A Peek Inside Honolulu Coffee’s Bake Shop
The 1,825-square-foot bakery on Kalākaua Avenue provides the croissants, scones, breads and macarons for all of its coffee shops.
Kiree Higa piping macarons at Honolulu Coffee’s bake shop at the company’s Experience Center on Kalākaua Avenue.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
At every Honolulu Coffee shop, whether it’s at Ala Moana Center or inside the Moana Surfrider in Waikīkī, you’ll see a display case filled with decadent baked goods. Liliko‘i bread, powdered-sugar-dusted almond croissants, perfect macarons—these confections are all made at the Honolulu Coffee Experience Center, which opened in October 2015.
The 9,010-square-foot center, located in the space vacated by Hard Rock Café at the intersection of Kalākaua Avenue and Kapi‘olani Boulevard, is the hub of the company. This is where all of the coffee beans are roasted in a 1944 cast-iron Probat UG22 coffee roaster and where you can learn about the journey of a coffee bean from seed to cup.
The 1,825-square-foot bake shop is helmed by pastry chef Brian Sung, formerly of Alan Wong’s Honolulu and Michael Mina in San Francisco. It moved from a facility in Sand Island to this location last year.
Pastry chef Brian Sung, formerly of Alan Wong’s Honolulu, runs the bake shop for Honolulu Coffee.
The entire space, which totals 3,000 square feet, includes a climate-controlled area for baking, a kitchen, a dishwashing area, dry storage and four walk-in freezers and refrigerators.
“The bakery is a stand-alone operation,” Sung explains. “And our stores are our customers.”
Inside the bake shop at the Honolulu Coffee Experience Center.
The unique chocolate croissants, made with chocolate dough on the outside.
Just this week, Sung introduced new savory menu items at the company’s O‘ahu six locations, including four sandwiches—chicken salad with chai-pickled grapes and diced macadamia nuts ($11), Black Forest ham and Jarlsberg cheese with a sweet and tangy pineapple and sweet pepper chutney ($10), barbecue kālua pork with roasted mushrooms and white cheddar ($10.50) and a veggie sammie with roasted zucchini, tomato jam and basil pesto ($10).
The center also serves breakfast items including a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, kālua pork, shredded white cheddar cheese ($9.50); egg frittata with baked eggs, kālua pork, pickled onions and shaved Brussels sprouts ($6.50); house-made buttermilk pancakes with Kona coffee whipped cream and side of bacon ($9); and the popular eggs Benedict with your choice of bacon, barbecue kālua pig and roasted mushrooms, or vegetables with pesto ($9.50). Right now, only this location serves quinoa bowls ($8 to $10).
Honolulu Coffee’s bake shop churns out about 250 pieces of baked goods a day, sending them out to its O‘ahu locations. Some items, namely the popular banana and liliko‘i breads ($3.50) and oatcakes ($3.50), are shipped to the company’s Neighbor Island stores.
The bake shop makes eight different flavor of macarons.
In addition, Honolulu Coffee is opening its first location in Vancouver, Canada on June 30 to coincide with Canada Day celebrations. The 2,485-square-foot space will feature farm-to-cup Hawaiian coffees and whole-leaf teas, oatcakes and the signature liliko‘i bread. (The company also operates shops in Guam and Japan.)
A lot of care and precision goes into crafting the desserts, and Sung is quick to point out the importance of proper technique in making perfectly layered and airy croissants or any of its eight flavors of macarons.
Kiree Higa, the executive sous chef, is busily piping perfectly circular vanilla macarons the color of Cookie Monster. She hands one to me.
“I forgot how good these were,” she says, laughing.
The macaron ($2.25 each) is cakelike, with a slight crispness on the outside. It doesn’t crack like a meringue, which I’ve had before. This is a macaron done right.
“It should have a cake texture,” Sung explains. “It shouldn’t be like a meringue. That means there were humidity issues.”
The almond croissant, filled with frangipane and topped with toasted almonds, is one of the most popular bakery items.
The cinnamon roll is baked in-house and, like the many of the other baked good, is SENT OUT FROM HERE TO SIX OF THE O‘AHU LOCATIONS.
One of the most popular baked goods at Honolulu Coffee is the almond croissant ($5.25), filled with a delicate frangipane (a filling made with almonds) and topped with toasted almonds. The croissant, which takes three days to make, is flaky and buttery with airy layers that form that classic honeycomb structure. The bakery also makes plain croissants ($3.50), some filled with ham and cheese ($4.50) and a classic pain au chocolat ($4.50) that features chocolate dough and chocolate cream and dark chocolate batons inside.
“This kind of quality is hard to find at the moment here [in Hawai‘i],” Sung says. “This is really what a croissant should strive to be.”
Honolulu Coffee Experience Center, 1800 Kalākaua Ave., 202-2562, honolulucoffee.com