First Look

Third Culture Bakery Debuts Mochi Muffins This Weekend

Mochi doughnuts at Third Culture Bakery.
Mochi doughnuts at Third Culture Bakery. Mark Antonation
Third Culture Bakery founders Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu are all in on Colorado, buying a home in Denver and opening a branch of their popular Berkeley, California, mochi muffin business at 9935 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora.

The two founded Third Culture in 2016 and sold their unique rice-flour muffins and doughnuts at farmers' markets and cafes before launching their own cafe and bakery a year later. The business soon grew to more than sixty wholesale accounts and twenty or so employees. Then, Rachel Taber joined the team as chief financial officer and planted the idea of bringing mochi muffins to metro Denver, where she grew up. The rest was just a matter of scouting a location for the bakery, and with the help of the City of Aurora's Development Services, they found just the right spot in downtown Aurora.

click to enlarge Third Culture Bakery opens in Aurora on Sunday, February 9. - MARK ANTONATION
Third Culture Bakery opens in Aurora on Sunday, February 9.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Wenter Shyu loads up the display case with fresh mochi doughnuts. - MARK ANTONATION
Wenter Shyu loads up the display case with fresh mochi doughnuts.
Mark Antonation
The Colfax Avenue bakery will serve as the main production facility as Third Culture expands its wholesale business into metro Denver. Taber notes that plans are also in the works to open one more retail shop in central Denver.

click to enlarge An assortment of mochi muffin flavors. - MARK ANTONATION
An assortment of mochi muffin flavors.
Mark Antonation
Butarbutar is the chef at Third Culture, and he uses high-quality ingredients to create deep flavors in every muffin and doughnut. Shyu explains that the paste that goes into the black sesame muffins and doughnuts comes from a family-owned business in Japan that has been making the product since 1800. The mango-passion fruit glaze on bright-orange doughnuts bursts with the flavor of real juice. And the matcha green tea flavor uses a powder that's made in Japan just for Third Culture. All of the baked goods are gluten-free and are sweetened with Indonesian coconut sugar and enriched with butter from a Bay Area dairy farm. The Koda Farms rice flour gives the doughnuts and muffins a toothsome, slightly chewy texture perfect for the kind of person who pulls the brownie pan out of the oven just a few minutes early. In addition to muffins and doughnuts, hot and cold coffee and tea drinks are part of the menu.

"We want this to be a safe space for everyone," Shyu says of the inclusive culture of the bakery.

Third Culture Bakery will hold its grand opening from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 9, with dragon dancers from the Colorado Asian Cultural Heritage Center, a champagne toast and 20 percent off purchases for those who RSVP. You can also sign up for a VIP tasting, which includes five mochi muffins, twelve butter mochi doughnuts, a matcha drink and a tote bag, all for $42. RSVP or purchase a VIP ticket on Eventbrite.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation