In 2009 Dan Pearson and his stepson Brian Horsley came across cacao trees along a hidden mountain valley along the Maranon River in Peru. After getting the cacao tested, the DNA results revealed that the cacao was of the Pure Nacional variety, among the rarest cacao in the world.
What they learned from testing was that 40% of the beans were white and not the typical purple color of cacao. Dr. Lyndel Meinhardt, who had tested these beans, had mentioned that when cacao trees are left undisturbed for hundreds of years, mutations occur and as a result the beans become white.
The Pure Nacional variety of cacao originated from Ecuador in the 1600s but over time the cacao was susceptible to disease and a lot of the prized crop was destroyed in the early 1900s, drastically decreasing the amount of Pure Nacional in Ecuador. Today there are many farmers in the Maranyon Canyon area that grow this Pure Nacional cacao. Pearson’s company, Maranyon Chocolate, purchases all of the cacao at a premium price and meticulously processes the beans before they export them to chocolate makers across the world as well as making a well known couverture chocolate, Fortunato No. 4, generously named after the farmer, Don Fortunato, whose farm houses the mother tree of this prized and sought after cacao.