Reigning from the Bay Area, Third Culture Bakery has opened its first café in Aurora on East Colfax Avenue. Owners and life partners, Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu have put a twist on traditional bakery desserts by creating mochi muffins, doughnuts and waffles.
Third Culture’s largest sit-down café serves butter-mochi style doughnuts with flavors ranging from jasmine milk tea, strawberry cream, yuzu lemon and mango passion fruit to black sesame, dark chocolate, ube coconut and strawberry guava.
While mochi has become trendy to use in various desserts, these ingredients are what Butarbutar and Shyu grew up eating. From the very beginning, the masterminds behind baked mochi muffins have put their heart and soul into their brand.
Starting out in a small kitchen, they both delivered about 100 pastries each week through the Bay Area out of their 2005 Toyota Matrix. Spending all hours of the night crafting an out-of-state dessert shop, the Third Culture brand has grown significantly.
Not only are the flavors of each dessert special to both Butarbutar and Shyu, the name Third Culture has a strong significance to them as well. The name actually derives from sociologist Ruth Hill Useem, who describes kids that grew up in a different culture than their parents.
Both Butarbutar and Shyu immigrated to the United States at a young age. Butarbutar left Indonesia when he was two-years-old and Shyu left Taiwan when he was six-years-old. As third culture kids themselves, this term only seemed right when brainstorming bakery names.
While the bakery’s name perfectly signifies its owners, the flavor profiles of each dessert collaborate with their cultures as well. They feature flavors like ube (sweet, purple yam), matcha, buko pandan (a sweet, Filipino dessert consisting of jelly, young coconut and sweetened cream infused with pandan.)
Third Culture uses a variety of fresh ingredients like coconut sugar, matcha, star anise and local ingredients like organic eggs, butter and milk.
The engaging menu has over 20 different flavors of seasonal mochi doughnuts and some Colorado only flavors coming soon. The drink list is stacked with six different matcha lattes, two roasted matcha drinks and five different coffee options including traditional cold brews and lychee cold brews. The matcha latte ($4.50) and lychee matcha sparkler ($4.50) are some of the bakery’s most notable drinks— commonly paired with the original mochi muffin. Third Culture’s butter-mochi style doughnuts are baked to mimic the lightness of a fried dough on the outside while maintaining the dense chewiness of a butter mochi on the inside. These doughnuts are made using mochiko rice flour, organic French-style butter and milk — providing the familiarity of traditional yeast-raised and fried treats but with the unique density from the mochi.
The real showstoppers are the mochi brownies and muffins. These dense yet chewy muffins come in various flavors from matcha and chocolate to black Sesame and churro mochi. The flavor profiles of each muffin are apparent with every bite. The chocolate mochi muffin has a similar taste to a slice of homemade brownies. Both the crispness of an edge brownie and the chewy consistency of a center brownie — all baked into one well-crafted mochi muffin.
While the Aurora location is new to the scene, Shyu and Butarbutar have two more locations in the pipeline. One location is set to open in downtown Denver later this summer and another location is still to be determined.
Third Culture Bakery is located at 9935 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora. It is set to open to the public on Sunday, February 9 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
All Photography By Jason Stilgebouer