Jeff Stern

Recently Rated:

The Arriba Nacional Denomination of Origin in Ecuador

user image 2011-09-20
By: Jeff Stern
Posted in:

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 Anecdotally, there is supposed mention in original historical documents written in French found in Vinces, Ecuador (a.k.a. "Little Paris" during Ecuador's cacao boom in the early part of the 20th century due to the number of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


Clay Gordon
10/14/11 06:40:50 @clay:

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 thecocoa 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 ruleto 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 thecob 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 thisprevented 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 asmotivated 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 Cocoaregulating 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