Kin Bakeshop rotates their donut and drink flavors daily, announcing each menu drop on their Instagram. Felicia Lo / Daily Nexus

Each bite of Kin Bakeshop’s mochi donut has the perfect texture and balance of innovative flavors. It’s addicting. One bite after another I question my own sanity. I remember my reaction to my first bite of one of Kin’s donuts: eye closed, fist clenched, breath stopped, trying to find the balance between inhaling the entire donut and slowing down to savor each bite. 

Located at the Turnpike Shopping Center, Kin Bakeshop crafts mochi donuts, brioche donuts and a special set of drinks inspired by Asian desserts. The interior of the shop features a minimalistic yet stylistic design — modern and cozy. Stepping inside is like opening my eyes to a new world that is not often seen in the Santa Barbara scenery. Every couple of days, I excitedly check Kin’s Instagram account for new menu releases of their brioche and mochi donuts: always a new flavor and always a new texture with a hint of innovation. Although they have a few staple flavors, such as the cinnamon Nutella mochi donut, I can always count on Kin to create flavor combinations that I’ve never seen before or never thought would work. They keep me on my toes, and keep me hooked and never bored, always having me lurking around their account and always planning my next visit even though my wallet begs me not to. 

Granted, the first two times I tried to get donuts at Kin were failures. The first time I went was after I had seen a friend post about it, arriving at the shop at 3:30 p.m., before the closing time listed on Google Maps, unaware of the “customs” of going to Kin. In hindsight, that was a stupid move because even now, getting there at 9:30 a.m. could mean not getting any donuts at all. I thought I had learned my lesson the second time I went, and I was met with a line that probably would have translated into over an hour of waiting for donuts. 

So here’s what you have to do: you’ve got to plan your Kin visits in advance, wake up early enough to get there before they open if you want to be certain that you get the flavors you want, especially if they are the popular ones. On weekdays, except for Fridays, there usually isn’t a long wait. Strolling in the early afternoons might even win you a donut of your choice. However, if you want to get a specific pastry from Kin on Fridays through Sundays, then you better plan ahead or you will be met with a two-hour-long line.

But is all this worth it? Getting a pastry had never been this much hassle until I became hooked on Kin’s mochi donuts. Every time I take a bite, my slightly sore legs from standing in line in the early mornings make it worth it. There’s a reason Kin is a weekly destination for me and for many others. As a citrus fanatic, their recent lemon yuzu and mandarin tanghulu (yes, they put actual pieces of tanghulu on the donuts) mochi donuts were some of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time. Without a set menu, it is impossible to give a recommendation item to get at Kin, but there were some memorable flavors that I would like to see again in the future: hibiscus, Chinese almond cookie, Korean sweet potato and many more. I hate to say this, but you just had to be there, or on their Instagram the day they released the menu. It’s always different, and it’s always changing.

Although the star of the show is the donuts, Kin also has an intriguing menu of drinks with various Einspanners, cream tops and tea lattes of Asian flavors. Now, I haven’t tried one yet (which means I will eventually), but they do look exquisite, and they look their price. A friend who has tried their matcha Einspanner said that Kin’s version of the drink is “a matcha equivalent to the teas CHICHA San Chen makes.” And having been to CHICHA San Chen, a chain tea shop honored by the Michelin-backed International Taste Institute in 2021, I have to say that I now have high expectations of Kin’s drinks. Similarly to how they craft their pastries, they often have specialty drinks that they offer only on certain occasions.

Even though getting a piece of Kin’s delights is sometimes more cumbersome than going to a regular down-the-road bakery, you can always stay up-to-date through their Instagram account. Whenever a new flavor of donuts or drinks is launched, you can count on them to make a timely announcement. Even when you are right outside waiting in line, they send out updates on their pastry counts and offer hot drinks on the windier days. Although I would say that efficiency is not their strong suit, given the often long wait times, their consideration and care for their customers make up for it. 

Kin’s attention to detail and the thoughtfulness they put into their craft and business really shine through regarding how they interact with their customers online and in person. You can see how owners Tommy Chang and Will Chen really care about their employees and the community that they’ve built through the messages they post on their Instagram account, sharing their gratitude to everyone involved in their ambitions. Besides being a bakery, they are truly an inspiration on how to run a community-focused business.

A version of this article appeared on p. 15 of the February 15, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.