(Photos: Jae Thomas)

Nolita cafe Tulo House wants to know: “Did you nut today?”

The hashtag-worthy slogan immortalized by a bright blue neon sign (although, if your mom follows you on Instagram, maybe don’t post it) refers to the health spot’s homemade dairy-alternative milks. The self-proclaimed “first fresh nut-milk bar” in the city, Tulo House opened its doors last week.

Owner Laura Hopkins is a self-proclaimed health nut who is trained in nutrition science, and she thinks consuming artificial ingredients is, well, nuts. That’s why Tulo House serves dairy alternatives sans the potentially harmful additives, made fresh every week from cashews, almonds, coconuts and tiger nuts. All the milks are organic, have no added sugar and only use dates as sweetener. Hopkins says they last up to five days in the fridge, but the milk at the cafe is made fresh four times per week. 

Tulo House was expected to open late 2018, but– believe it or nut– construction issues caused a year of delays. Among other things, there were problems finding a place to put the massive hydraulic machine that presses the nuts into milk. Fire code prevented it from being located in the basement, so it was moved by a team of 15 men into Hopkins’s Soho apartment while a spot was created for it on the main level of the Mulberry Street shop, where it’s used almost every day to press nuts into milk. 

“It’s a labor of love,” Hopkins said of making Tulo House’s milks. Each batch of nuts are soaked, strained, blended, then strained again in the giant cold-press juicer.

Hopkins said she became interested in making her own nut milk after suffering from health problems due to artificial ingredients in store-bought almond milk. She now makes nut milks without xanthan gum and carrageenan, which are used in store-bought beverages to create better consistency and to extend the shelf life.

Over the last year, people have been consuming less dairy in favor of nut, oat and soy alternative milks. The Dairy Farmers of America’s sales dropped by about $1.1 billion between 2017 and 2018, and chain and independent coffee shops alike now routinely offer alternatives to dairy milk.

Whether these plant-based milks are healthy or not has been the subject of debate, since most contain added sugars, and some contain thickening agents like carrageenan, which is used in processed meats and is often tied to gastrointestinal issues. 

Tulo House’s menu currently features tiger nut, cashew cream and almond vanilla bean beverages, which can be purchased by the bottle for $12 each or as an addition to your favorite coffee or tea for $5 or $6. Hopkins says coconut will also be introduced in the future. In addition, the Austalian-inspired cafe has partnered with local businesses Keayk and Monty’s to provide clean, vegan treats like muffins and paleo bagels with cashew cream cheese.

Tulo House proves being dairy-free is nut a problem. The cafe is open seven days a week, so if you’re a real nut job, you can get a breakfast of cereal and nut milk every single day.

Tulo House is located at 217 Mulberry Street, and is open every day from 8am to 5pm.

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