It’s been a little over a year since Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu introduced the Third Culture Bakery brand to Colorado. With an already established sense of inclusivity, a menu full of butter-mochi style doughnuts and hand whisked matcha in Denver — the duo has launched their third and latest store.
The prismatic space located in the RiNo neighborhood — is a grown-up version of Third Culture that focuses on matcha. Appropriately coined the “dream state” by Shyu, this location has wall-to-ceiling prism windows that reflect different shades of purple, pink, orange and blue depending on the sunlight. While Shyu is an expert at creating rooms that feel inviting while keeping up with trends, he wanted it to also feel like an escape for this community.
“2020 was so terrible — you can forget about the outside world and be who you want to be in here,” Shyu said.
Similar to other locations, the matcha is hand whisked to order in plain view like performance art. While soothing whisk sounds fill the air, waves of mirror-like chrome reflect off the wall. This new matcha café is a natural progression of the Third Culture brand as both Butarbutar and Shyu were looking to open more locations. Along with a new look, the menu has also received a few additions alongside the same mochi doughnuts and muffins infused with southeast Asian flavors like jasmine milk tea, yuzu lemon, ube coconut, black sesame and mango passion fruit.
Currently, the spring and summer menu offers a strawberry lychee matcha latte, caramel roasted matcha latte, passion fruit matcha sparkler, an ube strawberry caramel mochi waffle and more. There are plans for matcha soft serve and parfaits in the future.
Being a hardcore texture person, Butarbutar is eager to infuse more soft and crunchy elements into upcoming desserts. He is currently working on a honeycomb cake — it’s a rice flour and tapioca-based pastry usually found in Indonesian and Vietnamese cuisine.
While the new design is meant to feel like a safe space for dreaming with a euphoric ambiance — both Butarbutar and Shyu are far from oblivious to what’s been going on in the world. This socially conscious couple has extended their purpose from creating trailblazing mochi pastries and matcha drinks to lending a hand to various LGBTQ+ communities, Black Lives Matter organizations and remain vocal about their stance on the recent attacks on the Asian American Pacific Islander Community.
After donating for so long, the team at Third Culture couldn’t help but feel that there were more ways to help. Thus, the creation of safety kits to assist and protect the vulnerable from future attacks was born. Each kit includes one keychain alarm and pepper spray on a lanyard or wristband along with translated directions and explanations in multiple languages. Additionally, the team accepts donations to help the continuation of kit crafting through their online shop.
While Third Culture Bakery is the love child of both Butarbutar and Shyu, who are proud Asian immigrants and members of the LGBTQ+ community, the brand is vulnerable to unfair political judgments.
“Being political isn’t a choice, just by existing we are thrown into the discussion. That’s why we want to help,” Shyu said.
Safety kits aside, the team has created a safe place and immersive shopping experience inside a prismatic kaleidoscope for the Denver community.
“It’s really just a gay as fuck bakery. The recent attacks on trans youth are disheartening but we just want this to feel like a safe place,” Shyu said.
Third Culture Bakery’s newest location is located at 2500 Lawrence St., Denver. It is open from 9 to 4 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
All photography by Kori Hazel.