Sweet Tooth: Koko Tea Salon & Bakery
By Karen Gardiner DionPublished March 1, 2013
Last summer, Ava Misseldine moved her bakery and tea salon, Koko, from its original historic Dublin location into a 104-year-old house in downtown Gahanna.
Misseldine decorated the house in Marie Antoinette pastel, stuffing it full of glass cases filled with highly decorated cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and macarons. Misseldine, who is originally from Hawaii, where her family owns a tea company, has traveled all over the world participating in tea competitions and took inspiration for her salon’s decor from the Parisian salons and patisseries she loves.
The French influence extends into the creations she sells. The macaroons are her favorite: “(Growing up in Hawaii) I lived down the street from a French lady whose family had owned patisseries in Paris. When she passed away she left us her family’s recipe for original Parisian macarons. It’s not like the American version of a macaron; it’s the real, true, Parisian macaron.”
However, it was her red velvet cupcakes that landed her a spot on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Like everything she makes, her cupcakes are 100-percent organic, and her red velvet is colored with raspberry and beet juice that she squeezes herself. “We don’t use berry flavors,” she explains. “We go to Stokes Berry Farm in Wilmington and pick the berries ourselves.”
Misseldine loves to experiment and offers 100 different flavors of cakes and cupcakes, including goat cheese and fig, tomato and basil, and dark chocolate and merlot. “You can try all these crazy flavors that you wouldn’t expect to work ... and they are all delicious,” she said.
Her favorite? “I know this is going to sound boring, but it’s probably vanilla. We take this Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean; grind it up and steep it overnight. It’s the richest, purest vanilla ever.”
Although most of the treats offered at Koko – which means “sweet” in Hawaiian – are sourced locally, Misseldine does admit to getting homesick sometimes and asking her father to send Hawaiian coconut, mangos, and pineapples to use in the cakes. Her younger brother, who has a coffee plantation in Kona, supplies the coffee, which sits alongside the salon’s 40 different custom blend teas that are displayed in tins labeled with the illustration of a lady (and her chic hairdo) in profile.
It was a scholarship in Chemical Engineering that first brought Misseldine to Ohio from Hawaii. “I was working in the lab doing cancer research, and just needed to take a break for a while,” she explained. “I was only going to do this for a year, but I found a passion that I never knew I had.”
In spite of the homesickness, Misseldine looks certain to be here for much longer: “I love Gahanna: it’s a small, community oriented area that reminds me of home.”
Koko Tea Salon & Bakery
116 Mill St., Gahanna