Harris & James Cacao Bean Origins and Traceability - Ecuador Chocolate

Well known for being the largest producer and exporter of bananas in the world, in addition to being a bird-watcher’s paradise, Ecuador (from the Spanish for equator) has the perfect climate, terrain and equatorial location for growing cacao beans. These premium cacao beans are used in our great tasting Ecuador chocolate bars.

By the 1800s, the high quality of Ecuador’s cacao production helped it to skyrocket to the number one producer of cacao in the world. However, in 1916 and again in 1919, tragedy struck by way of two plagues, wiping out over 70% of Ecuador’s cacao production. It was only through a determined effort, that Arriba Nacional survived. Since then, it’s the small cacao farmers and their passion for the raw product that have placed Ecuador firmly back on the map for cacao production.

Today, Ecuador produces less than 10% of the world’s cacao (cocoa), but more than 70% of the world’s highest quality cacao. 

Ecuadorian cacao beans have a unique, rather special flavour and aroma, leading them to be widely considered as the best raw material in the production of exquisite chocolate.


Origin Spotlight


Grown on the hills of the Santo Domingo le Las Tsachilas on the Cedeno Aguilar family farm (Finca Garyth), Nacional cacao has a low acidity and smooth, chocolatey taste. The passion and care for cacao is reflected in a complex but balanced profile with a taste of ripe tropical fruits, pleasant alcoholic notes and tobacco. In case you were wondering, Finca Garyth represents the initials of the first names of the three sons, Gabriel, Alberto and Ricardo and their parents, Yolanda and Thomas.


Located at the foot of the Andes Mountains, where the mighty national animal of Ecuador - the condor - resides, the Nacional Organic farm relishes in a tropical climate, which is ideal conditions for growing the infamous Nacional cocoa beans. Sometimes known as Arriba (meaning “up river”), the Nacional has been grown in Ecuador since ancient times. In the 18th and 19th centuries, these beans were rare and their subtle aromas were renowned worldwide. Unfortunately, after a string of disastrous diseases, foreign varieties were introduced into the region and as a result Nacional lost its unique taste and phenomenal reputation.

Today, Thomas Cedeno Aguilar and his wife Yolanda have reintroduced the cultivation and tradition of cocoa in Ecuador. All of the processes (growing, harvesting, fermentation and drying) take place on the farm. In fact, Yolanda runs a small chocolate factory, which enables her to test and explore the full potential of the harvested cocoa beans. As a family, they are committed to restoring Nacional to its former glory. In 2019, Finca Garyth farm was the first farm in Ecuador to be awarded PDO Cacao Nacional certification.

  • Variety: 100% Neo-Nacional
  • Flavour: Complex and mild profile with wild tropical flavours, green banana, fresh almonds and tobacco
  • Fermentation: 7 days in wooden boxes in a controlled indoor fermentation centre
  • Drying: Mechanical air-drying, powered by renewable energy
  • Harvest: November-February and May-June

Cacao Traceability

Something that sets Harris & James above other Artisan chocolate makers is our dedication to bean to bar chocolate making. This means that every cacao bean we use is 100% traceable. Much like other varieties we work with, Nacional has a 100% traceable supply chain from a single plantation right through to our Ecuador Chocolate. The cacao is produced, processed and later packed into 69kg bags on the family farm. It’s then transported by truck to the port of Guayaquil from where it is shipped to our site in Suffolk to be made into our award-winning chocolate.

Buying direct from the farmers not only means that they get an above market price for their cacao, promoting great quality, but also means we get the freshest beans which can then be roasted low and slow and batch cooked to release the amazing flavours which are unique to Ecuador and our Ecuador Chocolate.