No smell ignites hunger more ferociously than the aroma of freshly made popcorn. While at one time “butter” or “plain” were your only options, today your imagination is the limit. Nowhere else in New York City is this more true than at Pop Karma in the Lower East Side. And it’s not just about flavor, it’s about doing something that’s good for your body, soul and the planet.
At Pop Karma they take classic popcorn and give it an all-natural makeover. The concept isn’t based on sugar or fat, but on all-natural ingredients used to flavor organic popcorn kernels. Everything is done in-house, which adds to the fresh approach.
“At the top level, we provide people with a treat that leaves them feeling good,” explains Jean Tsai, Pop Karma founder. “If they are curious about the ingredients, we are delighted to talk about our organic popcorn and the sustainably grown non-GMO ingredients and why we think they are important.”
The concept was brought to the public in July of 2012, when Tsai decided to share her passion for eating pure, real food with the world. As a clean eater herself she was always on the lookout for delicious snacks that were also healthy. When she couldn’t find anything she trusted, she started experimenting with recipes with a chef friend until she came up with the perfect combinations. While at first people were surprised that a store could operate just selling popcorn, once they tasted it, they understood.
Pop Karma’s three classic flavors are the “Pure Mediterranean,” “Zen Cheddar” and “Pure Caramel,” which they pair with seasonally changing flavors. They try to incorporate herbs, spices and concepts from around the world to give the brand a global flare. For example, they’ve done a Japanese-inspired “Kyoto Mix,” as well as a “Masala,” “Za’atar” and “Spanish Barbecue.” Undoubtedly, their most popular flavor is the “Bacon Apple Bourbon Caramel,” crafted with house-made bacon bits, Brooklyn-sourced Widow Jane Bourbon, apple cider from Red Jacket Orchards from upstate New York, organic agave, vanilla, brown sugar, apple chips and apple spice.
Watching staff cook up these culinary masterpieces — an accurate title as each ingredient is added in a very precise and timed fashion — is like watching a Broadway Show. With better snacks, that is.
Not surprisingly, Pop Karma is active in the community and regularly partners with other restaurants at tasting events where proceeds go to charity.