The company is owned by chocolatier Mindy Fong, whose Asian inspired creations – dark chocolate infused with teas and spices from Asia and the Pacific Islands – provide the winning combination that has garnered many awards for the San Francisco-based entrepreneur who has both Filipino and Chinese roots. Her father, a U.S. Air Force veteran whose parents immigrated from China to San Francisco, met her mother when he was stationed in the Philippines in the 1960s. Her mother's family is from Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte, a town formerly known as “Mambulao,” a word taken from “mambulawan,” meaning bountiful in gold. The town was later renamed to honor its hometown hero, Jose Maria Panganiban. Mindy’s parents got married and settled in San Francisco where her father's family resided.
Living in a city with diverse cultures and culinary delights, Mindy had the right environment to explore her creative side from the time she was born. But her passion for chocolates did not happen until she got pregnant with her first child and her cravings for bittersweet, dark chocolate coincidentally were awakened around the same time.
"I was always a fan of the milk variety until I got a craving for bittersweet, high quality chocolate during my pregnancy. I couldn't get enough. My newfound love of dark chocolate opened up a whole new array of chocolate pleasure," Mindy recalled. "My new found love for chocolate was so profound that I had to have it in my life. That's how Jade Chocolates was born."
Mindy, also a natural baker, grew up knowing more about Chinese culture but started exploring more of her Filipino side in her teens when she attended Filipino parties with her mother.
Her favorite memories of visits in the Philippines during her toddler years included loving mangoes and rice, both ingredients that she uses in her hot-selling creations. By the time she started her chocolate business, her creations incorporated both her parents’ cultures, which lent to the appeal of her unusual mixture of tea infusions (she is a tea drinker), tropical fruits and spices with dark chocolate, bold moves that have won her numerous awards in chocolate salons, festivals and international competitions.
Add to that her packaging, which looks like art work -- not surprising, with her background in art and design from her degree in environmental design from University of California Davis. Her one great influence in the art of chocolate making is Andrew Shotts, one of America's top chocolatiers and pastry chefs, who owns Garrison Confections in the East Coast. “I owe him a lot especially when it comes to flavoring,” the mainly self-taught Mindy noted.
Mindy has won multiple awards in chocolates -- from best flavor, top artisan/most gifted chocolatier, best chocolate, to best packaging and presentation. In 2013, she competed in an international chocolate event and took home a double gold award for her "Genmai" chocolate bar in both the USA and Americas/Pacific Rim divisions, beating Japan, which usually takes first place among competitors from Asia.
Her chocolate bars have been on the shelves of specialty stores across the U.S., including the San Francisco Ferry Market, and are also available online. But in 2014, Mindy decided it was time to put up a shop where locals could pick a few truffles, purchase ready-to-go gift baskets right in the heart of the Richmond District. Her bestsellers include the Kalamansi Lime Truffles and Chocolate Covered Mangoes, flavors that she remembers from her childhood visits with the family in the Philippines.
Jade Chocolates products are still be seen in farmers’ markets, festivals and community events (including the Philippine International Aid fashion show/fundraiser last November). Mindy believes in supporting causes and organizations that give back to the community as she brings new experiences and delight in chocolates.
Asked what her favorite Filipino dishes are, she replies, “Adobo and puto!” Proof that her classic Pinay blood runs strongly in her veins. Mindy plans to bring her children to the Philippines in the near future to explore with them the richness of their Filipino heritage. It goes without saying that, apart from reuniting with her mother’s side of the family, she is also looking forward to discovering new flavors that may soon pop up at Jade Chocolates.
Jade Chocolates is located on Geary Blvd. near 6th Avenue in San Francisco. She also has a website: www.jadechocolates.com.
Manzel Delacruz is a freelance writer living in San Francisco.
More articles from Manzel Delacruz