Jinji Fraser of Pure Chocolate by Jinji operates as both a chocolate maker and storyteller from her Baltimore-based chocolate shop. She opened the store in 2012 with her father, and they sell a variety of delectable chocolates, fudges, pralines and more.
Jinji has fond childhood memories of receiving cherry chocolate bars from her father on Valentine’s Day and says, “I actually never really liked dark chocolate as a kid (or cherries!), but I always looked forward to nibbling away at those.” Now that she and her father own a chocolate shop together, she says that she finds it rewarding “teaching other people to make chocolate and sharing the history of chocolate with others.”
Sharing stories of and through chocolate is central to Jinji’s business. She considers making chocolate to be a form of storytelling. “Cacao is, in itself, very storied and ancestral. Because it originates in a time of kings, conquistadors and empires, it naturally has a story to tell.” The royal sentiments of chocolate go even further as she also notes that chocolate is an inherently luxurious food. “Chocolate has never been a sustenance commodity––never been a necessity. It's always been revered by every generation who has known it. As a luxury food and symbol of opulence, it's fascinated people forever––everyone from royalty, to modern consumers, to archaeologists.”
This sense of reverence towards chocolate is clear to anyone who visits Jinji’s store or website. There is a story behind every chocolate that Jinji sells (some of which can be read on the shop’s website) and she utilizes chocolate’s many possible flavor profiles to paint sensory pictures of memories. “...[Because chocolate] offers itself to richly sweet and savory compositions, we as makers have an opportunity to bring all its energy and inherent stories to life through robust flavor profiles.” As the Pure Chocolate by Jinji website says, by sharing these stories, “a community is created amongst us, where through these flavor profiles we understand one another's personal experiences and collective visions.”
Finally, Jinji’s advice to other women who want to enter the chocolate industry? “March to the beat of your own drum! The industry is extremely white male dominated, and if you try to follow in the footsteps of what exists, you may find you're missing an opportunity to be authentic and intentional in your pursuits and creations. It's rarely discussed how huge a role women have played in the harvesting, processing, serving, and allure of chocolate - but it's a reality! Women have an energetic and very real advantage in creating a chocolate path for themselves. Also, seek out women-owned and family-owned farms for your sourcing!”