Muffin and donut fever have hit the Bay Area hard. All over social media, it's hard to miss Third Culture Bakery's colorfully glazed mochi donuts, artfully drizzled custard cakes, signature sesame-studded mochi muffins, and artfully layered matcha and cold brew drinks that taste just as good as they look.
Third Culture Bakery's pastries have become so popular in the Bay Area that it's easy to forget that the formerly wholesale-only bakery, open since 2015, opened its first showroom in Berkeley less than a year ago in June 2018, while expanding to nearly 60 retail locations.
And now the bakery is expanding to Aurora, Colo. According to Wenter Shyu, co-founder of Third Culture Bakery along with his business and domestic partner Sam Butarbutar, expansion has been part of the plan "since day one."
"We were always looking to expand," Shyu said. "We were always waiting for when ... our operations here in Berkeley would be stable enough for expansion, and now it has."
The Colorado location will feature largely the same menu as in Berkeley, with the addition of a full espresso bar. Most of the ingredients, including the mochiko rice flour from California's Koda Farms, the bakery's in-house brand of matcha, and coffee beans from Berkeley's 1951 Coffee Company will remain the same, but Shyu said the Colorado bakery will likely use locally sourced dairy products.
Along with delicious donuts and muffins, Third Culture Bakery is also hoping to expand the safe space and welcoming community it created in Berkeley as two gay bakers who are also "third culture kids" — the children of immigrants.
"So much of it is ingrained into our company culture. ... We do want to instill all of these great philosophies and create the safe spaces, and create these comfortable environments for our customers and our staff," Shyu said. "Hopefully that resonates with everyone in Colorado, too."
For those of us here in the Bay Area, Third Culture Bakery is offering up some exciting new things, too. The bakery recently teamed up with Kimchee Jeanius, a pop-up from kimchi maker Jean O. O recently moved to the Bay Area from Los Angeles, where she was a fermentation consultant for chef Ricardo Zarate at Rosaliné. Being of Korean descent, O grew up eating kimchi, but never thought much of it. Her interest in learning to make kimchi piqued when she began to read about its health benefits, and she began watching her mother make kimchi — using sugar, anchovy paste, shrimp paste, and lots of salt.
"I was thinking ... if there's a way to actually prepare kimchi in ways that we can eliminate the sugar or the shrimp paste, maybe just add enough salt ... and see if I can come up with a recipe, that would be super cool."
After many test batches and taste tests among friends and family members, O then began selling kimchi to friends and family members. On Feb. 16, O held her first pop-up at Third Culture Bakery, where she was able to share her kimchi with a wider audience.
The first pop-up was a success. "We're super excited to have her," Shyu said. In fact, Shyu was so impressed with the kimchi that he's considering incorporating it into a savory waffle as part of Third Culture Bakery's new spring menu, which will feature several new donuts and waffles and is expected to launch March 15.
O's plant-based, no sugar added Napa cabbage kimchi (also known as baechu) will be available for $10 for a 16-ounce jar at Third Culture Bakery in Berkeley (2701 Eighth St.) every first and third Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. until kimchi is sold out. The next pop-up date is March 16.