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Nacional

by Marañón Canyon
Info Details
Country Peru   
Type Beans   
Strain Nacional   
Source Peru   (Marañón Canyon)
Flavor Fruits & Flowers   
Style Classic      
lo
med
hi
CQ
Sweetness
Acidity
Bitterness
Roast
Intensity
Complexity
Structure
Length
Impact
A bean to make even howler monkeys go all bo-nanas. show more »
Appearance   3.9 / 5
Color: caramelized brown husk, then each bean practically its own color inside from bread-pudding to walnut onto light burgundy & jet brown verging on black
Surface: medium-small sized ovals; semi-flat thickness
Temper: a little ferment sweat left on ‘em
Snap: tough to unhusk
Aroma   8.1 / 10
film developer & distilled white vinegar -> uncorks Zinfandel upon blowing off the husk
Mouthfeel   14.3 / 15
Texture: an easy bite
Melt: consistent throughout & ending in remarkably even consistency
Flavor   48 / 50
sinful Zin all the way – Zinfandel ripping the floodgates from the beginning amidst a tingle of florals & cocoa-cocona -> lets tear everclear at the back plus a drop or two of acetic acid w/ camu-camu -> Peruvian balsam & Palo Santo woods + mushroom (Amanita muscaria) to finish -> aft-taste buries its head in banana inside a monkey pod (i.e., Albizea saman aka 'the rain tree', whose woody pods contain a sugar-sugar pulp) -> peach palm petal the grace note
Quality   19.2 / 20
A very active ferment on the li’l bean that turned geneticists heads.

Dan Pearson, the force behind this, leads a multi-man mission far from the streaming BS of makers who add up to ‘Arriba Nacionalists’ (whatever / wherever / whoever that is), or Criollo pranksters, or heirloom heaps... the lot that never test their trees because spurious marketing proves more lucrative than DNA markers. (Exceptions are starting to abound, however, & all for the good, like Marañón Canyon or Xoco Cocoa Company.)

Chocolate Communalism – an eco-sensitive (RE: naturally organic, experiencing but a 10% crop loss at the appetites of pest & insects, compared to an average 50% for conventional farming), highland inter-crop cacáo (growing15-20 feet tall at altitudes up to 4,100 feet high, well above El Ceibo’s Alto Plano in neighboring Bolivia). Harvested along the remote reaches of the upper Marañón (a 12x12 mile tract in a virtually windless / walled box-canyon that creates its own micro-climate to protect young buds at that elevation from being blown away into thin air; proximate to the seminal area of Theobroma cacao’s orgins; GL finding these with or without GPS -- hint: follow the bee hives... the more the stings the more close in coming) by a village of growers tending a rare & unique stand of reliquary trees. USDA Certified by geneticists Lyndel Meinhardt & Dapeng Zhang who attest to its Nacional uniqueness in one of the genetic gaps.

Genuine Ancient Nacional.

In other words, true Original Nacional, & NOT some funk-Forestero variety, or exaggeration or loose marketing claim.

Old News Alert: Nacional grows beyond Ecuador. Proof positive that natural geography surmounts the artificial political borders that currently define the 'single-origin' craze in new era chocolate.

The very variety thought to be endangered if not altogether extinct since the 1916 diseases destroyed 95% of genuine Nacional. The imported resistant strains brought in after 1916, & cross-pollinated with surviving trees, produce hybrids of inferior quality. For comparison, genetic testing on the 11,000 trees in the 2 Ecuadorian repositories classify ALL surviving varieties in those repositories as 'Forestero' hybrids with the exception of a couple orchards in isolated pockets.

Also intriguing: 40% white & 60% purple seeds in the same pod; many pulled out of the Amazon rain forest by mule-team. This bean-batch reviewed here is exclusively of the non-white variety.

After 2 years of considerable effort & experimentation, Pearson & his team feel that they've perfected the fermenting & drying. Assured traceability as a principle is always present when pods are opened, & the seeds placed in their fermenting boxes that day. From 100 kilos of wet seeds, Marañón Canyon produces only 35 kilos of ready-for-export cacáo, totaling but 12 metric tons in 2010.

Let’s hope they can take this modified agro-forestry model of cacáo’s future to the bank.

Genetics alone however never assures fine end-flavor. This, however, deserves the hubbub.

It typifies Peruvian terrain, especially on the upper register of notes, but considerably milder. None of the girding dirt & bitterness oft found with beans, particularly unroasted, to put to shame the "raw cacáo” tribe. Plenty of natural character & intricacies to the intrinsic flavor, kind & all rather benign, shockingly sweet all things considered, for snacking right out of the bag.

The only caveat, also seen in this bean’s 75% prototype bar as well as its 68% commercial release christened Fortunato No. 4, comes from the overall lean CQ (core chocolate flavor) in its DNA that produces imbalance – even lopsided by all those high notes, missing a solid bottom end – that calls for an arranged marriage to be blended with some other genotype.

Nonetheless, as is in its straight bean format, a great cacáo.

ING: cocoa bean

Reviewed Autumn 2010

  

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