Blue Egyptian Water is a drink based on a medicinal herb known as blue lotus. The elixir’s unfamiliar flavor is meant to give the impression that the drink originates from Ancient Egypt. Photo by Yvonne Gonzalez

Volumetric flasks, vampire glasses and cone-shaped insulated cups filled with fuchsia, purple and blue elixirs line the shelves. The room is alive with the sound of clinking glasses. Not a single person here is drunk.

Roxa (ROE-shuh) means purple in Portuguese. Owners Michael Trainer and Jazmin Grant coined the name in honor of the deep purple açaí bowls and colored drinks they serve. The new hole-in-the-wall opened on Oct. 28. 

Inside Roxa Hammock Cafe, a boho-retro design opens itself to a bar. The wooden floor is lined with black tourmaline, a mineral believed to increase serotonin levels. 

For many UC Santa Cruz students and other young residents, Friday and Saturday nights mean going to parties, bar hopping or drinking at a friend’s house. 

“You go to one party, and it’s fun. And then you got that other rager the next day. All of a sudden you got this next party. And you figure out after a while you’re going to party after party after party,” Trainer said. “Before you know it, you’re an unintentional alcoholic.” 

Throughout California, 18.5 percent of adults seek help for drug and alcohol abuse. In Santa Cruz County, that number climbs to 23 percent. 

Trainer and Grant opened Roxa to provide a sober alternative to traditional bars. 

“Elixirs, along with kava, provide a social atmosphere where people get together to partake in something other than conventional drugs,” said Roxa customer Jacob Shaffi. “I think the hardest thing for people who are addicted to drugs is that all of their friends are doing it. It’s mostly the atmosphere rather than the actual drink itself.”

Grant became committed to creating a positive, comfortable atmosphere at Roxa after she experienced adverse living conditions. 

Six years ago, Grant moved into a house in Santa Cruz, and soon after, health complications arose. Between heart palpitations, insomnia, hallucinations and delusions, Grant knew something was wrong. She later found the culprit to be black mold poisoning.

Doctors encouraged Grant to see a therapist or go to a mental institution, but Grant believed her sickness was a result of her environment. Grant developed candidiasis, a fungal infection which doctors treated with antibiotics. Rather than helping, the medication caused her symptoms to intensify. After losing confidence in formal medical treatment, Grant discovered the herbal world.

Paloma Kunesh helps customers choose a drink based on which effect they want to feel or which medicinal properties they’d like to experience. Photo by Yvonne Gonzalez

“I researched for years before I figured out how to heal myself,” Grant said. “You can literally do anything. You can make your body feel any way that you want to.” 

The herbs offered at Roxa have numerous health benefits, including increasing gut microbial health. Every item on Roxa’s menu is free of gluten, refined sugar and artificial oils. Trainer said they carefully choose high quality ingredients, sourcing from China, India, Egypt, Korea, the Amazon and Santa Cruz. Unlike conventional bars, nothing served is toxic to the body.

The menu resembles an ancient periodic table, offering social elixirs, herbal tonics, coffee, herbal coffee alternatives and açaí bowls. The drinks consist entirely of herbs and have psychoactive and physiological effects. The properties range anywhere from socializing agents to aphrodisiacs to mood stabilizers. 

Spaces like Roxa provide a safe and fun alternative for those who want to socialize without alcohol. Around swinging hammocks and swirling drinks, there’s endless opportunity for conversation.

“Because it’s a tourist town, the nightlife is all there is,” Trainer said. “So if you’re not going to drink, you can either go to the movie theater or go home. It’s very isolating, and so there are no other options. We want to be that other option.” 

Roxa Hammock Cafe is located at 110 Cooper Street, Suite 100G in Abbott Square next to Pour Tap Room.

UCSC Recovery Meetings

  • Tuesdays from 8-9 p.m. at the Charles E. Merrill Lounge
  • Wednesdays from 7-8 p.m. at The Cove
  • Fridays from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Kresge Student Lounge