Food and beverages offer a perfect and nuanced interpretation of the term “third culture kid,” or TCK, which refers to children raised in a culture other than their parents’ native one. The result is, according to Third Culture Bakery’s hot pink handout: “Forming a third interpretation of the two. A global generation.” Though mochi muffins and matcha drinks were not even on the radar when the term was coined in the 1950s,* it is an apt description of this new E. Colfax bakery. For bakery founders Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu, both raised by immigrant parents in the U.S., TCK is suggestive of their creative take on food and community. Menu items—muffins, doughnuts, matcha drinks—offer tangible representations of their TCK identities. The inspiration and ingredients originate in the U.S., Indonesia, Japan, and beyond. All pastries are gluten-free, baked in a tree-nut-free kitchen exclusively with mochiko rice flour that they source from Koda Farm, family-owned for generations in California. Butarbutar and Shyu are equally particular about their other ingredients, importing their black sesame seeds from an 11th-generation family farm in Japan, and using coconut sugar from Indonesia.
Beyond the tasty treats, the “third culture” moniker speaks to their view of the bakery as “our chosen family,” a sort of third culture in its own right. “This bakery exists because of love,” says Shyu. “We try to really welcome everyone…and we coach our staff and team that ‘you are working for a company that, yes, makes amazing pastries….But there’s no race, there’s no gender…no barriers…it is our chosen family.’” Their business ethos is, “We treat everyone with grace and kindness,” which also means profit-sharing and fair wages for all staff.
Though their Aurora bakery just opened, Butarbutar and Shyu now live in Aurora and manage their Berkeley, California store from afar. “Colorado has been so kind to us,” says Shyu, sharing how supportive the City of Aurora was in helping them and their landlord (herself a TCK) to get the old building renovated. Visit Third Culture at 9935 E. Colfax Ave. in Aurora or www.thirdculturebakery.com. A second location is anticipated to be open by Summer 2020 in RINO.
* The term “third culture” was coined by sociologists/anthropologists John and Ruth Useem after their family’s year-long visit to India.
Front Porch photos by Christie Gosch