Cyrilla Suwarsa's home, the Central Java region of Indonesia, is a mountainous region that was facing serious erosion problems in the 1960s. The government planted cashew trees to prevent erosion and they thrived in the drier upper elevations. Eventually, Suwarsa says, "they became the main industry of the area."
However, the options for selling the cashews were limited, since most deals required a middleman who took a large cut of the profits. So, a few years ago, Suwarsa's sister Caecilia purchased 200 pounds of nuts directly from the farmers.
"We didn't realize how many nuts that would be," Suwarsa said.
They used their grandmother's recipe for sweet and salty nuts on some of their bounty and lightly salted the rest, then packaged them for holiday markets around New York. They sold out quickly and decided to go into the cashew business, supporting the farmers by buying from the directly and bringing fresh, delicious cashews to consumers.
Since then, Nuts+Nuts has added two flavors to the lineup, honey sesame and spicy, and is branching out into other products made with their cashews. They're starting with a spicy cashew dip that Suwarsa says was inspired by the dipping sauce from "chicken satay, but instead of peanuts, we use cashews." Originally, she made the dip just for people to taste, as an example of what they could use the nuts for other than eating out of hand—but she had so many requests to buy it from people who didn't have the time, equipment, or inclination to make their own that she decided to add it to the line. Since it has a very limited shelf life (about two weeks), the dip will only be sold at markets, rather than in stores. It's also available as a bagel topping at the Brooklyn Lyceum Cafe, whose kitchen she uses for production. The sisters are developing a fifth flavor for the nuts, using coconut and palm sugar from the same region where the cashews are grown.
In addition to supporting farmers in Indonesia, Suwarsa hopes to make the company a force for lupus awareness and fundraising. She suffers from the disease herself and had to leave her full-time job as a graphic designer because of its debilitating effects. Since May is Lupus Awareness Month, Nuts+Nuts will be donating profits from their online store for the month to the Lupus Foundation of America.
Visit Nuts+Nuts online at nutsplusnuts.com or in person at their storefront (145 Front St. in DUMBO) or weekly at the New Amsterdam Market.