroir - in conjunction with that specific genetics - that results in the flavor. The Nacional flavor is likened to orange blossom with jasmine mixed in. Personally, I think the best example of this flavor I have ever tasted is the first harvest and production of Felchlin's Cru Sauvage.

I also have to agree with Sam about CCN51's undeserved reputation for poor quality. I think the photo she links to was taken on the same trip in 2005 that I was on. In this case, the pods were culled early in the week before being transported to the collection center and there was a national holiday over the weekend and a soccer match against arch-rivals Peru on Monday or somesuch so the beans had been fermenting in bags for at least five days before they were picked over to remove placenta. Unfortunately, the people doing the cleaning were not tasked with removing the rotting beans.

BTW: CCN stands for Collecion Castro Naranjal. Carlos Castro was famous cacao breeder in Ecuador, and the particular hybrid - of a trinitario with the the Nacional - was number 51. It was championed by the Crespo family and it was on their farm outside Guayaquil where we saw beans like this.

Ecuador is famous (or infamous) for its lackadaisical approach to fermentation, probably because of the convoluted market system that evolved out of the destruction of the Hacienda system of the late 1800s, brought about by agrarian land reform. The farmers aren't paid to care (for the most part) so they don't.

While in Ecuador in 2005 we visited a cocoa processor (Tulicorp) where we participated in a chocolate liquor tasting. One of the revelations of the tasting was that one of the best-tasting liquors came from CCN51 beans - that had been properly fermented. Fermented properly, it's possible to make some very decent chocolate using CCN51 beans. Certainly as good as anything made with Amelonado forastero from Western Africa.

In case you haven't heard yet, there is a hacienda in Ecuador that is messing with a new way of processing the CCN-51. They are taking them and fermenting them with the pulp of the beans from "arriba". They hope to impart a little of the floral aspects to them. I have a bag of that arriving next week and can't wait to try it. I'll let you know what I think.
I've been wondering if anyone has been doing something like this.. Or even utilizing different strains of yeast, acetobacter to get new and different flavors.. Please do let us know what you find..
Thanks! This is fascinating. More stuff to research..
It's really quite amazing how many of the variables in chocolate are still being explored.
Thanks Sam.

I'd like to add the link to your article from which you extracted your quotes. Had already read this before, and think the people following along here would find it interesting.

And I'd also like to add in a quote from another interesting discussion around here. Alan McClure said in Reclassification of cacao varieties:

Just adding to what Clay has said, there is a paper in a journal called Tropical Science from 2004, issue 44, pp. 23-27 that is called "The first Ecuadorean 'Nacional' Cocoa Collection Based on Organoleptic Characteristics."

The paper is worth a look for those interested in the issue of Nacional. This is me paraphrasing the introduction:

Nacional, which has an "Arriba" floral flavor, was so damaged by Crinipellis Pernicosa and Moniliophtora roreri that hybrids were brought in with high yields and low susceptibility to these diseases. These varieties hybridized with the remaining Nacional, eroding the Arriba flavor which is now virtually non-existent.
Here a reply I got lately from a colleague who visited me:

Dr. Eduardo Somarriba de CATIE.

Los estudios moleculares recientes (varios estudios de Juan Carlos Motamayor, MARS, y Claire Lanaud, CIRAD) demuestran que el cacao Nacional del Ecuador es un genotipo de Forastero que salió de la cuenca amazónica, cruzó los andes y se asentó en Ecuador y el sur de Colombia en la costa pacífica de ambos países. El aíslamiento geográfico y el desarrollo de la actividad cacaotera en Ecuador durante el siglo 18 y la primera mitad del 19 dieron lugar al genotipo Nacional que conocemos hoy en día. También sabemos que hoy en día el genotipo Nacional está muy mezclado con otros genotipos forasteros y trinitarios cultivados en forma masiva durante el siglo 20. No hay una relación evidente en la parte genética entre el Nacional ecuatoriano y los criollos mesoamericanos. Saludos. Eduardo.

The Nacional from Bolivia of which Felchlin makes the Cru Sauvage from is the only cacao source known not mixed with other hybrids (maybe there are some more spots left in the Amazon). Both are very different just looking at the bean size. The Nacional here is 65 - 75 gr/100 beans.

CCN-51 is getting a favorite hybrid in Bolivia in a new production zone as well. The problem with it is that under under very humid conditions the beans start germinating in the pot still looking not ripe from the outside. The yields are fantastic which is so convincing to farmers.

By the way, Dagoba bought (maybe still buys) Ecuador chocolate from Felchlin.
FYI - for those of you who don't read Spanish, here is a translation of the passage from Volker's post courtesy of This is a machine translation and I have only made minor spelling changes (e.g., National to Nacional, creole to criollo, etc.).

The recent molecular studies (several studies Motamayor Juan Carlos, MARS, and Claire Lanaud, CIRAD) show that the cocoa Nacional of Ecuador is a genotype of a Stranger who left the Amazon Basin, crossed the Andes and settled in Ecuador and south Colombia on the Pacific coast of both countries. The geographical isolation and the development of the cocoa business in Ecuador in the 18th century and the first half of the 19 resulted in the genotype Nacional we know today. We also know that today the Nacional genotype is very mixed with other genotypes outsiders and Trinitarios grown on a large scale during the 20th century. There is a clear link between genetics [of] the Nacional Ecuadorian the Mesoamerican and the Criollos.
Hi Samantha:

You are somehow the reason why I am in this forum. I am always looking for your contributions!

Again, there is nothing wrong with CCN-51 well fermented. Next year there will be a Bolivian high-end organic chocolate in the market containing over 50% CCN-51 and as I have stated, it is a high yielding variety, with some difficulties to be familiar with. There are always two side of a coin. We go to the safe side promoting mixed varieties stands with 55% CCN-51 / ICS-95 / IMC - 67.

Our company REPSA is participating in a world mapping project of "origins" to determine specific taste pattern.
(I wonder how they are going to roast our small beans in a lab under standard procedure.)

The project is called: ”COCOA OF EXCELLENCE” (CoE) CELEBRATION 2009 directed by CIRAD and Event International (organizers of the “Salon du Chocolat”). Maybe we can pick up some credit in Paris next year.

By the way. The discussion of quality and market shares has reached the next level and it is taken on by politicians and national promotion programs, dominated by Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia through the socialist movement. "cacao y libertad", give me a break. Viva Chocolate Boliviariano! The focus is now on who is the best and has the best "Nacional". Bolivia now wants a National Cacao Plan. The point is. There is more behind all this as you might think.

Clay: The translation is ok (thanks) only a little, but important mistake:
"There is NO clear link between genetics [of] the Nacional Ecuadorian the Mesoamerican and the Criollos."

Cheers, Volker
Clay, Thanks for the translation, but it's important to note key error in last sentence: Dr. Somarriba's note in Spanish says that there is no, repeat no, evidence of a link between the genetics of the Ecuadorian (Cacao) Nacional and the Mesoamerican Criollos.
Thanks for the interesting quote and the tip about Dagoba.
Thanks to all for the fascinating replies. Here is another link.

It may seem as though Ecuador chocolates should be called just that, Ecuadorian, instead of the oft used Arriba. Since this term has been used to signify just about any bean, and any flavor from Ecuador. It just seems like the fashionable label to slap on, and can further mislead the public. If we got nit-picky and somehow made them use this label only for that certain flavor, then its use as a flavor term could also lead to anyone who thinks they have a chocolate with that special jasmine taste, from anywhere, to say "We have an Arriba chocolate!" I can almost imagine every other jasmine noted chocolate being called "Arriba." There is probably no policing a thing like this, and so we'll just have to have another confusing term out there, most people don't know what it means, or there are many different versions of what it means.


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