Matcha and whimsy

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mimi and Ken Ishii offer up a matcha color-changing lemonade at Matcha-ya in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Scott Lucas of Hanamaulu picks up his matcha order at Matcha-ya in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Matcha azuki butter mochi means there are more than drinks at Matcha-ya in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The color-changing lemonade begins its color transformation from blue to pink at Matcha-ya in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Cafe mocha frappe blueberry is as fruity as it sounds and looks, at Matcha-ya in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Cafe mocha frappe strawberry is cool and colorful, at Matcha-ya in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mimi Ishii works on a customer’s matcha order at Matcha-ya in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Matcha-ya is Kapaa’s newest teahouse, located across from Kapaa Beach Park behind Kela’s Glass.

Mimi Ishii has a magical twist on lemonade at Kapaa’s newest teahouse.

The drink comes across the counter an iridescent blue and changes to a bright pink right before your eyes.

“It’s an organic butterfly pea flower tea and you put lemon juice on the top,” Ishii said while making the drink at Matcha-Ya, a Japanese tea and dessert shop just behind Kela Jewelers and across from Kapaa Beach Park.

On its own, the butterfly pea flower tea has an earthy flavor, like green tea — with similar levels of antioxidants and other health benefits. Ishii sweetens it with a homemade simple syrup and then adds lemon to make the drink sing.

“I created the color changing drink because I make the color changing glass earrings,” she said, showing off a pair of glass earrings from Kela’s Glass Gallery, which she and her husband Ken own.

Ishii has a studio at her house where she makes the jewelry from a special kind of glass that changes color with different lighting.

But that’s not the only thing the artist crafts in her studio. Ishii also has a kiln for firing the handmade clay matcha bowls she uses for matcha tea in the shop.

“You can buy them online or whatever, but it’s a very specific shape that you need for the tea ceremony,” Ishii said. “They’re never quite right, so I make my own.”

While the lemonade is flashy, high-quality and traditional matcha is the foundation of Matcha-Ya, which is meant to have the traditions and feel of a Japanese teahouse with a modern twist.

“You can come here to taste real matcha,” Ken Ishii said as he took orders from customers at the counter. “We order it from Japan.”

A sign on the wall in the restaurant lists the health benefits of matcha tea and touts things like an increased metabolism, reduced cholesterol and germ killing powers.

Mimi Ishii is a certified tea ceremony instructor who spent 10 years learning the traditional tea ritual from Urasenke, one of Japan’s main schools for the art.

She has been practicing the tradition for more than 30 years.

“It’s a hobby,” Mimi Ishii said. “I have hobbies like ceramic and glass art and tea ceremonies and doing the matcha tea with the handmade ceramic bowls. So that’s what this is. Everything’s like I would make it at home.”

On the menu is a traditional matcha shot, like you would get at a tea ceremony and a handmade matcha jelly that’s added to drinks like the lemonade or a soy milk matcha latte.

“The matcha jelly, it’s a bit like boba,” Ken Ishii said.

Also on the menu are matcha frappes in flavors like mocha, blueberry or strawberry; and shave ice, made on machines imported from Japan, with flavors like mocha caramel or blueberry.

Prices are in the $6 to $10 range and there are some dessert options like handmade dorayaki, or a dessert made of two red-bean pancakes with fruit or chocolate inside, and mochi.

With the doors opening at the new teahouse on July 27, Ken Ishii said they’re still getting settled in the space and are looking for a few employees.

“Here, our focus is on matcha and we’ve got the modern twists like the frappes,” Mimi Ishii said. “And the matcha, it’s good for you. The caffeine is different than coffee. It keeps you calm and focused.”


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or


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