With a diverse food scene, Bloomington offers a staggering number of cuisine options. Restaurateurs and vendors in town infuse distinct cultural backgrounds into their foods. Michael Edwards and Iuri Santos are three examples of this fusion. Some of those backgrounds provide Bloomington with popcorn, tea and popsicles.
Virginia Githiri is an IU faculty member in the Department of Applied Health Science. She is also the owner of PopKorn - Kernels with a Twist.
Githiri began creating popcorn mixtures in 2007 from her home kitchen, but stopped after two years due to other commitments, she said. After gaining access to a commercial kitchen and obtaining a permit from the Monroe County Health Department, Githiri was able to restart her business.
Githiri is now an IU licensed vendor and sells popcorn at non-athletic IU events, such as theater and IU Auditorium productions, through IU catering and IU dining.
She was inspired to create her popcorn mixtures through her personal love of popcorn, Githiri said.
“I really appreciate and enjoy the creative process of it,” Githiri said.
She sells seasonal mixtures, as well as mixtures inspired by her personal interests, such as a temporary candied yam flavor to pay homage to her mother.
Michael Edwards, owner of Dreamers Delight which produces MeSorrel Jamaican Tea, said he is inspired by his origins in Jamaica. Sorrel tea is a Jamaican tea made with a hibiscus flower, ginger and rum. Edwards, who has a doctorate in physical chemistry, used his scientific knowledge to create the drink, he said.
He wanted to remove the alcohol from the original ingredients, he said, and found the tea had a shelf life of less than a day. The alcohol acted as a preservative, so he used his knowledge of the compositions of cinnamon, clove and rosemary to create an alternative, natural preservative.
“Without knowing the flavor that came out of it, that’s what I got,” Edwards said. “I have a bottle right now that I preserved from the very beginning that is three years old, without anything growing in it.”
While he knew the traditional base ingredients, he said he feels he took an artistic approach to calculating the proportions of the ingredients and spices.
“I call my tea a painting,” Edwards said. “I painted my tea with the flavors. That’s an art. And yes, I need science to do the art. I could not have done the art without the science.”
Edwards also collaborates with Bloomington vendors Iuri and Linda Santos, who create Rasta Pops using his tea, among other flavors.
The Santos couple has sold popsicles from their Rasta Pops cart for five years. The Rasta Pops are inspired by the popularity of popsicles in Santos’ original home, Brazil.
“In Brazil, popsicles is a very popular thing. It is everywhere,” Santos said.
Vendors in Brazil carry insulated boxes around their necks that can fit 50 to 100 popsicles, he said.
When making new flavors, Santos begins with a common Brazilian ingredient, like mango or avocado, before adding smaller ingredients to adjust the flavor, he said.
“We always add the little things to make them special,” Santos said.
For the mango popsicle, they add fresh lime juice and sea salt. But they also consider what people in Indiana would like, Santos said. Strawberry lemonade is the best-selling flavor, he said.
Rasta Pops are sold in Bloomingfoods and Hopscotch Coffee. He created a coffee popsicle dipped in white chocolate for Hopscotch.
Santos said the Rasta Pops cart can have more than 50 flavors, but mango and strawberry lemonade continue to be the best-selling flavors. He said he wishes more customers would be interested in the less common flavors like mango-chili-lime, or his favorite, honey-ginger-lemonade.
Santos said he will resume selling Rasta Pops in May.