New local gem on Maui’s north shore, The Boba Bar, bursts with flavor, fun
Eating a drink may seem contradictory for some — but for boba lovers, that’s the best part.
“Boba has a little ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response)-inducing feels,” Pā’ia resident Malia Stewart said, laughing.
In other words, chewing on tapioca boba or popping pearls of juice can trigger a pleasant experience. That enjoyment is something Stewart said is needed during challenging times.
Maui has limited options for boba drinks, though, so Stewart and business partner Sierra Coullahan of Hāʻiku decided to open The Boba Bar Paia at 2A Baldwin Ave., just mauka of Pāʻia Fish Market, on Jan. 31.
“We wanted to bring back the feeling of community, and give the locals a place to grab a quick coffee and pastry in the morning or a boba and a snack in the afternoon,” Stewart said. “It’s our mission to give people a place to feel a moment of comfort and familiarity in these times of such uncertainty.”
The local store offers boba drinks — a blend of either tea or juice mixed with milk, fruit or syrups over ice. But the kicker is adding small beads of traditional tapioca boba or fruit-flavored popping boba, topped off with a big straw.
Boba are pearls made with tapioca flour and brown sugar. They are boiled, stewed and kept warm to keep a bouncy consistency, Coullahan said.
“It is truly something you must experience to fully understand,” she said. “My younger sister introduced to me boba and I have never stopped loving it.”
The two use quality ingredients and have a selection of boba recipes, including the espresso boba drink with vanilla ice cream, espresso boba and chocolate drizzle; or the butterfly tea made with a butterfly tea base, homemade strawberry boba and milk. Boba Bar Paia also has green or black teas in honeydew, lychee and mango flavors, along with milk tea, taro tea, Thai tea and matcha tea.
Beyond the boba, the shop holds an array of espresso and coffee drinks brewed with Anthony’s Coffee, which is still roasted and sold at local retailers. Pastries, Spam musubi, Pockys and other snacks round out the options.
Boba Bar Paia is a resurrection of Anthony’s Coffee shop, which was founded in the ʻ90s around the corner by Stewart’s father, Ed “Anthony” Stewart, and became a north shore coffee landmark for two decades before closing.
Stewart, who moved from Oahu as a youngster to help at Anthony’s Coffee, said her dad is proud of the revamp.
“He’s excited. He was in here helping me get things set up. He was tasting everything. My partner said, ‘Let’s just put a rocking chair out here and your dad can just bring in all the business,’ ” she said.
Though just weeks since opening, The Boba Bar already stands out as a local gem amid what can be the tourist trap of Paia. Both owners are Hawaii born with strong Maui ties — they know what it takes to curate a diverse blend of familiar goods often found at Maui’s beloved mom-and-pop shops.
“The owners are the coolest,” said Jake Souki, a customer from Haiku. “I like the location, as well as the diversity, that you can get coffee or boba or Spam musubi in the morning, or you can come and get an afternoon treat.”
Stewart said plans for the future include working out the details of daily operations, reinvesting in the shop, collaborating with other local businesses and working to create a space where the community can “enjoy and gather.”
“We are still waiting on our hanging outdoor sign and permanent printed in-store menu board, and figuring out what will be our peak times for business,” she said. “But even without these major components, we have gotten a lot of community support so far.”
Stewart thanked people who encouraged the two through the daunting process of opening a brick-and-mortar business during a pandemic.
“We just want to extend our gratitude to everyone that has supported us during this long and often stressful process,” she said. “And to everyone who has visited us in the shop so far, we appreciate you more than we could ever express.”
Coullahan said the customers are the greatest reward of their new venture.
“Since openings our doors, we have been having a ton of fun,” she said. “I love watching the excitement on our customers faces.”