The wife and I both enjoy afternoon tea. For myself, I like the ambiance, atmosphere, and experience of having a leisurely meal (or afternoon snack). I’m someone that likes to order many dishes when dining out so I can taste a variety of flavors; a perfect match to the variety of small-bites that accompany a typical afternoon tea service. When Judy suggested afternoon tea, I looked at our two favorite spots on the island for availability. The Halekulani’s tea service at Orchid’s (for the ocean view) is not available on Sundays, so we opted for afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider instead.

Blustery winds kept us away from the ocean front tables on this visit

Held outside at The Veranda, the prime seats for afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider feature an oceanfront view. Sadly, although some tables were available, the staff was not seating anyone right up against the ocean due to unusually strong winds which were proving problematic. Instead we were seated against the outer edge of the patio, overlooking the Beach Bar and courtyard banyan trees. Although not right up against the turquoise blue ocean, our table still afforded a peaceful and breezy place to enjoy tea.

Afternoon tea here comes in three different offerings with progressively more food. We both ordered the “First Lady Tea”, which is the top offering on the menu. In addition to scones and pastries, this tea service comes with five savory bites, fresh berries with crème fraîche, and a glass of champagne.

Sparkling rose (right) and acai fizz (left), along with a souvenir fan that comes with the “First Lady Tea” set
Before selecting your tea you can smell each one to get a sense of its flavor and aroma

As with most tea services diners are presented with a box of each tea. The server describes each and allows you to smell the tea. Here the most popular tea is the Moana Sunset, with is the hotel’s signature blend of Hawaiian tangy ‘ohelo berry and sweet mango. We’ve had this tea at previous visits so this time around we tried the Moana Royale (black tea blend with lilikoi, papaya, mango, banana, and coconut) and the Manga Mele (black tea infused with mango and peach).

Tea is steeped in individual pots and strained into your cup for enjoyment

After tea is served it’s time to start sitting back and enjoying yourself. Take a sip of tea, enjoying its aroma and flavor, while conversing with your fellow diners. Or, simply sip your tea while people watching and enjoying the gentle Hawaii breeze. The atmosphere and ambiance of tea at The Moana Surfrider or Halekulani is something I felt was missing from our experience at MW Restaurant.

A tower of pastries including scones, cookies, cakes, and more

Soon enough the food arrives. Often times your sweet pastries and scones will be served in one of these towers, making for a stunning centerpiece to the table. I’ll be sharing the plates in general here, and down below you can find a gallery with more information about each individual pastry or savory bite.

From top them clockwise: Roll cake, cream puff, macaron, cookie, tart
Blueberry orange scones with lilikoi curd and Devonshire cream

The sweet offerings during tea include a variety of small pastries and scones. It is traditional for the scones to be served with a heavy cream (such as the Devonshire cream here) and a more tart/sour option like a lemon curd. The other pastries often change throughout the year. For this service we enjoyed a variety of flavors including lilikoi, pumpkin, hazelnut, and mango.

Leftmost then clockwise: Egg Salad sandwich, smoked salmon, roast beef, duck confit, lobster

In a very traditional tea you might get simple savory bites like cucumber sandwiches, but nowadays I think pastry chefs and restaurants try to up the ante a little. The Moana Surfrider does a good job with flavor variety in their savory finger sandwiches, from smokey salmon to sweet hoisin duck.

Fresh berries with crème fraîche and brown sugar

I first had fresh strawberries and cream with sugar during an impromptu tea in London, back when I was just 12 years old. The simple yet flavorful combination of cream, sugar, and fresh fruit remains a favorite of mine during tea to this day.

A signature item for afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider – Lemongrass sorbet

We spent two hours leisurely sipping tea and nibbling away at our multitude of sweet and savory bites. The hustle and bustle of Waikiki seemed to pass around us, unnoticed. In our experiences we find that the food at the Moana Surfrider’s afternoon tea is our favorite among the various hotels we’ve been to in town (although I think the ambiance at the Halekulani’s Orchid’s tea is a tad better). The Moana Surfrider has been serving afternoon tea for 100 years. I look forward to enjoying tea here again for many years to come.

Afternoon Tea
The Veranda @ the Moana Surfrider Hotel
2365 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815

Here’s a gallery with more detailed description and close up of each sweet and savory bite (click to enlarge):