Tea Time

A tea service offers a complete sensory experience for guests by engaging all of their five senses, but most spas have yet to fully incorporate tea into their offerings. Instead, it is often found sitting impassively among the water, coffee, fruit, and other snacks in the relaxation room. But with just a little bit of creativity and a very small investment, you can turn those indiscriminate tea bags into a tantalizing tea service that enhances a guest’s experience and benefits, as well as increases spa revenue.

Creating a Successful Tea Service
The logistics of offering a tea service are actually very simple, and the benefits it offers are immense. The largest expense is the time needed to train your staff. Additional employees are not needed to add or enhance a tea service, but training is the key to a successful program. Staff members should be able to explain the tea selections by describing the various flavors and their benefits, and they should know how to properly prepare the tea. While learning about tea and how to interact with guests are the two most important training elements, it’s also important that employees know how to store tea properly to keep its authentic flavor and increase its shelf life. A spa’s closing protocols should incorporate placing the tea in airtight containers, away from moisture and light. If properly stored, most teas should be good for one year.

Other expenses incurred for a tea service include the teaware, hot water vessels, the additional sweeteners and flavors that often accompany tea, and, of course, the actual tea itself. Tea is one of the least expensive beverages a spa can provide, and loose leaf tea is usually higher quality and much less expensive than bagged tea. Another great benefit of a tea service is that it only takes up a small amount of space. The cups need the most room, which is still minimal. Because of the limited space required for a tea service, it is an excellent option for day spas, as they tend to be challenged with space issues.

Shopping for Tea
Shopping for the tea itself can be intimidating to some, because there are so many varieties and combinations available. However, the key is to always taste new teas. Tea is easy to find, from the shelves at your local grocery or natural food store to wholesalers or online. There is also an annual tea convention called the World Tea Expo that is an excellent source on tea trends. And there are several companies, such as Tea Forté, Revolution Tea, and White Lion Tea, and more that specialize in wellness-focused teas that are perfect for spas.

When shopping for teas, ask vendors to send samples, then prepare and line them up side-by-side for a taste testing. This practice should involve more than just the retail buyer or spa director, as palettes and preferences vary. You’ll want to compile several opinions and seek feedback on what others liked or didn’t like in regard to certain brands or flavors.

Introducing Tea to Your Spa
Incorporating tea into your spa’s program can be as simple as adding it as a beverage in the relaxation room and selling it in your retail area. You can even make it an actual spa menu item, such as a “tea for two” service that can be added to couples’ treatments or group bookings. Here are some innovative ways spas have turned to tea.

When working with Vita at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital (Detroit), I had the staff pre-bag loose leaf tea in a t-sac for the guests’ convenience. I tied the tea program in with the teas that were sold in the Henry Ford tea kiosk to cross-promote other areas of Henry Ford. Guests loved it. When tea is not displayed as the guest expects it (bagged and sitting in a box), they are more likely to become curious and try it.

At some spas, I’ve trained receptionists to offer tea as a welcome beverage when guests check in. The spa receptionist greets the guest by saying, “Welcome to our facility. May I pour you a cup of tea?” This invites them to slow down from the moment they enter. It is also simple courtesy to offer someone a beverage as they enter your home, or in this case, your spa.

I’ve worked with therapists who feel grateful for the opportunity to provide a massage or other treatment to guests, and for them, offering guests a cup of tea is like offering a gift, thanking them for the opportunity to work with them. Offering a hot glass of tea still furthers the relaxation after the service, whether it is meant as a gift or as an added benefit.

The iced tea program at the Spa at Wind Creek (Atmore, AL), which opened last summer, capitalizes on the popularity of iced sweet tea in that area. There, they present iced instead of hot tea and use naturally sweet tea rather than tea with lots of added sugar.

At Qua Baths & Spa at Caesar’s Palace (Las Vegas), we went above and beyond what people were expecting by pairing tea with a spa service, similar to what a wine sommelier does with food. We paired benefits of various teas with spa services that provided complementary benefits. The therapists were trained to recommend a certain type of tea after the service or make the tea for the guests and present it to them outside of the room. When presenting the tea, they explain why it is a perfect accompaniment to the treatment.

At some spas, a tea bar works really well. A tea bar allows guests to make their own custom tea blend. There is no real format to blending your own tea, it’s just about having fun and being creative. You can start with a basic green tea, and then let your guests add pressed herbs or fresh ingredients. I’ve seen tea with rose petals and rose hips, green pear, apple bits, cocoa, and fennel—the options are really only limited by imagination and preference.

Tea is budding with potential for every spa, as it is a low-cost, high-return service. It can be an add-on benefit, a retail star, or incorporated as a new treatment option. The number of ways you can make your tea service come alive is almost as limitless as the types and combinations of teas.—Melissa Fielding

Melissa Fielding is a consultant for Creative Spa Concepts and a tea sommelier. Named 2007 Spa Manager of the Year by the Las Vegas Spa Association, Fielding co-led Qua Baths & Spa to win several spa industry awards. Fielding has a Level-Three Accreditation from the Specialty Tea Institute.

Looking for an enticing tea brand to enhance your spa’s offerings? Check out the options from the following experts.

Amber Products
(800) 821-9188

(866) 846-0446

Mighty Leaf Tea
(877) MY-T-LEAF

by Pevonia Botanica

Pure Inventions
(732) 842-5777

Revolution Tea
(888) 321-4738

Rishi Tea
(866) 747-4483

(707) 875-9370

Sugimoto America
(206) 774-0905

Tea Forté
(800) 721-1149

White Lion Tea
(480) 607-5300