Tag Archives: Berkeley

Our favorite Bay Area matcha at Third Culture Bakery

When we were in LA and San Francisco this past month, one of our goals was to find the best Matcha latte in each city (and across both). Matcha is powdered green tea, made from specifically shade-grown tencha tea leaves. At, home we make our own matcha drink every morning using Sugimoto Tea Reserve Mizuki Matcha, however, we are always on the lookout for good tea on our trips. After our searches, we can say hands-down that our favorite matcha stop on our most recent trip was Third Culture Bakery (2701 Eighth St, Berkeley, CA 94710).

Third Culture Bakery is the brainchild of Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu, who wanted to pay homage to their upbringings in Indonesia and Taiwan in the cafe’s flavors. Third Culture has a variety of matcha lattes ($5), and you can get all kinds of add-ins, including caramel and strawberry lychee for and extra 50 cents. My personal favorite was the caramel swirl, seen in front here. There was also an unusual offering – the roasted matcha latte ($5) – which has a tan hue, and a roasted hojicha-like flavor. At Third Culture, they prepare the matcha in a traditional bowl with a whisk, which is one of the tell-tale signs that you are getting a made-from-scratch matcha latte and not a powdered mix. The matcha itself is also very high quality – smooth and not bitter at all – and you can taste the difference in every sip. If you want even finer matcha, you can order a special ceremonial-grade matcha ($7).

For those looking for options other than matcha, there are also cold brew or pour over coffee selections, and even some decaffeinated options like sodas with house-made syrups. The other key offering at Third Culture Bakery are their mochi baked goods (made from sweet michiko rice flour), which have gotten a certain amount of fame in the Bay Area. You can get mochi muffins in flavors like black sesame (pictured in front above), ube, chocolate, and matcha, alongside mochi doughnuts and waffles. We are particularly fond of the mochi muffins, especially the chocolate, and the “original” flavor (seen in back, above), which is lightly scented with pandan and topped with black and white sesame seeds. These mochi treats have a delicious chewy texture, and a savory heft that complemented the sweetness.

The inside of the shop is cute and colorful, with a small selection of merch, and a large kitchen. You can enjoy your treats to go, or sit outside on a row of outdoor seating built into the steps between the store and the sidewalk, which we happily did on a lovely sunny day. We highly recommend Third Culture Bakery, since we have tried a fair number of matcha lattes in the past few years, and this is definitely our favorite so far. We love their mission, style, baked goods, and most importantly, their matcha!

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A Brazilian Corner in Berkeley: Brazil Cafe

Brazil Cafe
1983 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA

I had a lunch break for my conference at UC-Berkeley – what to do? Downtown Berkeley is overrun with Asian fare, southern and eastern, but I was looking for something more esoteric. A quick call back to L at our home base, some internet research, and a leisurely walk later I found myself staring across Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley toward a parking lot wedged inside an office park – a parking lot home to Berkeley’s most colorful eatery, Brazil Cafe. One look at the small, festive stall and I knew this was going to be a good meal, and judging by the selections on the surfboard-menu, my hunch was right.Brazil Cafe

I walked right up to the counter, and before I even had a chance to order, the unemotional but efficient owner was shoving a toothpick of tri-tip steak toward my face – her speciality. Tri-tip is a special cut of meat, a little more marbled than other steaks and extra juicy, which at Brazil Cafe gets thrown on a sandwich and combined with a rich and flavorful green garlic sauce. “I’ll have that.” Along with a mango smoothie. A combination which, as it turned out, was one of the special student combos – all for $7.95.brazil cafe tri-tip

I got a number and picked a seat out back, amidst the jamming sounds of contemporary Brazilian samba and photos of American tourists at Ipanema Beach. The wait for the food was short, so I was ready to dive in to my sandwich – and what a sandwich it was. The thin paper sandwich tray was clearly ill-designed to contain the massive tri-tip, a problem which I set out to rectify by scarfing it down. I was pretty hungry. And you have to be to come here, the juicy, lightly marbled meat, thick bread, and rich, flavorful garlic sauce make for a filling, messy, and tasty meal. The sauce makes the sandwich (as many sauces do), and I was frankly surprised by its heaviness and strong garlic flavor (not that anyone is complaining about too much garlic). Good as it was, the mango smoothie really hit the spot by balancing out the sandwich flavors with a nice, sweet, fruity, and really fresh finish to the lunch. All in all, it was one of those meals you could tell was all fresh ingredients used right on the spot, and given Brazil Cafe’s parking lot real estate, that was pretty surprising. So kudos to the owner (a Brazilian native – I could tell by her accent) for giving Berkeley a great, filling, fun lunch spot, particularly one that gets Brazil out of the all-steakhouse-all-the-time reputation it seems to have Stateside.

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