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The Arriba Nacional Denomination of Origin in Ecuador

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 Anecdotally, there is supposed mention in original historical documents written in French found in Vinces, Ecuador (a.k.a. "Little Paris" during Ecuador's cacao boom in the early part of the 20th century due to the number of french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?

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Comment by Clay Gordon on October 14, 2011 at 8:40am

Here's the Google Translate version of Hector's comment to Jeff's post:

Dear Jeff,

Definiately my most sincere congratulations for your writing I very much agree with you, I tell you about my history and this immense passion for cocoa, I am in Socks Manabi be accurate and from a very young age of 9 years spent all day in the cocoa farm my grandfather took care of both these plants that spent time and love wearing pruning saw, sliding drawers and wooden awnings was a process that at that age I did not know that I did, I remember solamnete tickets for any rule to help him gather the ears that were lost through the leaves dry soil and removing the cocoa on the awnings, I loved it, spent all day on that farm he already knew the trees and spent cosecherosn differentiating the flavor of the cob per tree, really had no idea what he was doing only sought the cob with the taste more pleasant, bittersweet, electrical, acid, flavors that I have in my gland so present.

At the end of the day to pick up the awnings cocoa in the opening of the tables that some grains were collected with much effort to take my mother to the toast on a tray of clay, which does not let it burn, This fermented cocoa after about 4 days and sun-dried had an exquisite aroma that when my mother roasted beans from my house the neighbors knew what they were doing, then descarillamos and Moliana in a manual mill crown. And we add granulated brown sugar chocolate was my favorite.

Later many people saw as they arrived overseas, I well remember a gentleman named Frances Bradeu home, I wanted to take pictures and looking ears of the highest mountains. 20 years later I found out he had written a book in which he explains the difference between low and plantations in mountainous areas, said that plants in mountainous areas abrsoven more oxygen, receive 90% of sunlight during the day this prevented the plant is sick, and sugars from the ears focused more on the grains, when opening the cob mucilages contained fewer but more concentrated aromas and flavors.

I personally think that also helps the natural irrigation ie rainwater and groundwater that have higher amounts in many cases lime and acidity.

Currently I'm in cosnultoria and advise small producer cooperatives for quality management and marketing processes, but we arrived at that point the link in the chain that controls often trade policies are monopolies that are slowly ending .

The CCN-51 (Naranjal Castro Collection - Patron 51) has been used in an uncontrolled manner in the preparation of batches of cocoa in order to improve the rating weights but without realizing the long run everything is reversible, just as motivated producers in their lack of knowledge of the quality they were led by crop yields / hectare, just as these plants have tended their productive life cycle shorter than the national law speaks of a National Cocoa regulating the differentiation of market and encourage the production of National Cocoa.

I have worked in ANECACAO, and other companis and agencies involved in the sector and many importers coiciden with what you're talking about.

I sincerely believe that the only way to improve the quality of the National Cocoa is that buyers demand quality but also to compensate involucrdas people in the process, producers, technicians, exporters, etc..

I appreciate the time you've taken to read this little story, I have lived with this passion called Cocoa and which will end when my heart stop pumping blood to my organs.

I send a fraternal greeting and when you need more information profiles Manabi cocoa or

Comment by Hector Velásquez on October 14, 2011 at 1:06am
Estimado Jeff,
Relamente mis mas sinceras felicitaciones por tu redaccion estoy muy de acuerdo contigo, quiero contarte sobre mi historia y esta pasion inmensa por el cacao, Soy de Manabi en Calceta para ser exactos y desde muy pequeño a edad de 9 anos pasaba todo el dia en las fincas de cacao de mi abuelo el cuidaba tanto estas plantas que dedicaba tiempo y amor, veia que usaba podas, cajones y tendales corredizos de madera era un proceso que a esa edad no sabia por que lo hacia, solamnete recuerdo que me reglaba algunos billetes para que le ayudara a recoger las mazorcas que se perdian entre las hojas secas del suelo, y por remover el cacao en los tendales, me encantaba hacerlo, pasaba todo el dia en esa finca que ya conocia los arboles cosecherosn y pasaba diferenciando el sabor de las mazorca por arbol, realmente no tenia idea de lo que hacia solamente buscaba la mazorca con el sabor mas agradable, agridulce, electrico, acido, sabores que los tengo en mi glandula tan presentes.
Al terminar el dia al recoger el cacao de los tendales en las abertura de las tablas se quedaban algunos granos que los recogia con mucho esfuerzo para llevarselos a mi madre para que los tostara en una bandeja de Barro, la cual no dejaba que se queme, este cacao una vez fermentado unos 4 dias y secado al sol tenia un aroma exquisito que al momento que mi madre tostaba los granos los vecinos de mi casa sabian lo que estabamos haciendo, luego descarillamos y molianos en un molino manual corona. Y le agregamos panela granulada era mi chocolate preferido.
Mas adelante veia como llegaban muchas personas extranjeras, recuerdo bien a un Senor Llamado Bradeu de origen Frances, queria tomar fotos y buscaba las mazorcas de las montanas las mas altas. 20 anos despues me entere que habia escrito un libro en el cual el explicaba la diferencia entre las plantaciones en zonas bajas y zonas montanosas, el comentaba que las plantas en zonas montanosas abrsoven mas oxigeno, reciben el 90% de luz solar durante el dia esto evitaba que la planta se enferme , y los azucares de las mazorcas se concentraban mas en los granos, que al momento de abrir la mazorca contenian menos mucilagos pero mas aroma y sabores mas concentrados.
En lo personal creo que tambien ayuda el la irrigacion natural es decir el agua de lluvias, ya que las aguas subterraneas tienen mayor cantidades cales y en muchos casos acidez.

Actualmente me dedico a la cosnultoria y asesorar a pequenas cooperativas de productores para el manejo de la calidad y procesos de comercializacion, pero llegamos en ese punto del eslabon de la cadena muchas veces quien controla las politicas comerciales son monopolios que poco a poco se estan terminando.

El CCN-51 (Coleccion Castro Naranjal - Patron 51) ha sido utilizado de una manera incontrolable en la preparacion de lotes de cacao con el fin de mejorar pesos en la calificacion pero sin darse cuenta que a largo plazo todo es reversible, de igual manera motivaron a los productores que en su falta de conocimiento de la calidad se dejaron llevar por los rendimientos de cosecha/ hectarea, de igual forma estas plantas han tendio su ciclo de vida productiva mas corto que el nacional, se habla de una Ley Nacional del Cacao que regule la diferenciacion de comercializar e incentivar a la produccion de Cacao Nacional.

He trabajado en Anecacao, y otras companis y organismos involucrado en el sector y muchos importadores coiciden con lo que tu estas hablando.

Sinceramente creo que la unica forma que se pueda mejorar la calidad del cacao Nacional es que los compradores exijan calidad pero que compensen tambien a las personas involucrdas en el proceso, productores, tecnicos, exportadores , etc.
Agradezco el tiempo que te has tomado en leer esta pequena Historia, he vivido con esta pasion llamada Cacao y la cual terminara cuando mi corazon deje de bombear sangre a mis organos.

Le envío un fraterno saludo y cuando necesite mayor informacion de los perfiles del cacao de Manabi o

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