True to its original nature, cacao beans have been a highly valuable commodity. Even though cacao has been parading commercial in the form of the regular chocolate bars, its true nature demonstrates how this fruit has been revered in Central America. Aficionados can also tell you what the real deal is, and that cacao is in fact quite a complex species. With the discovery of these rare cacao beans growing in Peru, we expect the world of chocolate to take a more pronounced turn as these beans introduce another distinctive chocolate taste.
These cacao beans called the Nacional are not a new discovery. What makes the Nacional special now is that this type of cacao at some point almost became extinct. The Nacional, which is part of the main genetic cacao family Forastero, used to be widespread in Ecuador until many of its trees got affected by the disease. The tree could not even survive with cross-breeding, and although there have been surviving Nacional trees in Ecuador, most of them are no longer pure.
It was not until about two years ago that Dan Pearson and his stepson Brian Horsely discovered cacao trees that bore football-sized pods in Peru. Samples were sent to the United States Department of Agriculture, and eventually, these seeds from the rare Nacuional trees would give birth to farming opportunities for new trees. With about 186 farmers growing the Nacional cacao in Marañón River in Peru, chocolate selection has never been more interesting with the Nacional beans finally joining roster of cacao sources that make the chocolate selection more richly diverse.
Nacional cacao beans are white in color, thus the bitter taste is not pronounced unlike other cacao. It is less acidic and is overall mellower, according to Dr. Lynn Meinhardt, a scientist at the Department of Agriculture. They are also priced at a higher value, especially the pure white cacao beans.
Nacional cacao beans are used by very few chocolate producers and chocolate slabs made of this base are notably more expensive than average. This is because the Nacional cacao beans produce chocolate that is refined in taste that vanilla, a common additive, is no longer needed to round up the taste. Michelle Tampakis of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York also noted that the chocolate is full-bodied, nutty, and impressively smooth when melted.
If you’re craving chocolate, why not try one of these delicious cocoa recipes.