The remoteness of Mono Bravo guarantees that their heirloom Arriba Nacional cacao remains unaffected by Ecuador’s boom in hybrid cocoa. Once a landmark of Ecuador, heirloom Arriba Nacional can be hard to find in today’s times of hybrid cocoa, with the Napoleon of them all, CCN-51, taking over the homes and birthplaces of the flavourful, heirloom Arriba Nacional. And many cacaos from Ecuador wrongly carry the label Arriba Nacional nowadays, since they contain modern and foreign hybrids that have been spread throughout the country.
The Arriba Nacional is a cacao family that bears a wide range of flavours, depending on what branch of the family each bean belongs to and the terroir in which it grows. Leading cacao genetic scientists believe that the Arriba Nacional originates from the Cusco region, where indigenous peoples, back in pre-Inca times, selected and propagated their favoured cacaos based on the flavours of the pulp, which they traditionally used for juice. The best of these cacaos were later brought to the coastal areas of Ecuador, including the Esmeraldas, where some of the ancient genetic traits still exist today.