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Spa and Teas:
An Ethereal Experience

By Serena Norr

Tea offers consumers the ultimate refuge as an indulgent element to complement the hectic constrains in our daily lives. Now more and more spas are featuring tea-based products at their establishments, combining the ancient healing power of tea with the relaxing experience of a spa visit. Discovered more than 5,000 years ago, tea has been renowned for its healing properties as it relaxes, rehydrates and helps eliminate toxins - all of the same reasons patrons assimilate to spas.

Today, more spas are infusing tea as an intregal part of their spa experience as evidenced from products and services that reflect a surgance in incorporating tea as part of the health and beauty care industry - this new trend is booming as evidenced from the spas/various tea products we profiled.

Tea & Spa Connection
For many, tea is a way of life, not just a beverage. Tea supplies a feeling of good energy that invigorates patrons as it enlightens the senses, clears the mind, awakens the soul and sooths the body, and has been utilized for centuries for its medicinal and healing properties.

Currently the world of tea is evolving as products and spa services have infused tea and tea-based ingredients onto their menus. The appeal of tea within a spa experience also extends to treatments offered, as more and more consumers discover the therapeutic values of nature’s herbs and teas. In pairing teas with treatments, spas serve as a refuge to relax, refresh and rejuvenate with an array of tea-infused massage therapies, skin and body treatments and signature treatments utilizing tea. It is no wonder that customers flock to spas in droves in hopes of correcting ailments and rejuvenate while seeking a sense of calm a feeling of “home.”

According to Jeanine Longo, owner of The Bee Hive Salon, (www.thebeehivesalon.com) in Brooklyn, New York, “There is a sense of ‘home’ when you think of tea. It automatically creates a ‘come on in and relax’ kind of vibe. It lets your clients know that their comfort is of the utmost importance.”

Linda Camarda, of Natural Balance Massage & Wellness Center located in Brooklyn, New York, (www.naturalbalancemassage.com) stated, “Within a home setting, tea and coffee have historically been used as part of the welcome ritual between hosts and their guests. When we serve a warm cup of tea at our spa, we are basically saying to our visitor, ‘Welcome...make yourself at home.’ This subtle yet powerful gesture sets the tone for their spa experience, which hopefully will provide our guest with a soothing sense of comfort and relaxation.”

According to Ann Hostetler and Linda Butler, treatments manager and certified herbalist at The Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania, “The Woodlands Spa experience brings together all the senses. The deep, woodsy aromas, the touch of a caring hand, the exhilaration of endorphins, the endearing sound of quiet and the enjoyment of a splendid tea. All combine to make a total healing experience.”

Beneficial Properties in Tea
After water, tea is the most frequently consumed beverage in the world, so interest in its potential curative benefits is high. Recent research shows that any tea derived from the leaf of a warm-weather evergreen known as Camellia sinensis has similar cancer-fighting properties because the leaves of this tree contain chemicals called polyphenols, which give tea its antioxidant properties. Teas derived from this beneficial leaf include all green, black and red (oolong) varieties. While these studies are not conclusive, they are encouraging for their beneficial properties. “Tea has so many benefits in health and beauty. White tea is the purest of the teas as it is the least processed. It is also popular and much sought out for its antioxidant properties,” Longo stated.

According to Camarda, “The soothing and sometimes also stimulating nature of tea offers many benefits, depending upon the tea being served. At Natural Balance, we have served a wide variety of green, white and red teas, for their high content of polyphenols, which act as powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals that can lead to cancer.”

According to Hostetler and Butler, “Tea (black) stimulates the central nervous system, is diuretic and stringent. It increases coronary flow. It has significant anticancer and antioxidant effects and even has been shown to prevent tooth decay because of its high fluoride content.”

Tea & Healing
Cultivation of health is a central aspect to drinking tea. Tea has become both an enjoyment of life and medicine derived from nature that services as a silent but powerful influence.

With so many blends out there it is difficult to discern which teas contains the highest levels of antioxidants. “White tea can help to calm and restore and also reduce swelling,” Longo stated.

According to Camarda, “We have served, sold and recommended raspberry leaf tea for our many pre-natal clients, as a way of helping them tone their uterus during pregnancy. We have also utilized herbal teas such as chamomile, valerian and jasmine to calm an overwrought central nervous system. Echinacea tea is supposed to help reduce itchiness. Inflamed skin and sore joints also benefit from the ingestion of tea, as well as the application of tea by way of body compresses directly on the troubled area. The tannins in tea are very useful, also, in foot soaks, to help alleviate overactive sweat glands and locker room feet. At Natural Balance, we have also promoted the use of tea as a way to aid the weight loss process, to help reduce cravings, to maintain proper fluid intake and as a replacement for less healthier beverages.”

According to Hostetler and Butler, “One interesting effect of drinking tea is the aforementioned antioxidant/anticancer benefit. The usage of tea is recorded as far back in time as 2700 B.C. It is the world’s most important caffeine beverage. At least three billion people are regular drinkers.”

According to Debbie Castillo, spa director at The Spa & Fitness Club in Mesa, California, The Spa at South Coast Plaza, “At The Spa, patrons can relax with Cranberry Hibiscus, Tuscan Garden, Moroccan Mint, Ambassadors Earl Grey, Ginger Peach or White Ambrosia. All which have natural properties and antioxidants that are beneficial to both the mind and body.”

Tea Infused Products
Recently, tea has been appearing in beauty cosmetics and products. The market now features a bevy of tea-based products including face washes, lotions, hand and body creams, to name a few. According to Camarda, “Many bath and body lines now contain tea extracts. Some even contain actual tea leaves, as an additional exfoliating agent. Natural and botanical skincare products for the face often include various herbal teas as a matter of course, to improve the appearance of aging or damaged skin. Tea also makes a wonderful astringent and cleanser, and some skincare companies even claim that topically, it may offer some sun protection, although I have not seen studies that confirm this. Tea supplements in the form of extracts have also become very popular as an alternative to other dietary supplements.”

According to Longo, “We use white tea along with lemon and mint and dead sea salt in our calming foot soak baths found in face creams, body scrubs, aromatherapy sprays, coffee lozenges… pretty much everywhere you look these days.” According to Camarda, “We currently carry three popular, tea-related products: green tea bar soap, green tea massage oil and a broad line of tea extracts, which we also serve to our guests. Recently, we also carried soy candles infused with coffee essences. One whiff of those delicious-smelling candles made you want to have a cup of coffee! We are now considering serving coffee, as well.”

Types of Teas Used in Products
According to Jeanine Longo, “White tea and green tea are the two most common. Both for their high levels of antioxidants.” At the Absolute Nirvana Spa, Tea Room and Gardens, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the spa offers a groundbreaking product line that nourishes the skin and provides cellular nutrition, and has been proven to dramatically eliminate signs of dryness, reduce wrinkles and increase elasticity and moisture content. The fountain of youth facial will leave you glowing and radiant.

According to Camarda, “We have seen a proliferation of spa products that contain green or white tea, because of all the scientific data that has become available that corroborates its many health benefits, particularly appearance-related, anti-aging ones.” According to Hostetler and Butler, “Baby tea leaves are being used because of their milder flavor and because they are less tannic. Theses leaves are harvested before reaching maturity.”

Tea and Spa Experience
The purpose of employing teas and tea-based products at spas is to encourage tranquility and being in the moment. “We utilize tea as an amenity to make our guests feel welcome and to help refresh them. Within treatments, we have used tea for foot soaks and body treatments, with products containing tea. Nowadays, a typical spa experience at Natural Balance consists of concluding a detoxifying hydrothermal massage, which is a steam-heat treatment, with a contrasting, re-hydrating and cool serving of green tea, before the guest departs,” stated Camarda.

According to Hostetler and Butler, “Popular teas at the Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort are: Echinacea royale: A tonic herb tea, which has a soothing effect on the throat and stomach. The added benefits of Slippery Elm tree bark, marshmallow and Echinacea encourage the body to heal itself. There is no caffeine. Apricot zest: This tea is obviously high in naturally occurring Vitamin C; with hibiscus, rosehips, orange and lemon peel ingredients. This is a very refreshing tea, and has no added caffeine. Chamomile pacifica: chamomile calms the nervous system and settles the stomach. In this herbal blend, the benefits of passion flowers create the natural feeling of well being, with no side effects. Peppermint adds a little zip, too!”

According to Castillo, “The Spa at South Coast Plaza offers a complimentary tea bar service as part of their amenities from our own signature private label collection. Guests can take their time to indulge in the peace and tranquility of preparing their own cup of tea. We offer a select variety of rare, beautiful whole leaves from the world’s finest gardens that are rich, herbal and fragrant ranging from traditional black, white, green and caffeine free.”

According to Hostetler and Butler, “Teas at Nemacolin are incorporated into your day of services with the hope of them becoming a part of your life. For example, the Woodlands Spa has a line of Ayurveda services that begin with a personal constitutional analysis and ends with a dosha-specific cup of hot tea. Simply explained, Ayurveda is used to balance and harmonize your body, mind and spirit.”

Spa Services and Green Tea
Clinical research suggests that green tea and green tea extract are naturally rich in antioxidants, which may help protect the body from free radicals. Such properties supply health and beauty benefits that people can enjoy whether drinking it or applying directly to the skin. Many spas are recognizing green tea’s healing properties as evidenced by the bevy of green-tea incorporated treatments that promise to make consumers skin glow, heal blemishes, cuts and rashes, soothe strained or tired eyes, fight body odor and more.

According to Hostetler and Butler, “The antioxidant properties of green tea are widely known. Green tea may also help dieters shed fat that may be used as a safe alternative to traditional diet drugs since its use is not accompanied by an increased heart rate. It may also stimulate thermo genesis that does not cause cardiovascular complications.”

There are numerous spa/tea services that feature green tea on their spa menu. According to Castillo, “A green tea bath involves a warm candlelit hydro tub room filled with over 60 hydro jets surrounded by crisp notes of green tea lingering in the air and on the skin to create a bath that embodies renewal. Patrons then soak in the healing herbal care along with nourishing salts containing antioxidants and Vitamin C and E properties. Green tea helps skin feel and look healthier and is great way to detoxify and cleanse the skin to rid the body of unwanted impurities and provides a great escape!” At the Naturopathica Spa located in East Hampton, New York, (www.naturopathica.com), patrons can experience an upgraded pure results facial with the green tea wasabi treatment. The wasabi is believed to stimulate cellular repair while the green tea fights oxidative damage and reduces puffiness. At the Novella Spa located in San Francisco, California, (www.novellaspaandimports.com), clients can enjoy a green tea and rose facial that is believed to calm the skin and provides antioxidant protection, which is especially good for people with rosacea and sensitive skin.

The Spa at Four Seasons Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, (www.fourseasons.com), offers a green tea and ginger mud body mask, which begins with a grapeseed body scrub, followed by mud made with green tea that is smoothed on the body and cleanses and detoxifies the skin. A gingerroot moisturizer is then applied to invigorate skin and help with any muscle aches and pains. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Miami located in Miami, Florida, (www.mandarinoriental.com/miami) features an advanced lifting and firming facial. The massage technique relaxes the facial muscles and wrinkles while the Vitamin C, green tea and spirulina all aid as antioxidants to the skin. At the Mandara Spa at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Hawaii, The Big Island, (www.waikoloabeachmarriott.com), one can receive a green tea body glow exfoliation treatment. Scrub off dead skin cells while applying green tea for its antioxidants to protect the remaining cells. The Scottsdale Arizona Day Spa at the Scottsdale Resort Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, (www.scottsdaleresortandathleticclub.com) offers a green and white sugar scrub - a concoction of ginger oil, honey, sugar and tea leaves invigorates the body and injects antioxidants into the skin; includes a massage.

The Spa Experience
As customers invigorate in the amenities of tea/spa treatments there a connection to the mind/spirit that they are attempting to invoke. According to Camarda, “At Natural Balance, we want our customers to embrace the idea that nature’s best plant products, tea and herbs, can and should easily be integrated into their lifestyle, for natural beauty and overall wellbeing. Our primary emphasis is for the need to regularly cleanse and detoxify, both inside and outside, of which tea and herbs can play a major role. It’s not only good for their appearance, but it is also effective self-care and minimizes harm to our environment.”

According to Hostetler and Butler, “The teas that Nemacolin offers complement the services provided, as well as the atmosphere of healthful relaxation. Using high quality, pure products is an essential component of health and well being. We wish everyone that enters the Woodlands Spa succeed in creating a healthier life style.”

After an invigorating spa experience it is no wonder that tea and spas go together hand-in-hand.

Serena Norr is a freelance writer based in New York. As a former editor at Tea and Coffee Trade Journal she enjoys writing about the industry.

Tea & Coffee - May, 2008

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