Tea-licious Café brings a European tea café experience to Kailua- Kona, Hawaii by offering traditional European desserts in a relaxed atmosphere. Owner Ivonne Lietz wanted to create a cozy place where people could take their grandmothers for tea.
Lietz is from Ludwigslust, Germany, a small town outside of Hamburg. She worked in restaurants and traveled the world surfing, meeting her American husband in Australia along the way. They settled in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii and though Lietz loved it there, she missed the calming tea cafes from her home country.
Having worked in the food and beverage industry since her teenage years, her dream was to open her own European style café. “In Germany every little town has a tea shop and this whole café culture where you go and you have a cup of tea or coffee. Then I came the United States and I had to buy my tea at the supermarket,” Lietz said. “I really missed that part of Europe.”
Initially, she and a friend hosted afternoon tea parties once per month, which they called “Tea-licious tea parties.” She also took a tea sommelier course and became a certified tea sommelier.
Then, on Valentine’s Day of 2017 she opened Tea-licious Café in Kailua-Kona about one-third of a mile inland from Kahului Bay. She sells over 30 high-quality loose-leaf teas from around the world, including Hawaiian-grown tea, as well as Kona coffee, baguette sandwiches, salads and authentic croissants imported from France. “Tea is definitely a big part of it, but I feel like the whole European coffee-tea culture comes together here,” said Lietz.
Lietz starts her work day at 3:30 a.m. and makes an assortment of European pastries and cakes. “It’s fresh; that’s my main thing,” said Lietz. Her favorite offerings are her Portuguese custard tarts, her strawberry mascarpone cake, and the brie, apple and fig jam sandwich.
Customers have commented on Tea-licious’ European atmosphere. It has antique furniture with table clothes and every plate is made of old porcelain. It is a community space; there is no Wi-Fi so people are encouraged to take time out, share a pot of tea and talk with each other. Lietz likens her café to a living room and is familiar with 80 percent of her customers.
Lietz also wanted to create a place in which she enjoyed working; big business was never her goal. She noted that she is located in the Kona coffee belt and said offering coffee and food in addition to tea has helped her keep a strong customer base. However, in light of people’s growing curiosity about tea, she introduces customers to it by offering samples.
Around the time she opened her café she received a lot of advice that was divergent from her vision of creating a traditional European café but is happy she stayed true to her initial purpose. Tea-licious’ popularity has spread via word-of-mouth.
Visit Tea-licious on Instagram at instagram.com/tealiciouskona/ and on Facebook at facebook.com/tealiciouskona/. Tea-licious Cafe resides at 75-159 Lunapule Road, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740. The phone number is (808) 209-8282.