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Greening Your Spa With Organic Tea

Anna Wasserman May 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

When operating a spa, not only are you providing a wonderful and relaxing experience for clients, but an emotional memory that will entice them to become repeat customers. Whether spa services are needed for a weekend getaway or for the weary business traveler, providing authentic premium menu items is the key to success in a sustainable organization.

Say green

Greening your business, or implementing environmentally conscious practices, is an important direction to take—both for business and ecological reasons. Clients who are concerned with the legitimacy and integrity of a business they support make up an increasing segment of the market called Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) consumers, or “cultural creatives”—a term coined by market researcher Paul Ray. These 63 million consumers represent about 30% of the U.S. adult population, or 1 in 4 people.

According to, LOHAS encompasses a $228.9 billion U.S. marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living.

The importance of organics in a spa business is not merely marketing, but the spa’s brand and what it is doing to reduce its pollution contribution. By offering the best quality with the best intentions, an authentic experience is created that clients will take with them. According to Ted Ning, LOHAS conference director and LOHAS Journal editor, “Changes are occurring in the future of spa trends. The industry recently turned its head to focus on the LOHAS consumer—which is the spa-goer—who is interested in relaxation, self-help, wellness and genuine service. Consumers looking to sustain themselves are interested in supporting a business with its own sustainable values, and these companies should be promoting this fact.”

Currently, an organization making a green difference in the hospitality industry is the Green Hotels Association. It promotes properties whose managers are eager to implement programs that conserve water and energy, and reduce solid waste, while saving money. The organization possesses a wealth of knowledge and has done the research on appropriate vendors to make it as easy as possible for hotel directors to initiate changes. Its Web site also features a pre-screened members section that provides ecologically friendly products for every aspect of a spa—from business cards to shampoo and organic beverages.

An innovative spa that combines the organic movement with their treatments using tea is Osmosis in Sonoma County, California. The facility has fostered ideals into its work ethic with a commitment to community service, environmental awareness and the principles of social responsibility. Michael Stusser, founder of Osmosis, is spearheading a new nonprofit organization called Green Spa Network, which will be a resource to spas throughout the country that are looking for green initiatives. Other spas making a difference include El Monte Sagrado in Taos, New Mexico, The Teahouse Spa in Santa Cruz, California, and Rio Caliente Eco-Spa Retreat & Resort in Primavera, Mexico. See In the Spa for other ways to integrate green practices into your facility.

Spa with tea

Two of the most popular reasons to go to a spa are to relax and rejuvenate. In continuing the spa experience, a tea ceremony will complete the external to internal focus. The term “spa” comes from the Latin phrase salus per aquam, meaning “health by water.” The infusion of tea or herbs in water can be a wonderful addition to any spa menu.

Tea provides a myriad of experiences, from calming to rejuvenating. By using herbs, flowers and premium tea leaves, a tea blend can offer the perfect complement to any treatment. Serve tea in the waiting area to make clients feel pampered, after a treatment to invigorate, or in bath soaks and compresses for relaxation—the options are endless. These offerings can be considered an ideal aromatherapy add-on.

Tea blends should feature names that reflect a holistic spa experience. These blends combine herbs such as ginseng for an uplifting effect, or chamomile and lavender to calm and soothe. Other blends are designed to detoxify or promote relaxation. Licorice, mint, orange peel and sage clears the chest, easing breathing as well as sharpening memory. Improve overall vitality with white tea with chamomile, schizandra—a five-flavored berry, orange and lemon peel. In fact, a premium tea company could tailor the blend to a spa’s treatments and private label the product, along with unique tea accessories, for retail sale.

Another way in which tea can be a revenue generator is by displaying tea items in the retail area. Clients can return for a refill of their favorite blend to bring the spa experience home. Tea gift sets also can be marketed as great presents for family and friends. Creating a custom-designed menu card that matches a tea blend with a treatment can further sell the services on a spa menu.

Tea time

According to Chinese mythology, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, who was an esteemed herbalist, believed in drinking boiled water for health. One afternoon, while sitting under a tree, a tea leaf fell off its branch and into his pot. Shen Nung enjoyed the flavor and health properties of this new infusion so much that he then began to cultivate it.

With a shift in the American consciousness moving more toward health and sustainability, the U.S. tea industry is booming. Americans are showing a strong interest in the meditative quality of teas, as well as becoming knowledgeable connoisseurs in the art of the perfect steep.

In 2004, more than 50 billion servings of tea were poured in this country alone, and it was listed as an ingredient in more than 269 new beverages, 83 new skin care products and 114 new hair care products. According to the “Tea is ‘Hot’ Report, 5th Edition,” conducted by the Sage Group International LLC, in 2005 U.S. tea market sales were estimated to grow to more than $6 billion and to more than $10 billion by 2010—particularly specialty teas.

The health benefits of tea

Once a tall tree, the tea plant was cultivated into bushes for easy picking; the top two leaves and the bud are harvested. It is grown in the humid, misty mountains of India, China, Vietnam and Taiwan. Tea’s origins incorporate herbalism, yoga and spirituality. In enjoying the art of a good cup of tea, quality is everything. Things to look for when choosing a variety include a full-leaf tea, which is organically grown and Fair Trade Certified.

The tea leaf is full of antioxidants, such as catechins and polyphenols, which help to combat the free radical damage inflicted by everyday life, including pollution and stress. The beverage also is known to be packed with amino acids and L-theanine, which elicit a state of calm, stimulate the mind, and heighten alertness and focus. Tea is an experience that elevates the mind and body, but its ritual is nothing new. Spiritual communities long have embraced the tradition of this age-old beverage.

Black, white, oolong, green, silver and gold tea all come from the same plant, called Camellia sinensis. Variations occur in the part of the plant that is used, the level of oxidation and other processes that result in a particular type of tea. Different techniques, such as steaming or pan frying the leaves, produce a range of flavors—from vegetal, floral and buttery to hints of chocolate. Some chefs have been known to pair specific foods with certain types of tea, similar to wine. Herbal tea varieties actually have no tea in them at all. The correct word for an infusion of flowers or herbs comes from the French word tisane.

A great option to use in tea ceremonies is hand-sewn bundles of tea, known as flowering teas. These unique blends, made by artisans in China, are full tea leaves sewn with cotton thread around different flowers that magically bloom when steeped in hot water, creating an elaborate display. These blends are made of white, green or black tea leaves and are best served in a glass teapot for full viewing pleasure.

Branding organic

The characteristics of your business and the origin of its resources, as well as the products you use in your services, will showcase the authenticity of your spa’s message. From Fair Trade Certified goods to local artisan products, creating a business that supports the local and global economy not only will benefit the financial future of your spa, but increase its bottom line.



In the Spa

Look into a variety of environmentally friendly options in your spa business. The following is just a start of where a facility can cut back.

  • Monitor the number of towels needed, and conserve wherever possible.
  • Invest in natural alternatives to strong chemical-based cleaning products. Nonchemical options, such as citrus oil, white vinegar and sodium triphosphate, are more natural and will blend with the existing spa aroma.
  • Support the local economy by selling gifts from local artisans, as well as foods grown by the community.
  • Explore local vendors, such as a lavender farm, to purchase essential oils, bath soap and flowers for bath soaks and other treatments.
  • In 2004, more than 50 billion servings of tea were poured in this country alone.


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