Closing Time: Ava Misseldine of Koko Tea Salon & Bakery

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Ava Misseldine came to Columbus from Hawaii to study chemical engineering at Ohio State. But after years of conducting cancer research in the lab, she needed a break. Misseldine had always enjoyed baking with her grandmother, so in 2011 she opened Dublin bakery Sugar Inc. Cupcakes & Tea Salon. A little more than a year later, she rebranded it as Koko Tea Salon & Bakery and moved the business to Gahanna.

"I love tea and originally wanted to do a tea salon with tea-infused cupcakes," says Misseldine, whose family owns a tea company in Hawaii. "But the cupcakes themselves took off."

Misseldine gained national attention when her red velvet cupcakes (made with beet juice instead of dye) were featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. But she doesn't just serve up red velvet: Koko makes 120 different flavors that change daily, and Misseldine recently added a breakfast menu of savory items like quiche and croissants.

Future plans include creating a garden area behind the bakery to host charity events. "We'll string lights and have music playing," she says. "I bought some antique trellises, too. This year will be awesome."

Misseldine shares her favorite spots to dine in Columbus when she's not spending long days in Koko's kitchen.

Which tea do you like to drink at Koko?

French Lemon Cream. It tastes like my nana's lemon pound cake. It's very nostalgic. She passed away, so when I drink it I think of her.

Where do you go for a good breakfast?

Starliner Diner. They have this platter with everything. There's so much food. I love their bread-they make their own. It's a Cuban bread. When you toast it, it's so good. And the potatoes are crispy. It's a great homestyle breakfast with a spicy twist.

Where do you head to grab a drink?

I don't drink much at all, but when I do, it's sangria. So I like to go Carrabba's. Carrabba's has blackberry sangria, and it's killer. I've had sangria all over the world, and this is the best. Chris, one of the bartenders, makes it the best.

Any good places to grab food on the go?

Piada. It's fast food, but it doesn't taste like fast food. I wish there were more places like that, with healthier fast food. With crazy hours as a baker, sometimes you're so tired you don't want to cook when you get home.

Any hidden gems you've found in Columbus?

Sumeno's Italian Restaurant on Sawmill Road. They make their own noodles, and the noodles with red sauce are fantastic.


Ava Misseldine

Lives in: Westerville


Koko Tea Salon & Bakery

116 Mill St., Gahanna


Short Orders

Where Ava Misseldine goes for something specific

Ice Cream

Jeni's. The sweet corn is awesome.

small plates

The Happy Greek in the Short North. I love their dipping plate with hummus, skordalia and roasted red pepper and feta.


The Columbus Fish Market's crab appetizer. It's delicious. It's fresh lump crab meat that they put over ice, and then they drizzle lemon over it.

latin american

El Arepazo. I love the cilantro-lime sauce. You could put that on cardboard, and it would taste good.


Katzinger's Reuben