A Time for Tea

“Tea fits into the spa setting because people associate the drink with cleansing,” says Karen Sprung, group spa and fitness director for Sandals Resorts International, home to Red Lane Spas, based in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “I think clients want something that feels like they’re doing something good, inside and out.” Before each service at Red Lane Spas, clients are encouraged to enjoy a cup of tea and relax. Tea is so popular at these resort spas that the corporation recently added the scents of tea to its new line of fragrances.

Sip and soak

Many spas have incorporated tea into rituals and journeys, offering a cup at either the beginning or the end of spa treatments. At the Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona, clients sip a special blend of Desert Restorative Tea while enjoying a eucalyptus foot bath included in the Havasupai Body Oasis Experience (120 minutes, $309). A body exfoliation with a chamomile salt scrub and a eucalyptus bath follow. This elaborate treatment also includes an aromatherapy wrap, as well as a face and scalp treatment that uses acupressure to release tension and promote relaxation. “The tea partnered with the foot bath is very relaxing,” says Jill Eisenhut, spa director. She adds that the spa’s signature teas sell very well in the gift shop.

Tea is a top seller at Spa of Eden at Eden Roc Renaissance Resort and Spa in Miami Beach, Florida, where spa director Timothy Williams retails a brand of green tea for $40. He also serves it to spa clients as a post-treatment. “Our green tea has no caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives or alcohol,” he says. He sampled the beverage at a tradeshow and was so impressed that he purchased two cases on the spot: “I felt this would offer a great end to a massage, and also provide a healthy and tasty alternative to water.” Williams began selling the tea only after he received a number of compliments and requests from guests. “We began retailing the 2-ounce bottles at $40 each last spring and have sold an average of three bottles a week,” he notes.

“The cool thing about green tea is that it balances the skin and improves the overall complexion,” says Lucia Rodriguez, director of spa and retail at The Boutique Spa at The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii, where spa-goers can indulge in a green tea body wrap with the Ultimate Body Facial (80 minutes, $190) or the Sea Enzyme and Green Tea Body Wrap (50 minutes, $130). Rodriguez also offers clients My Leaf teas in the relaxation room, and the facility soon will carry White Lion teas—a line that’s growing in popularity at spas nationwide.

Although Tea Garden Springs in Mill Valley, California, doesn’t include on its menu any treatments that use tea as an ingredient, it does feature a tea garden on the premises where clients can relax either before or after their services. “They’re offered a variety of teas,” explains spa manager Jessica Wozniak. “They sit and take the extra time to relax and listen to music. The area can seat about 12–15 guests, and we have an outdoor area we use in the summer, as well.” The beverages also correlate with some of the offerings, such as an ayurvedic tea that complements an ayurvedic treatment, or a cup of slimming tea paired with a detoxifying menu item.

Tea and skin care

“All teas are good and unique, and have wonderful benefits,” maintains Howard Murad, MD, founder of Murad, Inc., and associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California Los Angeles. He has included extracts from green, red and white teas in a number of skin care formulas since 1992.

“The trend to use tea for its antioxidant properties began a number of years ago, when it was used in topical preparations,” notes Ben Kaminsky, co-founder of B. Kamins, Chemist skin care line, and a pharmaceutical and dermatological chemist. “The theory is that tea and other antioxidants will help protect the body and skin from harm. Antioxidants do their work very quickly, but the effects wear off rapidly. Reapplication of such products is required. The flavonoids found in tea also are very helpful in combating environmental damage and wear. Green tea has the greatest percentage of flavonoids and antioxidants, which makes its benefits greater and more potent than other varieties.”

Tea sampling

When it comes to types of tea, Murad says that red tea in skin care is used as a barrier precipitator and an antioxidant, while green tea is chosen primarily for its antioxidant and soothing benefits. “White tea has been found to have antimicrobial benefits when used topically,” he explains.

Although a comprehensive study among a variety of populations and age groups has yet to be conducted, adds Kaminsky, he cites an article recently published in the journal Archives of Dermatology that concluded that drinking three glasses daily of oolong tea reduced eczema symptoms for more than half of the participants in the study. “Although there are no clear conclusions to its use as an anti-inflammatory agent, we do know that the various shades of tea—green, red, white and black—are natural sources of antioxidants,” says Kaminsky. “In addition, we know that in some cultures tea has been used for thousands of years for infusions and medicines to treat all types of illnesses.”

An ancient culture

A year and a half ago, Erich Worster took a trip to the Andes Mountains, only to return home with more than he anticipated. The owner and founder of Anakiri BioEnergetic Skin Care, as well as The Healing Arts Spa on Green Street in Gainesville, Georgia, set out in search of a place where salt comes out of the ground as a liquid and is dried by the villagers. “I thought this would make a great body treatment, so I started researching healing traditions in the Andes,” recalls Worster. “One of the things I found was churana tea—an ancient indigenous tea that uses many of the herbs in Western herbology.” This potent tea contains more than 22 hand-harvested and dried herbs, such as basil, dandelion, lemon balm and lemon verbena—a detoxifying combination designed to promote an overall sense of well-being.

Worster now incorporates this tea into a variety of treatments, such as the Anakiri Churani Body Tea Mineral Mud Wrap (60 minutes, $90) and the Anakiri Body Tea Steep (30 minutes, $45), as well as herbal wraps. The beverage also is available for retail. “The greatest benefit of drinking the tea is that it provides such a balance of benefits,” he says. “There are minerals, and anti-inflammatory and detoxifying herbs. It offers a combination of relaxing and detoxifying benefits.”

A modern use

“My love affair with tea treatments dates back to when I opened my business in 1975,” reminisces Ole Henriksen, owner of Ole Henriksen Face/Body locations in West Hollywood, California, and Bangkok, Thailand. As a young man with cystic acne, he discovered that applying compresses drenched in strongly brewed chamomile and comfrey teas dramatically improved his skin. He soon created a name for himself as an expert in treating acne-prone skin and was consulted frequently by celebrities. About 13 years ago, he began custom blending creams when he realized that actress and singer Liza Minnelli had a specific need for one of his creations that contained chamomile tea. In his book Ole Henriksen’s Seven Day Skin Care Program (MacMillan Publishing Company, 1986), he showed readers how to create homemade concoctions using common kitchen ingredients such as chamomile, comfrey and rosehip teas.

It wasn’t until four years ago that African red tea came to Henriksen’s attention. “I discovered a tea shop in Hollywood that featured this wonderful tea,” he recalls. “I brought it into my spa as a cocktail and began serving it in the lounge area, then used it in compresses.”

The immediate results, he says, were dramatic. “The calming and healing effects on all kinds of skin problems—from rosacea and mild rashes to capillary sensitivity and dry skin—were amazing.” Soon after, he created a red tea body treatment (see On the Menu) and recently included the tea as an ingredient in his newest products.

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