Wednesday, December 30, 2015

MW hosts tea pairing with Kathy YL Chan

Nadine Kam photos
Food writer and tea specialist Kathy YL Chan was in town to join Michelle Karr-Ueoka in presenting a tea and dessert pairing event.


The art of tea is relatively new in the West and it’s only within the past two or three years that Asian-style tea shops began springing up around town. Even so, sipping on oolong, white, pu-erh and green teas continues to be a standalone experience as we get to know the flavors, chemistry and benefits of the teas.

We have yet to embrace the idea of tea sommeliers that exist in China. Here’s one of my earlier blog posts about such an experience:

Kathy YL Chan is trying to change that. Born and raised in Hawaii, the tea connoisseur now lives in New York and travels the world as a tea consultant for restaurants and hotels, and as a writer and speaker focusing on teas. Somke of her clients include Lady M Confections, Eleven Madison Park, and The Peninsula Hotels.

The first pour of Mi Xiang oolong tea, which was a hit of the day.

She teamed with fellow Alan Wong restaurant alum Michelle Karr-Ueoka for an afternoon tea and dessert pairing event that took place Dec. 27 at Michelle’s MW Restaurant.

Wine pairing with her desserts is nothing new to Michelle, but she said the event marked her first attempt at pairing teas, a ritual that will no doubt grow in popularity—like beer and sake pairings—as people become more familiar with the teas themselves.

Guests eyes, and palates, were opened as they bit into Michelle’s first offering of a Ka’u orange and tropical fruit “Pop Tart,” noting how it meshed with the creamy, honey notes of China’s Mi Xiang oolong.

Kathy said oolong is her favorite category of tea because it offers the biggest variety and most complexity.

She is currently consulting with a major restaurant set to open here next year.

Michelle’s dessert of Ka’u orange and tropical fruit “Pop Tart” with orange cheesecake, fresh fruit, lilikoi sorbet, and Hawaiian honey over yuba “puff pastry” boosted the tea’s creamy, honey notes.

A selection of Hawaiian Island Goat Dairy cheeses accompanied by housemade tea leaf lavosh and Da Hong Pao oolong.

We were wowed by Michelle’s interpretation of zenzai.

The shiso-matcha meringue cap was removed to reveal matcha tapioca with azuki, strawberries and black sesame ice cream.

The zenzai was paired with Uji matcha from Kyoto, whisked tableside. I loved this tea bowl, which matched my holiday Smith & Cult manicure.

Michelle presented an extra "apple pie" dessert to go with the Mi Xiang tea. She had experimented with several desserts in the pairing process, and this runner-up was too good to stay hidden.

Kathy and Michelle became fast friends while working at Alan Wong’s restaurant. Kathy, who grew up here, now divides her time between NYC and Hawaii.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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