Third Culture Bakery (Berkeley, CA) – I remember I first randomly had one of Third Culture’s muffin’s at Academic Coffee around the end of September last year (2017). It’s amazing to see how much they’ve grown and how many amazing local businesses are carrying their products. I was really excited when Third Culture posted on their Instagram that they were going to be having an open house for their first anniversary, so I signed up right away. They were also having a brunch event before the the open house, which served similar dishes but at a more intimate level – I wasn’t able to make that because I was in Concord earlier, but they just posted on their Instagram that they’re looking to make these brunches a more regular event! Super exciting.
When I arrived around 2:30 pm, the line wasn’t that long at all. It took a few minutes to get in, and since it’s essentially 4-5 people manning their table, it did take some time. It wasn’t a bad thing since they were giving out raspberry lychee mimosas and Catahoula coffee to those that attended. I just asked for the raspberry lychee part which tasted so good – it was really sweet! I don’t like lychee that much but this was great. The coffee was actually pretty strong and it was straight up coffee with no sugar, but it actually helped when the lychee got too sweet for me. Bobcut Magazine was also co-hosting the event, and they put together a special newspaper for the occasion!
While in line, it was fun to watch one of the owners make their matcha drinks they were serving – which were really good! You could either order a Lychee Matcha Fresca or an Iced Matcha Latte. I will admit we ordered the Lychee one for the ‘gram, but I think it ended up being a better decision because the raspberry lychee cuts the strong matcha flavor and brings a lot of sweetness to the drink. I’m going to be honest – I’m not really a fan of matcha, but something about how Third Culture puts it together makes me enjoy it!
Okay, onto the menu. While the original matcha mochi muffin was on there (I mean, it’s what made them, the star has gotta be at the celebration), they created several dishes for this special occasion. Among the items on their menu, which we didn’t order were the Matcha French Toast, Mochi Muffin Bread Pudding, Matcha Custard Cake, and a Three Cheese Biscuit B.L.A.T. I do wish we had ordered the bread pudding looking back, but I ordered three things and that was more than enough!
However, what we did end up ordering – along with the Fresca – was the Mochi Muffin Waffle, the Mochi Yaki, and a classic Mochi Muffin. We waited outside on the sidewalk where there was sitting space to enjoy our meal. This neighborhood is pretty quiet and chill and it was a nice sunny day to enjoy it all.
I was incredibly excited for the waffle! They had been talking about their Mochi Muffin Waffles on their social media for awhile as one of the brunch items and I love waffles, so I knew I was going to be ordering one of these. The waffle comes with a espresso Chantilly cream on top and some edible flower petals. The waffle was a little crunchy on the edges, but I actually liked that. It tasted like I was biting into a chewy cookie or something – the mocha gives it such an interesting texture. The waffle was light overall, and that Chantilly cream was so good – it complemented the waffle perfectly. Something about them reminded me of Blue Bottle’s Leige Waffles, though it doesn’t have that same sweetness – which I was fine with tbh. I really hope they consider making these for a coffee shop or two in the East or South Bay – I would totally order them!
Next was the Mochi Yaki. This was kind of a risk – it was described to be sweet and savory, so I just kind of ordered it on a whim, especially since I heard someone leaving recommend to others that they should order it. It’s their take on a Takoyaki, which is a Japanese snack made up of a wheat flour based fritters, octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, green onion, and have sauce drizzled on and then topped with seaweed and dried bonito flakes. I wish I had been told that bonito flakes were on it, because I don’t like them – and this only confirmed it. I don’t like smokey things and this tastes so smokey and fishy that somehow it strangely reminds me of how bacon smells, which is off-putting. Otherwise, I think I would’ve enjoyed Third Culture’s take on it. Instead of the balls, they substituted savory mochi, which were a great rendition! If you’re cool with bonito flakes, then this dish was fantastic.
And finally, the OG – the mochi muffin. I love the powdered sugar on top, it adds a little extra sweetness in each bite as you try to stuff the muffin in your face because you want to eat it so quickly! I really enjoy what mochi brings to pastries as texture, it makes it so thick and chewy, but doesn’t make it feel dense or dry.
Overall, it was a great event and look forward to continue supporting Third Culture! They’re such chill people and really want to put out great, locally sourced products for the Bay Area community. Can’t wait what’s in store for year 2!