kindred chocolates

Toronto chocolatier who lost job during pandemic starts business in a 1900s farmhouse

Chocolatier Emily Watson creates one-of-a-kind treats that often sell out. The catch? There's no storefront.

With an initial passion for food photography, the pastry chef and confectioner went to George Brown's Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at night while she majored in photography at OCAD University during the day.

Watson thought that having a back-of-house experience would be an asset given the field but ended up falling in love with the atmosphere and camaraderie found in the kitchen.

Moving on to work at Barque Smokehouse, Colette Grand Cafe, and Sud Forno, Watson eventually landed at CXBO Chocolates in Kensington Market.

The latter was where Watson found her creative home until the pandemic struck. When the confectionery shop's parent company filed for insolvency and later bankruptcy, Watson and her colleagues found themselves out of their jobs.

At 24, Watson dreamt of having her own pastry shop, a space where she could flourish creatively and make stellar products on her own terms by the time she turned 30. 

Call it timely or the very push that she needed, Watson set out on her own starting Kindred Chocolates in 2021 – the year she turned the ripe age of 29.

Turning to the family's 120-year-old Victorian farmhouse, a property her parents purchased but never used, Watson presented a business case to convert the home into the production facility she required.

"The farm is located near my childhood home, and my connection with this community is strong," Watson tells blogTO. "My great, great uncle built this house in the 1900s and it is very special to me."

Enlisting a team which included her father, a carpenter, to help with the renovations they were able to restore the building back to its original glory.

Giving the house new life as a pastry and confection factory, Watson also shared she learned many new construction skills from her father – an experience she noted she would always cherish.

"The farmhouse tied into my branding for Kindred Chocolates, as the name comes from kinfolk, kin and kindred spirits," Watson tells blogTO.

Watson makes all her products from scratch, including laminating the dough used in her croissants and hand-painting and filling the colourful chocolate bonbons she sells.

Here, snappy crisp chocolate shells hide delicious fillings made with creamy ganache or caramel. The bonbons come in familiar flavours like hazelnut and earl grey to unconventional numbers that could be anything from cinnamon cayenne, lavender honey to lemon poppyseed.

The seasonally changing collections may mix bonbons with a Macadamia brown sugar filling with cherry cheesecake, toffee crunch, whisky milk chocolate, and even blueberry orange blossom.

For Easter, Watson created whimsical Dunkaroo Easter eggs that filled dark chocolate shells with sprinkles icing and cinnamon cookies. She sold them at the market with croissants, carrot cake jelly rolls and other sweet treats.

Even the bonbon packaging draws attention and taps into Watson's fine arts background. Besides changing each season, the patterns used are scanned from old wallpaper (16 different patterns), fabrics, and textiles that Watson had found while renovating the farmhouse.

When asked about the lack of a storefront, Watson acknowledges that it's partly due to the farmhouse's remote location and mostly because of the cost of running a shop. The latter would include an inevitable waste of product required to keep a display case fully stocked with fresh products, plus the cost of having to hire a team to run the shop.

Watson is quick to note she has no plans to change the model, stating: "I am very content with the structure of my business and the great quality products I can provide in this format!"  

Instead, you can find Kindred Chocolates at the Kindred stand at the Orillia Library Farmer's Market every Saturday and at Gravenhurst Farmers Market on Wednesdays starting this summer.

"I love the atmosphere of farmers' markets, and I also appreciate the support from other vendors and farmers," she continues. "The community is always welcoming, and I think this translates to the customers enjoying their experiences as well.”

For all other days of the week, you'll find the goodies at Picnic Tapas, The Common Stove, and The Lone Wolf Cafe in Orillia. Alternatively, to avoid disappointment, Watson encourages customers to pre-order their selection through email which can be picked up at the farmhouse production facility.

What's next for Kindred?

Watson shares she's constantly developing more flavours and is considering investing in new equipment that will make production more efficient.

"But for right now, I am content on growing through farmers' markets and seeing what opportunities [will] arise through those connections!"

Lead photo by

Emily Watson

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