Drinking Tea | Pu’erh and Oolongs, Roll Cakes and Strawberry Mochi

[Tea is an essential part of my daily life. I’m lucky to be a position that allows me to try many teas, and I don’t take that for granted. Drinking Tea is a series which highlights teas and tea-related moments I find most memorable.]

1. Friday afternoon at home. The last of our shou pu’erh and fresh strawberry mochi (thank, Cat!)

2.  Dong ding oolong and chocolate roll cake from Lawson Station.

3. At Four Seasons Hualalai, ‘ULU Ocean Grill offers three tisanes (mint, ginger, and kaffir-lime), paired with lemon and Big Island honey. Ginger is always my first choice. Don’t miss baked alaska and chocolate soufflé for dessert. 

4.  Drinking Wuhe honey black from Hualien, Taiwan. Finally put the teapot we got from Health Ceramics to use. Wish I could bring it back with me to NYC…

5. Gaiwan travel set which dad brought home from his most recent trip to China. Thank you ^_^

Big Island | Tea Hawaii & Company

As we walked through the Tea Hawaii farm on the Big Island last Sunday, Chiu plucked two leaves and a bud from a tea plant. We ate it raw, so sweet. I thought it was my first time trying their tea leaves fresh…but I was wrong. 

Let’s backtrack to a dinner nearly three years ago in NYC.

Remember this six-course tea feast at In Pursuit of Tea?  The first course featured tempura tea leaves (fresh tea leaves dipped in a honey batter and deep-fried). Guess where the tea leaves were flown in from just that morning? Hawai’i! I never found out exactly where in Hawai’i the tea leaves came from…

…until last Sunday, when I did a cupping with Eva and Chiu in their studio. Eva mentioned that they collaborated with Melanie Franks (who is now a chef at Amankora, the Aman property in Bhutan…let’s go! :) on a tea dinner in NYC years ago. And it turned out to be that very same dinner.

Eva was a dancer and Chiu a photographer. Together they created this stunning tea farm and ceramics studio deep in Volcano, Hawai’i. High ceilings, soft light, shoji doors, and this beautiful, soft air of tranquility. 

They’re located on the summit of Kilauea Volcano where they harvest and process four types of tea (black, green, white, and oolong), plus mamaki (an herbal tisane) which is popular in Hawai’i. Pictured above is the Forest White which brews golden and sweet, very delicate. Chiu himself makes all the ceramics, a complete tea experience. 

Here’s a look at the white tea leaves before steeping (we did five infusions). 

What a magical place. Thank you, Eva and Chiu, for your kind hospitality :)

Honolulu, Hawaii | A New Afternoon Tea at Halekulani Hotel

Remember the afternoon tea service at Halekulani?

It was served in the Veranda complete with white glove service and a rolling dessert trolley. 

They recently revamped the entire tea service. Some new changes:

  • afternoon tea presented in three-tiers instead of course by course
  • the option to have tea in the Veranda (secluded, quiet) or Orchids (open air, ocean view)
  • no more dessert trolley…but the desserts are still just as delicious
  • new teaware, looking good
  • housemade kula strawberry preserves (they previously used Bonne Maman) 




Ok, let’s get started! First bite, strawberries and cream…

…while you look at the tea selection. Halekulani might be the only afternoon tea service in Hawaii that offers more straight/single estate teas than blends…super exciting. 

I was in a Silver Needle mood – they use Fuding Da Hao from Fujian and Mangku Da Yeh from Yunnan.

Compare these new tea sets with the older versions…a change for the better.  

Savory first…

…smoked salmon with dill and capers on rye, and cucumber with cream cheese and chives on caraway seed bread. 

Ham, watercress, and grain mustard rolled on poppyseed bread, and chicken with horseradish on whole grain. 

Currant scones and almond-lemon financiers…both warm from the oven.

Two of each, love the golden, crunchy exterior of the financier. 

Scones are served with devonshire cream, housemade lemon curd and Kula (on Maui) strawberry preserves. 

A little bit (or a lot ;) of each.  

I prefer to tea in the late afternoon so you can see musicians setting up at House Without a Key (mentioned here, here, and here). Hang around till 5:30pm to catch some of the live music and dancing. 

A little break, another pot of tea, and then it’s time for sweets.  

A vanilla roll cake filled with chocolate-hazelnut mousse, strawberry cream puffs…

…and a crêpe filled with coconut cake and haupia!



Not hard to see why this is one of my favorite hotels in Hawaii ^_^

Snapshots from the Big Island

Saturday at Cochon Island (the first Cochon 555 to take place in Hawai’i :)…

…that top photo was taken seconds after the boys dug that pig from the imu. 

For dessert? Honey-dipped malasadas topped with caramelized bacon and ice cream sandwiches made from ham bone ice cream and marshamallow-lard cookies.

Along the Kohala Coast, breezy afternoons at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

…and Four Seasons Hualalai

That moment right before the sun goes down, my favorite part of the day.

Lunch at the original Merriman’s in Waimea for kalua pig saimin… 

….and avocado poke bowls with garlic-mac nut rice.

A visit to two exquisite tea plantations..what a dream. The future of Hawaii’s tea industry is looking bright.

Thank you, Big Island! Can’t wait to return. 

Honolulu | Madre Chocolates: Earl Grey and Genmaicha

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Hello! I’ve been in Honolulu for the last few days (though wish I could have extended my Taipei visit, what an amazing city :). And tomorrow we are heading to the Big Island. 

In the meantime, I want to share this chocolate bar with you. If you were here in person, I would literally share it with you…super delicious. It’s from a local chocolate company called Madre Chocolates. They have a retail shop in Kailua though I first found them at the Blaisdell Farmers Market earlier this summer. 

The most memorable bar was a 70% chocolate infused with Earl Grey tea. Extra potent.

They sourced tea from Hilo-based Big Island Tea but because the tea is now sold exclusively at Harrods in London (most impressive!) they no longer make this specific bar, but are still searching for a good tea to substitute. 

Not long after I tried that bar, I met Elyse Petersen of Tealet

 …and tasted the genmaicha chocolate bars Madre created for one of their teas. How neat is that?

Going to visit the Kailua shop next week to see what other flavors I can find ^_^