As I have discussed in previous posts, a truly valid definition of the Arriba Nacional term when applied to Ecuadorian cacao, or simply the Arriba name, includes Nacional beans sourced in parts of the Province of Guayas, the Province of Los Ríos and a small fraction of the Province of Bolívar. Ecuador historically produced fine flavor cacao from many other areas which were all Nacional beans but marketed under distinct names, including Bahia-from the area around Bahia de Caraquez, not to be confused with Bahia, Brazil; Balao from Southern Guayas and the coastal areas of Azuay and Cañar; and Cacao Machala from the Southernmost part of the country.
Erroneously, around 2006 Ecuador's Institute of Intellectual Protection (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Propiedad Intelectual, IEPI in Spanish), which is responsible for trademarks and other intellectual property rights, published and approved an "Arriba" Protected Denomination of Origin that is restricted to (or rather, erroneously, covers all) beans of the Nacional variety. In effect, this means that any chocolate made from Nacional beans grown anywhere in Ecuador can be called Arriba-which is a major deviation from the original historical definition of the term.
"Arriba" has now come into use by chocolate manufacturers both inside and outside Ecuador, and has largely lost its significance; an ironic parallel given that the "Arriba" flavor has also become increasingly diluted, ambiguous, and unknown due to historical factors including the loss of pure Nacional trees, genetic erosion, the introduction and mixing of CCN-51 and Nacional beans, and numerous other factors. As far as I know, there is little to no enforcement of this PDO by any agency or authority.
Other factors contributing to the historical Arriba flavor profile have also been lost in the shrouds of history;one interesting example is the origin and type of the wood used for fermentation boxes, which is said to contribute to the final chocolate flavor. Anecdotally, there is supposed mention in original historical documents written in French found in Vinces, Ecuador (a.k.a. "Little Paris" during Ecuador's cacao boom in the early part of the 20th century due to the number of french inhabitants and wealth found there), that the wood comes from Ecuador's highlands-but no one has been able to determine what kind of wood was used that helped contribute to the original Arriba flavor (conversation with Cristian Melo, Sep 2011).
Renewing and restoring the original "Arriba" bean and its flavor profile to its former glory is a herculean task, and while efforts are under way, they are still only in their infancy. Unfortunately, the major players who have the power and money to push the movement forward are not doing a lot. And the minor players are more often than not opting for ambiguity over transparency, both in their marketing and sourcing, which ultimately benefits no one. I see the issue as one similar to "peak oil." Will we run out of the oil we need to develop the technologies to maintain and enhance our standard of living before those technologies are here? Will we build them while we have the oil to do so? Or will we simply conduct business as usual until the oil is almost gone, then struggle for a solution? It's the same with the Arriba Nacional flavor profile, as well as the Nacional variety of cacao in Ecuador. Will it disappear before adequate efforts are made to save it, or will industry, government, and the private sector act now, before it's too late, to keep Arriba Nacional and Nacional beans on the map?