The Origin

The Tree

The raw material used to make chocolate is harvested from a tree that grows in the shade of the tropical forest. As its gift to the world, the cacao tree produces large yellow pods that contain about 30 to 40 seeds the size of a large bean, each of which is encased in a sweet, white flesh. Housed within each bean is a pharmacopeia of vitamins, minerals,

The cacao tree is native to Ecuador.


The Origin

Ancient Roots

Spanish conquistadores first encountered cacao in Mexico and therefore assumed Mesoamerica to be its origin. Eventually archeologists traced it back to Ecuador, where they found evidence of cacao use dating back at least 5,300 years ago among the Mayo-Chinchipe culture.


Cacao beans were so highly regarded in ancient America that in some kingdoms they were used as currency. Its consumption was often limited to nobles and warriors. By priests it was considered sacred. Theobroma, the Latin name given to cacao by early Spanish explorers, means “Food of the Gods.”

The Origin

Arriba Legend

There is an old legend that has been many times told. In the nineteenth century, a Swiss chocolatier was navigating the Guayas River in coastal Ecuador. At one point, he encountered a group of farmers transporting a particular variety of cacao with an unusually rich and floral aroma and asked them where the cacao came from. With a style of


Together the watersheds of the Daule and Babahoyo Rivers are considered to define the boundaries of the Arriba cacao region—roughly the same size as Burgundy, France.

The genetics of this prized cacao growing region were compromised by the outbreak of Witch’s Broom disease and subsequent hybridization of Ecuadorian cacao over the course of the 20th century.

The Origin

Piedra de Plata

In our search for old-growth Nacional cacao trees in the Arriba growing region, we enlisted the support of our friend and fellow dreamer, Servio Pachard, a fourth-generation Manabí cacao grower. Servio’s great-grandfather was one of the first men to settle the hinterlands of Manabí, and Servio’s own explorations of the region as an agroforestry


Cacao from this humble valley has already won multiple national tasting awards in Ecuador.


For us, Piedra de Plata is to cacao what the Côte de Nuits in the French province of Burgundy is to wine. We work with a small group of 14 cacao growers in Piedra de Plata, headed by Elio Cantos, whose great grandfather planted some of the centenarian trees that produced the raw material for our 2014 Rain Harvest edition.


To’ak cacao is harvested only from selected trees whose age and fruit characteristics align with the Arriba cacao of the past.

The Origin


The valley of Piedra de Plata is located in the province of Manabí, within hiking distance to the neighboring provinces of Guayas and Los Rios.  This area is considered the heart of coastal Ecuador, where rivers and streams from forested mountains slowly carve valleys through the land before emptying out into the Pacific Ocean.


Located at 0° latitude, the equatorial climate is greatly influenced by two competing ocean currents that converge off-shore, which together moderate temperatures and atmospheric humidity. Consistent cloud cover during the dry season limits annual sunlight hours to about half of the average of other tropical countries. Slightly acidic soils of volcanic 

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