17 June 2022
BERKELEY, Calif. — Mochi may be a staple at Third Culture Bakery, but owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu will tell you that love is the main ingredient driving the space.
“As we grew and expanded, we found our voice to really show what it could look like when a bakery exists because of love,” said Shyu. “Essentially, we have the bakery because two men fell in love and so we are sharing that love story.”
The dynamic baking duo fell in love in Berkeley and opened Third Culture Bakery, a community gathering space that offers pastries reflective of their childhoods in Indonesia and Taiwan.
“Third Culture is a term to explain kids who came to the U.S. and grew up in a culture that’s different from their parents,” described Butarbutar. “And so, these kids end up kind of forming their own third interpretation of the two cultures.”
The bakery’s sweet, chewy lineup of donuts and muffins incorporates flavors, like matcha, pandan, mango, passionfruit, and more. Their signature Mochi Muffin was their very first offering, and it’s now a best-selling symbol of the establishment.
“The Mochi Muffin does tell that story of Third Culture because it is something that Sam made growing up in Indonesia with his mom that he now translated using French-style butters and baked with it,” said Shyu. “And so, it really tells that diaspora.”
When guests arrive at Third Culture Bakery, they’re greeted by whimsical decorations, pink lighting, and countless pastries ready to be packaged and sealed with a pride flag sticker.
“We both came out to our families in the beginning stages of Third Culture,” recalled Shyu.
“When I came out they really took it not very well, and so my relationship with my family doesn’t exist,” explained Butarbutar. “We made a conscious decision to turn our bakery into a safe space where people can feel welcome no matter what your orientations are, no matter what your ethnicities are.”
He added, “People really resonate with it and told us their story and their struggle, which makes me feel that this bakery has become bigger than just muffins and donuts.”
Butarbutar and Shyu have the core values of inclusiveness, acceptance, and love baked into the mission of Third Culture Bakery. The spot represents their chosen family, and they welcome everyone who walks through the doors to be part of that family.
“We’re leading with our truth, and we’re leading with just what we want to do on our own terms,” said Shyu. “I really hope that our little pastries that we make can hopefully change something and change something for the better.”