Thanks to you and all your support, I had an opportunity this holiday again to visit Hawaii for a little vacation. Even on my vacation, I just couldn’t help checking some green tea stuff while there. As I explored more, I found that Hawaii’s trend with green tea is a little different from other places, so I decided to write this blog post just for fun to let you know what is trending in Hawaii when it comes to green tea.
I did not list and compare all of them and research as I do with my other blog posts, so I call this post a “selfish” list of my personal favorite things about green tea in Hawaii. Enjoy.
I keep updating this blog post every time I visit. The most recent visit was in 2021, and I updated this where I can. Unfortunately, many cafes closed out due to COVID19, but exciting new stores carrying premium tea are also introduced. I kept the entry with "Closed 2021" so that you can skip those parts.
Since this is a tea blog and not a travel blog, I will not detail out about this, but I thought of touching a little about getting to Hawaii right now in 2021 from the mainland USA from my personal experience.
The regulations are changing, so please do not take this blog post as advice; please check the latest Hawaii State website for how you can visit Hawaii.
As of Jan 2021, Hawaii mandated visitors to take the COVID19 test 72 hours before departure from the mainland USA. This was more challenging than I imagined since all the approved hospitals are booked with appointments. I ended up doing the COSTCO COVID test approved by State of Hawaii, but I recommend giving plenty of advance plans for the approved mail-in test to take the test on time. You also need to follow the online submission of the test result before departure.
When I arrive at the airport, they check the test result entry.
Picture of Airport at Hawaii checking for COVID test result
Two new exciting tea shops just opened at Ala Moana Center. When I visited in Jan 2021, there was a long, long line of people trying to get their tea. I hope when you get there, there are fewer people in line.
New store opened in Ala Moana Center on Dec 19 2020.
The Alley is a famous bubble tea shop founded in Taiwan in 2013. The original name is The Alley Lujiaoxiang (鹿角巷). In the USA, as of Jan 2021, they are only available in Las Vegas and California. Now you get to try their famous bubble tea in Hawaii! Their Matcha Brown Sugar Deerioca milk is one of the most famous lines and must-drink for matcha lovers.
Another exciting new shop just opened in Ala Moana Center is Lupicia.
Lupicia is a extremely popular tea company from Japan (here is a link to their Japanese website) which they are famous for their black tea line. They even have a school in Japan called Lupicia Tea School where they teach about tea. Just in Tokyo area, there are over 50 shops of their store; hey also have shops in France, Taiwan and Australia.
,This Ala Moana mall is their first store in the USA, and they carry Hawaiian exclusive line probably targeting the Japanese visitors. Either you are a Japanese visitor or not, I recommend trying their tea for sure.
Just like any other urban city catching up with tea shops, Waikiki is not an exception. There are quite a few new tea shops and cafes everywhere to enjoy tea moments.
Nana’s Green Tea (2250 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815)
Waikiki Yokocho is Closed in 2020
Whenever I am on the Waikiki Beach Walk, I always stop by Waikiki Yokocho. You would almost miss this place as you walk the famous Kalakaua St. because the sign is not that visible, but if you take the steps down and enter the place, you notice it is a paradise for the Japanese food lover.
The place is packed with many Japanese restaurants and they are all so good.
Nana’s Green Tea is one of the shops in there and serves matcha focused drinks and sweets. (They have quite few shops in Japan.) If you like matcha like me, there is no miss for what you order there. I didn’t order everything, but I am always satisfied with their sweets.
Infinitea Cafe (808 Sheridan St, Honolulu, HI 96814)
My favorite walk at Waikiki is a walk from Waikiki Beach to Ala Moana Center. It is a good 30-40 minute walk and this tea shop is right in between so I tend to stop by here for a little tea break. It is a tea-specialized cafe with lots of options.
Matcha Stand Maiko (2310 Kuhio Ave. #134, Honolulu, HI 96815
I feel that every time I visit Hawaii, tea is getting more popular there. Please see, below the photo, a sign of a new tea shop being built. (When you are reading this, the tea shop may be open already.)
My favorite place to go in Oahu is the Kakaako area where I found lots of wall art. It’s fun to walk around the area and take some pictures. This time I took a bicycle which was very easy to rent with a swipe of a card. Oh! Sozai (400 Keawe St ste 108, Honolulu, HI 96813) is my personal favorite Japanese food bento place located in the middle of the Kakaako district. I think it is one of the hidden gems.
They do have some in-store seating so you can eat there as well as take out bento boxes to eat at the beach. The price is quite reasonable and the food tastes more like family style and I love it.
This tea shop in the picture above is being built right next to Oh! Sozai. I just saw the sign so I took a snap. Hope to visit them next time!
One wall art in Kakaako. I'm pretty sure they don't have the copyright of this monster...
As a visitor, it is nice to have cafes to visit, but what if you live here?
I found out that it is quite difficult to find quality tea if you live here and want to enjoy tea at home. This is unfortunately true for many small cities in the USA, and that is one of the reasons our online shop is becoming quite popular.
Here is a picture of a tea aisle in Don Quijote (801 Kaheka St, Honolulu, HI 96814), one of the biggest Japanese discount shops in Waikiki.
I am always amazed to see so many selections of all the Japanese stuff I can find here compared to Uwajimaya in Portland. (Don Quijote is probably 10 times the size of Portland Uwajimaya.) Despite the size and selection, I was very disappointed with the variety and quality of the tea they carry. I realized why we are quite popular among customers in Hawaii.
Well, if you look, there are some options available for the residents, too. Check out Steepologie Tea inside the Ala Moana Center (1450 Ala Moana Blvd #2308, Honolulu, HI 96814).
This shop started in Seattle and is growing at quite a fast pace in different shooing malls in the Northwest. They are somewhat operating in the same way Teavana did earlier by having people smell and taste different types of specialty tea. I had an opportunity to talk with the owner, Andrea, at the World Tea Expo; she is a nice lady and I do like their selections of tea..
Yes, I am Japanese and I do care about souvenirs (omiyage) everywhere I go. If you know the Japanese culture, you know we like gifting things to family and friends to show off tell them about vacations.
Many specialty coffee shops are paying more attention to quality tea these days, and Hawaiian coffee shops are no exception. Island Vintage Coffee (2301 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 and few other locations throughout Hawaii) is always super popular among Japanese people for some reason, and you find a lot of Japanese customers lining up at this coffee shop. I do like their coffee, but check out this new super nicely packaged green tea they carry now. I thought it is packaged better than their coffee.
I personally love Dean and Deluca (2233 Kalakaua Ave BUILDING B, Honolulu, HI 96815) a lot and visited quite a few of them in past years, including the one in the middle of grape fields in Napa.
Unfortunately, they have closed all their shops in the USA except this ones in Hawaii. Japanese people love this brand and due to their popularity among Japanese customers visiting their shop, the Hawaiian location remains open. It is the last shop in the USA now.
The shop clerk was telling me they have a “limited edition” of tote bags that Japanese customers line up early in the morning, every morning, to get. They only sell limited numbers of these hibiscus tote bags so there is always a line in the early morning and most of the customers are from Japan!
I did not line up in the early morning, but I visited them this time and found this matcha pancake mix. The cloth packaging is so cute that it is my choice for the souvenir. You officially cannot get this anywhere else in the USA now.
This time I went crazy with pinnacle and did a Maui Gold Tour and Dole Plantation visit. (Dole Plantation 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786) Which one do you think won the battle? The taste of the Maui Gold couldn’t even come close to the ones from Dole and the Dole plantation has a lot more options for souvenirs.
Other than the chocolate covered pineapple (yummm) that I couldn’t help getting, Pineapple Green Tea caught my attention. What a great idea!
I always enjoy seeing the evolution of green tea trends in a different cultures, and green tea in Hawaii is surely trending up with the rest of the world with its twist. Unfortunately, there are not many options for residents to enjoy traditional green tea but the tour and visitors are shaping its unique modern tea cultures here.
I cannot wait to go back to Hawaii again soon to see more trends shaping up with green tea (... and for more pineapples and vacations too!)
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