Restoring Near-Extinct Chocolate
Ecuador's Nacional cacao bean was a world-renowned delicacy until a blight and witches’ broom disease eradicated most trees in the early 1900s. After the discovery of nine 100-year-old Nacional trees in an isolated section of Ecuador, the Third Millennium Alliance (TMA), a conservation nonprofit, and To'ak Chocolate, a private company, are working to bring this ancient cacao variety back to life.
With careful grafting in 2018, TMA and local farmers successfully planted 189 clones of the tree to produce new seeds. TMA distributes their offspring to any local cacao grower that wants to help save the ancient varietal. To support the restoration efforts, To'ak Chocolate and TMA are paying growers higher market rates and supplemental amounts to plant Nacional.
Once again, chocolatiers in Ecuador and other countries are expressing interest in the rare Nacional cacao because of its complex and bold, yet smooth, aroma and flavor. Consumers can help by becoming connoisseurs of outstanding chocolate and buying chocolate made of Nacional. It is a small way to improve the environment while indulging the taste buds.