Meet the Maker: Audrey Brown of CocoaBistro

By Sara Smith

Skip the run-of-the-mill drugstore confections — local chocolatier Audrey Brown of CocoaBistro believes that great chocolate is something to be experienced.

“I’ve always been a very big fan of good food,” says Brown. “But often when I would receive a box of chocolates as a gift, they didn’t have quality ingredients, and were always full of preservatives and came in garden-variety flavours.”

She was inspired to start her own chocolate business, starting with the best possible ingredients. “My foundation is pure Belgian chocolate,” she says. “I don’t believe in using cheaper compound chocolates, which are lower quality and contain palm oil. I use only local dairy (from Limestone Creamery), and I seek out local produce and herbs as much as possible.”

Meet a Kingston creator CocaoBistro
Top-quality ingredients make for a taste sensation you won’t soon forget. Photographer: Bryce Murdoch

The quality of Brown’s creations isn’t the only thing that makes CocoaBistro stand out. Her flair for experimental, surprising flavours has made her business a local favourite.

“The flavours that I once thought would be really experimental have ended up being the ones that people seek out,” she says. “My personal favourite is the Limoncello Basil, which combines Limoncello liqueur with fresh basil. I also recently did a multicultural festival where I did a variety of recipes based on different cultures: tamarind and chili in a recipe that represented Mexico, and chocolates with matcha green tea for Japan. Of course, around this time of year everyone loves Fererro Rocher, and I created my own version called ‘Nuts ‘Bout U’. I cannot keep that flavour in stock; everybody loves it.”

Meet a Kingston creator CocaoBistro
CocoaBistro lets you give the gift of a decadent chocolate experience. Photographer: Bryce Murdoch

Gourmet chocolate-making wasn’t always on the radar for Brown, who once worked as a speech therapist. “It was a very fulfilling career, but a stressful one,” she says. A significant life event caused her to reevaluate her path. “About 4 years ago, I had a small stroke. It occurred to me that I had been spending too much time being stressed and worried. I decided to devote my life to making something of quality in the food industry, and chocolate really appealed.”

Meet a Kingston creator CocoaBistro
Audrey Brown’s passion for good food helped her build a delightful — and successful — business. Photographer: Bryce Murdoch

You can find her shop online or in-store, offering customers specialty and custom flavours for pick up and order. CocoaBistro is located at 840 Development Drive. In addition, it can be found at many markets and craft sales throughout Kingston.

Brown notes that Kingston’s local maker and small business community has helped make it possible for her to grow her business. “I’ve seen businesses go under because they don’t have that grassroots support yet,” she says. “There’s an incredibly diverse community here, and they’re more than willing to access me as an independent chocolatier who works out of her home.”

Meet a Kingston creator CocaoBistro
Custom sweets (like these, created for Visit Kingston) can be ordered through the CocoaBistro website. Photographer: Bryce Murdoch

The supportive community of Kingston’s businesses includes Queen’s University, which recently came to CocoaBistro for a large order of custom chocolates for their Industrial Relations program.

Places like Queen’s are really proud to demonstrate that they support local businesses,” says Brown. “They had me include a card on each box that said ‘Proudly Made in Kingston’. They wanted to make sure people knew what Kingston has to offer.”

With locally-based, quality-focused shops like CocoaBistro, Kingston’s small business landscape certainly has a lot to offer. Look for Brown offering a variety of her delectable cocoa creations at many local markets this holiday season, or request your own custom flavours online at or durring store hours (Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-6pm).