The Pure Nacional cacao bean, supposedly indigenous to Ecuador and wiped out due to disease a century ago, and was apparently rediscovered recently in northern Peru’s Maranon Canyon. As TastingTable clearly shows and the New York Times reports, American chocolatier Moonstruck has already released a Pure Nacional single origin chocolate bar (68% cacao), called Fortunato No. 4, as well as chocolate covered beans.
Here is Moonstruck’s story of the rediscovery of the bean:Lost in Ecuador, Rediscovered in Peru Originally discovered by a Swiss chocolate couverture manufacturer traveling in Ecuador in the early 1800s, Pure Nacional was prized for its unique cacao scent & fully developed flavor characteristics. It dominated the fine chocolate couverture market before the cacao trees were decimated by diseases nearly 100 years ago. The few surviving disease-resistant & hybrid varieties never could compare in quality. Recently, Dan Pearson & Brian Horsley of Maranon Chocolate discovered pods of white & purple cacao beans in the Maranon Canyon of northern Peru. Told by locals that the cacao was used in couverture, samples were sent to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) genetics laboratory for DNA testing. The lab confirmed that the Pure Nacional variety, thought indigenous to Ecuador & extinct, lived on in Peru. Fortunato No. 4 is named after the Peruvian farmer, Fortunato, on whose farm the beans were found. The number four was chosen because the fourth of 14 samples sent to the USDA was the purest expression of Pure Nacional cacao, the same cacao used to create Fortunato No. 4 chocolate. Pure Nacional trees thrive at the highest altitudes ever recorded in the remote micro climate of the Maranon Canyon. Once harvested, the beans are transported first by foot, then by burro & motorcycle, & finally by all-terrain vehicle for quality post-harvest processing. The resulting cacao offers an unsurpassed range of delicate & rare flavor.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.