“We keep it traditional, but we give it a local twist,” says Mike Norris, owner of 805 Boba, describing his shop’s spin on the classic Taiwanese beverage, which consists of tea mixed with milk or fruit and the tiny tapioca pearls known as boba. “I go to the farmers’ market without any direction and just kind of wander until something looks good,” explained Norris, who each week creates simple syrups from his latest finds to use in the drinks. Past picks have included dates, lavender, and mulberry.
Hailing from San Diego, Norris opened the shop in December when he realized that Santa Barbara was lacking boba options. “It’s fun, and it’s different,” he said. “There’s a ton of variety. It’s something that the town needed.”
The giant chalkboard menu features smoothies, slushes, teas, milk teas, and coffee drinks, which can all be fully customized with jellies, syrups, and strawberry and/or brown honey boba. He uses coffee from Santa Barbara Roasting Company to concoct a delightful coffee-boba combination that tops brown honey boba with espresso. And the Kokomo smoothie, a seriously satisfying concoction of chocolate, coconut, espresso, and brown honey boba, will have you rethinking your regular old cuppa joe.
Lighter options include the mango slush; when ordered “spiced up,” it comes with a generous sprinkling of the Mexican-chile-pepper-based seasoning Tajín, sure to enliven and refresh taste buds. The Thai tea smoothie, with fresh tea blended with ice cream, is the go-to drink for Norris, a former bartender at Eos and Tonic, where he’s also creating boba cocktails for special events.
The shop’s upbeat atmosphere features music, teenagers, and families wrapped up in board games, such as Dominoes and Uno, and busy students enjoying free Wi-Fi. The vibe illustrates Norris’s desire for his shop to be a place where friends and families can come to relax and enjoy. He even provides a discount for teens involved in the nonprofit organization AHA!, which aims to empower teens to create calm and connected communities. Said Norris, “We want to be more than just a storefront and be an actual part of the community.”
651 Paseo Nuevo, Suite 213; open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; (805) 845-5655; 805boba.com