The Quest to Save the World’s Most Coveted Chocolate
For these ambitious scientists in the rainforests of Ecuador, helping the environment has never tasted so sweet. Of all the heirloom cacao pods laid before us on a rickety wooden table, on this quiet hillside outside the city of Manta in Ecuador, the ancient variety known as Nacional was misleadingly plain. It was hard to believe this shriveled yellow pod contained one of the world’s rarest and most coveted cacao beans.Ecuador’s integration into the world economy in the 19th century was almost entirely dependent on the cocoa trade; in the late 1800s and early 1900s, its popularity exploded as chocolate became a craze in Europe. In Hamburg, Germany, then the center of the global cocoa trade, Nacional was particularly prized.Now, a partnership between local growers and Ecuador’s ecological preservationists is pulling this legendary cacao variety back from the brink of extinction.
For Smithsonian Magazine