Tiki’s Serves Local Flavor
Tiki’s Coffee Shack, a new business in Kaunakakai, combines the urban coffee shop vibe with Molokai’s laid back attitude and a menu that highlights local ingredients.
Co-owners Kaua Lester and Tyrah Ka`apuni, both Molokai High School graduates and first-time business owners, opened Tiki’s on Valentine’s Day. Lester decided to go into business after he returned home from college in Oregon. He decided in order to get work on Molokai, he would open his own business.
“We noticed we didn’t have a coffee shop in town, and we wanted to offer a healthier choice for people,” Ka`apuni said.
Tiki’s features a wide selection of drinks and sandwiches, including the panini, an Italian-inspired grilled sandwich on thick bread that’s popular on other islands and the mainland.
Tiki’s is next door to Maka’s Korner, a business Lester’s sister runs. But their mother, Ku`i Lester, said the two shops do not compete with each because of their differing menus. Maka’s Korner serves burgers and plate lunches, while Tiki’s sticks to sandwiches, smoothies and coffee drinks. The siblings did make an agreement that the new shack wouldn’t serve fresh-brewed macadamia nut coffee, one of Maka’s Korner’s special offerings.
Tiki’s other neighbor, Mini Mart, also has an espresso bar, allowing for multiple coffee options in one shopping center.
Tiki’s offers the entire coffee shop atmosphere with a seating area and WiFi internet, and they brew Coffees of Hawaii coffee, harvested on Molokai — just one of the many local items Tiki’s serves.
“We use Molokai products whenever we can,” Ku`i said. “Anything we can get here, we do.”
She said one of the most popular items is the chicken pesto panini, which features their house-made pesto, created with fresh, local basil and macadamia nuts instead of pine nuts. Other panini options include Reubens, veggies and ham and swiss. They also offer gourmet sandwiches at a lower price.
Salads come with each sandwich or panini, and their sweet lilikoi dressing is one option to top off the salad. They also offer fresh fruit smoothies, frapaccinos, bubble drinks and espresso.
Hani Deluna works as a barista at Tiki’s. She said lunch is the busiest time for the shop. Deluna has experience making coffee drinks thanks to her previous work at the Coffees of Hawaii espresso bar.
The grilled paninis are a bit pricier than other sandwiches in town, but Ku`i said this reflects the quality of ingredients and equipment used to make each panini. They use thick bread, premium cheeses and quality, local produce. She said their panini press – the grill used to slowly heat each sandwich – was a $4,000 investment.
Ku`i said those not running on Molokai time might want to call ahead their order. Each panini makes about 10 minutes to grill. They take the process slowly so the cheese is well-melted and the bread becomes warm and crisp.
Lester and Ka`apuni learned how to create paninis and coffee drinks with help from shops on Oahu that allowed them to come and observe for a day. They have adjusted their menu since opening to offer the items people want. Ka`apuni said they were surprised to find white bread, fresh fruits and breakfast pastries didn’t sale well.
“It’s trial and error,” Ka`apuni said. “So it’s all a learning experience.”
Wraps and yogurt may be in the shop’s future, and Ka`apuni said they are welcome to suggestions for anything else people would like them to bring in.
Tiki’s Coffee Shack is open Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.