I’m not much of a tea drinker.
But when Lorraine Elliot (@notquitenigella), blogger extraordinaire and food enthusiast from Sydney, informed Melissa Chang (@melissa808) and me that she was coming to town and wanted to meet at the historic Moana Surfrider in Waikīkī for some afternoon tea, well, I suddenly craved some iced tea and scones.
It’s had been awhile since I sat down on the famed veranda at this iconic hotel. The tea service here is steeped — pardon the pun — in history, it’s practically legendary!
We went a little later than normal to beat the lunchtime crowd — we got there at around 2:45 p.m. — and only had to share the veranda with a few people. There was live music at the bar fronting the banyan tree and we had front row seats to the Pacific Ocean. You couldn’t beat it.
There are three tea options: $34 for the Veranda Tea Service, $40 for the Moana Classic Tea Service, and $48 for the First Lady Tea Service. All three come with your choice of tea, three assorted finger sandwiches, traditional scones and a sampling of pastries and petit fours on a three-tiered tray. The difference between the three? The Moana has an extra finger sandwich, a ginger biscotti and a mini pot de creme; the First Lady has all that plus a plate of fresh berries and a glass of sparkling dry rose. (We got the Moana Classic Tea Service.)
And it all starts with the tea.
The service — in this case, Carlo who likes grasshoppers — brought out six different teas (above), including one herbal tea, for us to smell and pick.
I chose the Moana Royale, a fruity blend that’s one of the service’s most popular. Melissa picked the hotel’s signature Moana Sunset with mango notes and Lorraine opted for the Veranda Breeze with caramel. The others were jasmine phoenix pearls, mango melee, and darjeeling and lemon rooibos.
The tea, which you can get hot or iced, arrived first. You have to let the tea steep for a few minutes before pouring. It was nice — and strategic — that we had ordered three different teas so we could sample more than just our own.
Next came the grub.
We were served this impressive display of scones and pastries, so perfectly crafted and pretty it was hard to eat. (OK, it wasn’t THAT hard to eat them.)
The top tray featured a roll sponge cake filled with a creamy haupia (coconut) filling, mango macarons and a macadamia nut cookie.
The second tier had traditional scones — a bit hard but tasty – paired with Devonshire clotted cream (my favorite) and lemon curd.
The last tier boasted mini cakes — guava and coffee — that I figured got Lorraine excited! (She’s a bit of a cake aficionado. Read her blog.
But the service doesn’t just offer sweets. We were also served this small plate of finger sandwiches: salmon over toast, a mini roast beef bite, and a tasty little bánh mì with pork and shredded radishes that gave it a nice crunch.
Since we ordered the Moana Classic Tea Service, we also got this plate filled with a mini pot de creme in dark chocolate, which was divine, and a difficult-to-eat crab sandwich that used cucumber slices instead of bread.
The meal finished with a dollop of lemongrass green tea sorbet.
My take: This may not be the most posh tea services around — and granted, I’m not a connoisseur at all — but I like the vibe and atmosphere. I want to go to an afternoon tea service that’s slow and relaxed, not stuffy or full of pretense, and this is it. You don’t feel rushed, you don’t feel stressed, and you’re definitely not thinking about all the work you have to do when you leave the hotel. You’re just enjoying the company, the view, and the food. As it should be.
Afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider, 2365 Kalākaua Ave. in Waikīkī. Hours: Noon to 3 p.m. daily. Cost: $34, $40 and $48. Phone: 808-921-4600.