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Sweet Tooth: Koko Tea Salon & Bakery

By Karen Gardiner Dion

Published March 1, 2013
(Credit: Chris Casella)

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

(614) 389-3459

[email protected]


Michelle Adkins @ 03/03/2013 12:56 pm

Wow- I adore koko and that is a terrible picture of their cupcakes! Their shop and their baked goods are stunning- the shop has a French frou-frou look that is so pretty and they do a rose with their icing on the cupcakes which are the best I have ever had. I tried them first when they were at the taste of gahanna, which I believe they won. Seriously, try them out, they are incredible and it is a shame 614 didn't take a better picture!

Amie Ira @ 03/15/2013 04:39 pm

Only 1 word can describe Koko... AMAZING!!!! I am seriously hooked, they have the best cupcakes I have ever had in my life and their hand crafted teas are out of this world. I also agree with Michelle Adkins that the picture above does not even do their cupcakes justice. A couple of the must try recommendations on my list are The Elvis which is by far my favorite. Banana cupcake made with real bananas, peanut butter icing and chocolate drizzled on top, and Chai bubble tea.. talk about delicious!!

nope @ 03/19/2013 02:16 am

when i went back into the kitchen area, i never saw beet juice...or any juice at all. walmart brand butter isn't organic. neither is AMERICOLOR food coloring.

Karen @ 03/23/2013 04:21 pm

@nope- Since I currently work there and can attest to the fact that we do use organic ingredients and beet juice, and also to the fact that there would be no reason for you to have "went back into the kitchen area", either you are just a nutjob or you are the CSR that was just fired. In either case, get a life!

User 328082114 @ 03/23/2013 06:29 pm

This place has the best bubble tea we have ever had. It reminds me of what we used to get in California. Try the lavender or rose, they are really good without being too floral. Best around hands down!

Beth @ 03/25/2013 04:16 pm

Love, love the cupcakes. Signed up for newsletter, but does she ever give recipes to try?

Elizabeth @ 03/28/2013 12:26 am

The BEST cupcakes I and my friends have ever had!!! We all shared the goat cheese fig, peanut butter with chocolate, red velvet, champagne with berries and one they call "Elvis". Crazy, crazy good! My friend Amy has been to all the major cupcake bakeries- she lived in CA for a few years and she says koko's are way better! The staff is super nice and the store is adorable too. Totally worth the trip from Dublin!!!

Robyn @ 04/22/2013 10:10 pm

Classy, brilliant, creative and beautiful. Theses words describe Ava, her concept, and each detail of her teas and cupcakes. They are truly the best! My family loves Koko and I hope many will get to experience the wonderful salon which we in Gahanna are so privileged to have in our community.

wowza @ 10/18/2013 12:09 pm

Wow. Words cannot describe the flavor and texture of the wonderfully amazing Red Velvet cupcakes. I can't speak of what the shop looks like since I bought this cupcake at the most recent Creepside Festival. This cupcake is sure to change your life or at least make you smile and wisk you off to a wonderful world of cupcake nirvana, if only for a moment. Nailed it.