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!
One of the main things we miss since we move away from Chicago was its proliferation of amazing Mexican pandarias and their huge assortment of pan dulce – Mexican sweet breads and cookies. When we went to LA we knew we would be able to get our fix. One of our friends tipped us off to a place in particular – La Monarca, which is an upscale pan dulce (traditional Mexican sweet breads and pastries) shop with espresso drinks and light bites. La Monarca is a small but flourishing chain of cafes with about a dozen locations in the LA Metro area – think Mexican-tinged Starbucks, but with better everything. We visited the Santa Monica location (1300 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403). The cafe was bright and airy, and was filled with a combination of people on their laptops, students and patrons grabbing a quick coffee and pastry before work.
Once you enter, on the left is the traditional case of pan dulce – you grab a tray and a set of tongs and load up the tray with whatever you want. Of course there are conchas, orejas (palmiers) and puerquitos, but also a few more unusual options like cuernitos (croissants) filled with dulce de leche, chocolate, cream cheese or guava and dulce de leche bread pudding. You can also go a bit more savory with bollilo bread rolls, baguettes or cornbread. We selected a mini cinnamon sugar concha, a puerquito and a a dulce de leche croissant, which had been particularly recommended to us. Of course we had our eye on the drink menu, which boasted single-origin Oaxacan coffee alongside cafe de olla (hot or cold coffee brewed with brown sugar and cinnamon), Mexican hot chocolate and champurrado (a sweetened chocolate elote drink). We get champurrado whenever we can find it, so we were extremely excited!
The refrigerated case is also full of other tempting looking cakes including tres leches, flan, dulce de leche and tiramisu. For heartier appetites they have salads, quiches, molletes (open faced sandwiches), and breakfast tacos, all with a Mexican twist including options with chorizo, huevos rancheros, chicken mole and salsa verde. We snagged an extra yogurt parfait for some protein. Everything at La Monarca was delicious (if a little pricey), and we enjoyed their modern twist on the traditional Mexican panaderia. We could definitely see ourselves becoming regulars if we lived closer!
During the World Cup this summer we talked a little about 538’s International Food Association World Cup for the best national cuisine (the winner was Italy, by the way). This time around, the data-hungry minds at 538 have turned their analysis to the best burrito in America. In some ways this seemed like a potentially even more daunting task, given the vast regional differences and preferences for burritos. However, 538 was able to develop a shortlist of 64 finalists, and burrito tester Anna Maria Barry-Jester actually went from coast to coast (and Hawaii) tasting the burritos first-hand. The burritos were ranked on five parameters – Tortilla, Principal filling, Other ingredients, Appearance and Flavor profile – each out of 20, for a best possible score of 100. The results are in, and 538 has selected a winner of the coveted “best burrito” honor: La Taqueria in the Mission district of San Francisco. This was a pretty rigorous study and I commend 538’s thoroughness, for the sports/rankings geeks, check out the bracket view. Do you agree with the results?
Welcome to Eating the World! We’re two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.To contact us for partnerships or just to say hi, email us at eating the world (at) gmail.com
Eating The World · We're two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.