Third Culture Bakery’s mochi doughnut photographed in the Denver Post studio. (Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post)
A line stretched down the snow-covered block on Sunday morning for the grand opening of Third Culture Bakery in Aurora. Customers waited as long as 2 1/2 hours to step inside the pink and white store, also known as the “showroom” by its owners.
By mid-week, the line still formed inside the bakery, with customers trekking from Green Valley Ranch or CU Denver for tastes of chewy, mochi-filled muffins (gluten-free, $3.95) and doughnuts (also gluten-free, $3-$3.25) and various preparations of matcha tea — like in lychee “sparklers” or roasted lattes (drinks from $2.50-$7).
“You can feel the love,” co-owner Wenter Shyu said from behind the pastry counter.
Third Culture founders Shyu and Sam Butarbutar, along with Denver business partner Rachel Taber, brought their Berkeley, Calif.-based business to Aurora last week.
This East Colfax and Elmira Street shop is the first Colorado location for the multicultural bakery, with another planned for somewhere near downtown Denver next summer. The team also has plans for L.A. and Tokyo outposts.
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“My Jakarta heritage is coming out,” said customer Paul Sahertian, excited after reading a backstory and manifesto printed in bold pink on the entryway wall.
With Third Culture, Butarbutar and Shyu say they want the products to speak to their respective childhoods in Indonesia and Taiwan, as well as to their love story and created family here in the U.S.
They sweeten baked goods with a blend of pandan leaf and coconut milk, and they fill the doughnuts and muffins with rice flour, resulting in a sticky, Hawaiian-style butter-mochi texture.
“It’s really cool that they have ingredients from different parts of Asia,” Sahertian said. “Not just Japan, Korea, China, but the Southeast islands, too.”
Third Culture’s matchas are whisked to order behind the counter. They’re poured cold into carbonated beverages called sparklers (fruit-infused) or plovers (topped with whipped cream), or served roasted and hot with chocolatey notes as in lattes, or else spiced with turmeric, a la golden milk.
“We just want more people to know and experience the mochi muffin and then drink matcha the way we drink and enjoy matcha,” Shyu told The Denver Post.
For now, Third Culture is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day except Monday, and Shyu says that more menu items like soft-serve and “sit-down” food are in the cafe’s future.
9935 E. Colfax Ave., thirdculturebakery.com.
From left, CU Denver students Daniela Gonzalez, Brenda Le, Eddy Panklang and Tyler Nguyen at Third Culture Bakery on Feb. 12. (Josie Sexton, The Denver Post)