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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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Hi Cristian,
fascinating information. Can you tell me where you found this account?
The readings list is:
Knapp, Arthur W. 1920. Cocoa and chocolate: Their History from Plantation to Consumer. Chemist. 1920 ed. London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd.
Lery, Francois. 1954. Le Cacao. 1st Edition. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Parsons, James J. 1957. Bananas in Ecuador : A New Chapter in the History of Tropical Agriculture. Economic Geography 33, no. 3: 201-216.
Tyler, Charles Dolby. 1894. The River Napo. The Geographical Journal 3, no. 6: 476-484. .
Whymper, Robert. 1921. Cocoa and chocolate, their chemistry and manufacture. Second Edition. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston's Son & Co.
Wolf, T. H. 1893. The Western Lowland of Ecuador. The Geographical Journal 1, no. 2: 154-157.
van Hall, Constant Johan Jacob. 1914. Cocoa. London: Macmillan and Co, Ltd.

You can get access to Van Hall and the others 1920's books via Google books; for journals, depends if your library has a subscription.
Thank you!

Hello jeff;

 Please see my reply to Lars above .It would be a good idea to check with us prior to  posting this kind of statement. Many of our friends have been here in Newark processing cocoa beans with us. You may meet with Jenny samaniego which is our Managing director and is visiting her parents in Quito presently until January 2012. just email her at She will be happy to meet with you and show pictures of  the cocoa  beans  we bought from the farmer  4 days ago. they are presently being shipped  to our collection point for further shipping to the USA.

Wishing you a great year 2012.

Pierrick Chouard and Allan Suarez


Vintage Plantation Chocolate

Thanks for the update Pierrick. Correct me if I´m mistaken, but Ecuacocoa was processing your product for you at one time, is that not correct? I have no information on who or how you source your beans, but I do recall seeing your packaging on the factory floor in bulk on a  factory tour at Ecuacocoa over two years ago. I can understand if you have changed processors or are doing it yourself.

On your web site it states at

 "Once our beans are collected, we follow a very specific procedure (tailored to each batch) for one week to transform our cocoa beans into 66 lbs. of chocolate blocks. This is the easiest way to store and move cocoa around in a very hot and humid country (we learned our lesson from trying to complete our process and package the products in Ecuador, only to see that we had melted and bloomed most of our production during truck movements from place to another). Hence, these blocks are sealed and brought to our premises in the USA for further processing and packaging."

So do you have the bulk chocolate made into bars in the US, or are you shipping liquor out of Ecuador, or bulk chocolate? It would be nice to have a clarification.

 Just want to get the facts straight. Happy New Year!

Hello jeff;

 We tried three different kind of  partnerships in Ecuador  at the beginning ( late 90's).  At the time, no one was making  high quality dark chocolate in Ecuador. (Tulicorp was just cleaning their first second hand  conch , and we also did some sample run with them)  we wanted to leave as much money as possible in Ecuador and make  the first farmer's chocolate right there. We  were proud of doing everything in country., Ecuacocoa was only making liquor then , Republica de cacao did not exist , kallari was  busy grafting  and expanding their replication center.( which we visited at the inception of the project: impressive) , and we  wanted to make the chocolate in Ecuador .  Ecuacocoa agreed to work with us and transform our cocoa beans into liquor, then chocolate at the conditon we would provide the missing equipment.  The first batches made us realize; the machines were not conducive to reach the flavor profile we wanted , and we had heat and blooming issues,( due to the constant humidity ) later compounded by a product recall for traces of milk in a chocolate. So the trial was not conclusive . You probably visited Ecuacocoa at that time. and you stand correct for having seen the initial phase.   Being the Pioneer, we had to explore all possible avenues in country,  This took time, missteps and personal frictions. We learned from our errors and concluded we had to  redesign in house the  bean to chocolate process according to  flavors and not volume or speed. This is what we do presently in our mini plant  in the USA . We kept working with our Ecuadorian farmers,  and  the commodity chain,( printers etc), we developed more than a decade ago.  I hope this clarify all rumors and misconceptions about Vintage Plantations: You post could mislead chocolate connoisseurs into thinking we are presently making chocolate in Ecuador, and that's what we are trying to correct. 


Thanks for the clarification PIerrick! Yes, I can understand the milk recall. I know most processors aren't willing to go through the thorough cleaning the production line needs to get a "pure" product, since it involves shutting it down and the related costs.

Hello everybody;
I am joining in quite late, but I only found out yesterday about because our company (Bouga CacaO) was quoted within this thread.
Surely, the name arriba comes from its origin "up-river" of the river Guayas in contrast to the cocoa that was grown closer to the port of Guyaquil.
Nowadays in Ecuador, there is no real difference made between Arriba and Nacional; it is rather used as "nacional arriba" fino y de aroma.

Genetically there are probably thousands or even more different varieties of cocoa. Some of them being grouped as criollo or nacional etc. There is no exact definition in that respect.

However, the Arriba taste is rather well defined though hard to find. The taste is definitely not associated to one special genotype. It is rather a combination of the "right" genes and the soil and climate which leads to a cocoa bean that has the potential of becoming the mother of a Arriba chocolate.
Obviously the adequate post-harvest treatment is vital in order to develop the arriba flavour, as well as the further steps. For example, the Arriba flavours are much more volatile than others, so conching the chocolate too long will just lead to the complete loss of its special characteristics (I recently tasted a so-called Arriba chocolate with the "quality sign" of "conched 72 hours"; well I do not know how it was before, but there was nothing left from the Arriba).

Concerning who is using what I can only say that it is most unlikely that all Arriba marked chocolate is made from Arriba beans (just in terms of quantity available). Especially for the chocolate companies producing in Europe or the US and buying from intermediators in Ecuador it is hard to get pure Arriba lots. However, there are some direct links between certain producers and growers.
For the companies producing in Ecuador: They mostly buy from different producers (big and small-scale), so if they mention Arriba, they will mainly have to rely on their suppliers. Testing mixed lots is quite difficult.
And there is at least one company who produces in Ecuador using cocoa from one single plantation where the cocoa grower oversees as well the production process (meaning tree to bar production!) who also uses only Nacional Arriba beans.

However, the CCN 51 (also called Don Romero) can be transformed into absolutely high quality chocolate; combined with its higher yield and the lower sensibility against deseases, it is a real alternative; yet for marketing departments the Arriba mythos still seems to be too valuable. The flavour is different though and high cocoa pourcentage in chocolate would not be possible.

One more statement concerning the typical Arriba flavour: I recently had a discussion with Michel Barel, a researcher from the French Institute CIRAD (Barel is respected by the cocoa/chocolate world in France for his knowledge about cocoa varieties). I told him that our Arriba chocolate is much more fruity than floral and that some French chocolatiers are complaining about it. He said, that meanwhile there were so many different Arriba varities available, that it is just normal that the flavours vary as well. Real quality does not depend on the existence of a jasmine flavour but is drawn from a coincidence of several characteristics: a distinct fruity or floral flavour, free of off-flavours and astringence!

Another project that is going on and might be of interest: in Méndez, small village in the Southern Amazon region (Morona Santiago) exists a small-scale farmers association, that, with the help of the "Municipio", reintroduced Arriba species in their region (species that are the result of scientific trials and crossings going on in the coastal region), and defined 9 different types to be well adapted in their area and having good flavour. It is a project worth visiting and gives hope that Arriba won't be lost in future! Anybody interested in that project can contact us.

I apologize for writing so much, but since I was rather joining late into the discussion , there was so much to say.
Hi Alex:

Seems you know quite a bit about chocolate from Ecuador. I would be interested in hearing more. I do happen to work with a grower who oversees production using beans from two plantations he runs using only Nacional Arriba beans as you say. You are very right though about the difficulty of getting pure "Arriba" lots. If you are interested in more info about my experience on the ground (I currently live in Ecuador) please do not hesitate to contact me.
Hi Jeff;
thanks for the compliment. We also have been living in Ecuador (Macas) for two years and a bit before founding Bouga CacaO. I just found out that you are making your own chocolate as well.
I would be happy to know some more about your activities, especially as I think we got some partners in common...
Actually we are going to travel to Ecuador for a couple of weeks in June and July - privately and with some clients... Our e-mail:
This was a awesome thread. Great detail folks. I am roasting some Arriba beans now. Or at least what I believe are Arriba beans. What are some of the flavor characteristics of the bean?
Hi Alex,

CCN51 is called Don Homero, for Homero Castro. :)


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