How to frolic in the sun, sand and sweetness simultaneously in Hawaii
As long-time readers of this dessert blog will have realized, we love high tea. Across the last nine years of this blog, we have concluded that London, the original birthplace of high tea, still remains the epicentre of high tea creativity, with Melbourne coming a close second (we are a little biased, yes), and the former British colonies in Asia (i.e. Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong) offering an array of more extravagant buffet-style afternoon teas. In New York by contrast, high tea has been an overwhelmingly just-average (yet wildly expensive) affair.
While on holiday in Hawaii, we decided to give another state of the United States a go for this cherished dessert tradition. The Halekulani Hotel is situated a stone’s throw from the main shopping/eating thoroughfare in Waikiki. It’s one of the oldest hotels on the island, and accordingly, styled in the old colonial white walls and teak furnishings of a bygone era. In fact, it reminds us very much of Penang’s E&O Hotel. Afternoon tea takes place on a verandah that affords a breathtaking view of the ocean. Note that the venue is not air-conditioned, so we recommend light clothing. Also, endeavour to obtain a window table so that you can enjoy the breeze.
Halekulani’s tea menu featured both the usual black teas, alongside more local tea blend specialties. For example, the “Orchid Blend” was described on the menu as being composed of “soothing Hawaiian vanilla and corn flowers on a backdrop of rick black tea,” and the “Hau’oli” was characterized as a “joyful blend featuring the sweet bouquet of champagne and roses.” Even the somewhat monotonous green tea was described with the most melodic of word choices: “hand rolled green tea pearls scented for seven days with the alluring aroma of jasmine pikake.” Isn’t that dreamy? We were also given a sampler box of the teas, which you used to inhale their fragrances to assist with your decision-making process.
Halekulani’s afternoon tea was served with the traditional three-tier service, with savouries at the bottom, and sweet irresistibles at the top level. All classical, the sandwiches were ham and watercress, cucumber, chicken and smoked salmon. Slightly dry, they were styled as open sandwich, pinwheel and ribbon. Scones were served warm, dotted with currants, and accompanied with Devonshire Cream, lemon curd (yes!) and strawberry jam. As with all the other American high teas that we have been too, unfortunately, the scones are overly dense and crumby here, too. There were three sweet irresistibles – a lime and pistachio petite bite, a raspberry eclair and a hazelnut-chocolate mini-gateau.
These Dessert Correspondents do prefer our high teas to be a little more adventurous in the dessert component, and the afternoon tea session at Halekulani does seem rather like a missed opportunity to showcase local Hawaiian dessert flavours. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a moment’s peace away from the bustle of Waikiki’s shopping/partying/beach-going adventures, afternoon tea at Halekulani makes for one very fine escape.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, Hawaii.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ (USD $45-50pp).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Afternoon Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: The sweet irresistibles.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: How to frolic in the sun, sand and sweetness simultaneously in Hawaii.