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A legendary chocolate a century in the making

In the early 1900s, a curious variety of cacao bean known as Nacional was widely grown in Ecuador. Bygone chocolate connoisseurs rhapsodized over its aroma, complex taste and distinctive floral notes.

Then, in 1916, disease killed off nearly all of this variety of cacao tree. Hybridized versions - decidedly less interesting in taste - continued to thrive, but pure Nacional disappeared; most considered it all but extinct.

That was until recently, when a father-and-son outfit rediscovered a tiny cache of Nacional trees growing in an isolated mountain valley in Peru. They began carefully harvesting the beans and exporting them to Switzerland, where they're made into slabs of chocolate.

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But Montreal chocolatier Allen Rose sees a more inspired way to prepare the beans, considering their legendary status: He's coating them in their own chocolate so they can be experienced in both pure roasted and prepared chocolate forms. Christophe Morel Chocolatier is the only retailer in the country selling Rose's creation, and the folks there describe the taste as profound, with flavours that lingers on the palate for up to an hour.

The hype surrounding this bean has been huge, but then again, it's been nearly a century in the making.

Pure Nacional cacao beans, $12 for 80 grams, www.morelchocolatier.com. Available Thursday.





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