A Visit To Third Culture Coffee

Located in Old Bellevue is the unique and aesthetic Third Culture Coffee (3C). The cafe sits in an apartment building’s retail space and is conveniently less than a block away from Bellevue Park. Upon entering, you are immediately greeted with a friendly hello from a barista and by the giant copper 3C logo painted on the far wall. When regular dine-in is allowed, a customer can set up shop at one of the many tables or relax with a beverage in one of the chestnut club chairs. One can take a moment to browse around the cafe to admire the high industrial ceilings, variously displayed plants, the hanging artwork or check out the retail shelf loaded with international and USA-made products. A long, white marble counter houses a La Marzocco espresso machine, top quality scales, gooseneck kettles and personal brewing devices. Look above the counter to see shelves of ceramic teapots, wine and port glasses, copper kettles, more plants for decor and a giant blackboard with a fantastically drawn mission statement and story.  

sign at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington
coffee at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington

Bringing The World Together 

The name Third Culture has meaning behind it. The owners, Radhikka and Varun Kapur, were third culture kids themselves. Both born and raised in southern India, they then spent young adult life in Australia before heading to New York to pursue career goals. Eventually, they made it over to Bellevue, Washington, where they started their cafe. Their passion for coffee developed over a lifetime, from trying different beans and methods on their travels around the world. This passion was the fuel for their company mission — to bring the community together through coffee. 

Have you ever had the pleasure of watching the traditional pour of an Indian filter coffee in southern India? Or observed the hot sand bath of a Turkish coffee (recognized by several names) in one of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea? If so, what a blessing! If not, enter Third Culture Coffee. The founders and partners of 3C have all experienced worldly culture and wanted to accumulate those experiences into a specific menu that represents and welcomes all, creates new moments and brings some much-needed nostalgia for many.

Americana at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington

The Menu

Third Culture Coffee has gone above and beyond to provide quality products that taste quality and to craft beverage recipes that are as close to their traditional origin as possible. Their menu is uniquely constructed into sections that feature signature drinks from different countries, such as a French drinking chocolate or Spanish bombon, multiple espresso options, single brews, imported Asian teas, coffee flights and wine and port options.

3C does not roast their own beans. Instead, they’ve committed to the amazing True North Coffee Roasters, based out of Ballard, Seattle. True North has been their roasting provider from the beginning. True North also created a special bean blend, DOS, that is for 3C only. DOS is used as the main espresso option and is a staple ingredient for several signature drinks on the menu.  

sign at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington
sign at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington
sign at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington

Signature Examples 

Indian Filter Coffee & Haldi Doodh 
Origin: India
Nostalgic compliments are most often heard with these two drinks. The Indian filter coffee can’t be boiled as it typically is in a southern Indian household but is heated on the machine as hot as possible, and then cooled by pouring in a classic juggling manner into a stainless-steel cup and saucer, imported from India. Haldi Doodh translates as “golden milk.” An effortless combination of turmeric, a popular spice in India, jaggery and milk all steamed together. Caffeine-free, a Haldi Doodh is a popular bedtime drink for Indian children and a solid choice for an evening stop at the cafe.

pourover at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington
brewing coffee at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington

Vietnamese Coffee
Origin: Vietnam
An experiential drink, as 3C employees refer to it, the Vietnamese coffee is one that customers are encouraged to enjoy in-house. The reason being is that it’s a small drink brewed through a traditional phin (pour-over device) into a gibraltar glass filled with a layer of sweetened condensed milk. Once the water is added, a customer can watch the brief percolation, then stir in the sweetened condensed milk at the bottom and enjoy. 

Origin: Italy
Did you know that the development of the cappuccino is a journey dating back hundreds of years? With Starbucks’ popularity, the cappuccino has strayed from its regular Italian standard here in the U.S. Third Culture Coffee wants to honor the foamy drink’s Italian roots, so they are stricter on the proportions and ingredients. In fact, it tends to be the drink 3C baristas educate customers on the most frequently. Italian standard serves the cappuccino at about 6 ounces, and 3C keeps close by serving max 8 ounces (to compromise with American expectation). The cappuccino stays unflavored, no vanilla or caramel (adding a little bit of organic cane sugar is allowed), keeps the equal foam to liquid ratio and lower temperature for the best, most authentic taste possible. 

Explaining a strict menu to new customers can be challenging at times for the 3C crew when the public expects a more Starbucks/ American standard. But overall, the customer experience is rewarding. Compliments on a smooth doppio espresso and silky latte concoctions, meeting people from all over the world- Ireland, Greece, India, Australia, Egypt, South Africa and more and connecting with regulars make Third Culture Coffee a life-changing place to work.

Third Culture — Present And Future

3C is still relatively young at only three years old! They have big plans to expand their vision and share their company internationally. The partners they gain and the staff they hire are intentional, recruiting those who believe in their objective and product. Before the pandemic shutdown hit Washington state, they had already begun their first steps of growth by opening a second location in Pioneer Square, Seattle. Both locations have had to adjust and adapt to mandates and phases but are ready to exceed previous customer experience when normal regulations resume. For now, they are currently open and operating within safety guidelines. 3C continues to try and be a home away from home for some and invites everyone to come and take-away a great coffee and a little culture. Checkout the Bellevue flagship or Seattle location and don’t forget your thirst for something new!

espresso at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue, Washington
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Natalie Benson

Natalie D. Benson was born in the rocky desert of the southwest and lives at the edge of the Central Cascades. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing and her work has been featured in The Scarlet Leaf Review, Manastash Literary Journal and other publications. She currently works as a freelance writer and editor. She lives to make the written word bleed. Benson spends most of her time exploring new mountain trails, admiring the color and texture of the world around her and finding new ways she can support her community.

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