Weirdly, my favorite part of going to a spa is not the treatment itself, but the drinks that are served before and after the treatment.
Most spas have a signature concoction, a welcome drink that ushers you into the spa, cocooning you from the crazy outside world. At the end of the treatment comes another drink (sometimes the same thing brewed hot instead of cold, or vice versa) to bring the visit full circle. It's a small touch, but a very important one.
On a trip to Thailand last week, I checked out a few spas known for creating especially delicious drinks with ingredients and flavors that are popular in Asia, some of which are gradually becoming better known here in the U.S.
In this post, we'll spa-drink our way from the southern part of Thailand, up to the middle, and then to the north.
Green Mulberry Tea in Phuket
In Phuket, The Spa at Paresa greets bathrobe-clad guests with a green mulberry herbal tea. The tea is served chilled and lightly sweetened with honey. Mulberry leaves are said to battle high blood pressure (good thing I brought a pound of this back to NYC), helping to adjust pressure to normal levels. It instantly melts away my stress.
Post-treatment, the same tea is served hot. They omit the honey to make a clean, brisk brew and pair the tea with local pineapples. The acid in the pineapples coupled with properties of the mulberry leaf aids in digestion. Plus, the pairing tastes so lovely. I recommend recreating it at home.
Chilled Pandan Tea And Hot Oolong in Bangkok
Over in Bangkok, the Let’s Relax Spa serves a chilled pandan tea. The pandan leaf is super fragrant--many call it the vanilla of Southeast Asia--and is thus infused into everything from desserts (custards, puddings, breads) to beauty creams to savory rice dishes. It’s delicate and intoxicating all at once. Steeping the fresh leaves into water makes for a refreshing and calorie-free drink. A little sugar is added at the spa, but I love the pure tea on its own.
Unlike The Spa at Paresa, Let’s Relax Spa serves an entirely different drink post-treatment (a massage for me). They brew an oolong tea grown in the northern part of Thailand and pair it with sweet summer mangoes and sticky rice, a classic Thai dessert.
Bael Fruit Tea in Chiang Mai
About an hour flight north of Bangkok is Chiang Mai, home to Dhara Dhevi and the famous Deva Spa, which spans 3,100 square meters and took three and a half years to build. (How crazy is that?) Their signature tea is a blend of ginger, raw honey, and dried bael fruit. It is served chilled at the beginning and then hot at the end with a killer fruit and nut bar.
This was my favorite of all the spa teas. I love the balance of spicy ginger and subtly sweet bael fruit. Though it's hard to find fresh beal fruit in the U.S., dried bael (which is what's used in the tea anyway) can be ordered online. The health benefits and uses are numerous and occasionally esoteric (the roots and bark are used to treat snakebites), but it cools and soothes the skin like none other and is said to work wonders for digestion and removing toxins in the blood. I emailed the girls at the spa for the recipe. Order yourself some dried bael and enjoy!
The Deva Spa Bael Tea
4-6 dried bael fruit pieces
2-3 slices fresh ginger
2-3 tablespoons raw honey
400 ml water
Bring water to a boil and add the dried bael and ginger and simmer for 15 minutes. Next add the honey and stir to dissolve, adjusting sweetness to taste. Chill in the refrigerator if desired, but do not serve over crushed ice, as it lowers digestive ability.
What's the best refreshment you've ever been served at a spa?