At the Chocolate Spa in Hershey, clients bathe in whipped cocoa, bask in the glow of Tootsie Roll-flavored candles and breathe brownie-batter-scented...
HERSHEY, Pa. — At the Chocolate Spa in Hershey, clients bathe in whipped cocoa, bask in the glow of Tootsie Roll-flavored candles and breathe brownie-batter-scented steam.
“Yummy,” Mary Gunn said in the spa locker room, sniffing the crook of her arm.
Gunn had just indulged in a “chocolate fondue wrap.” For $105, a spa technician brushes warm cocoa oil mixed with mud onto your skin. The technician seals your body in plastic and covers you with foil.
“It looks like chocolate, smells like chocolate, but it’s mud,” Joann Bowers, a spa technician, said as she massaged a client with the fudgy muck.
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“Don’t lick it,” Bowers said.
The fondue is a top menu choice at the spa, located at the Hotel Hershey. But the most popular treat is the whipped cocoa bath. Clients soak in a tub of foaming cocoa, their body parts bobbing like mini-marshmallows. Candles flicker, powdered milk froths, and jets gush with 100-degree sweetness.
“Do I have to call security to get you out?” an attendant, Lindsay Mancine, teased Teri Kolaskey, who was lingering in her milk bath. Kolaskey was late for a chocolate sugar scrub.
The Hershey spa’s whipped cocoa bath is a patented treatment. But if you’d like to try human chocolate soup at home, follow this recipe (makes one serving).
1/8 cup Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup unscented bubble bath
Mix ingredients with water, turn off lights, turn on whirlpool or stir by hand, add yourself. Dissolve.
Do not drink the bath water.
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She chuckled as she toweled dry. Other clients were giggling, lifting chocolate muffins from silver trays and nibbling Kisses from crystal bowls.
“People get a little silly,” said Jennifer Wayland Smith, the spa director.
Bowers, the technician, described the atmosphere at the Chocolate Spa as “girls’ slumber party.” In the rich, dark-chocolate-brown “Quiet Room,” otherwise dignified women steal dozens of Kisses, emptying bowls into their handbags, she said.
“As soon as they smell chocolate, it makes them excited,” said Liz Sutcliffe, a massage technician. Sutcliffe was rubbing a client with essence of cocoa, kneading her calf like a piece of chocolate taffy. The client smiled.
“They get this childlike expression,” Sutcliffe said. “They giggle, they lick their shoulders. You don’t get that with jasmine and chamomile,” traditional scents used in aromatherapy.
For most people, said David Katz, an associate professor of public health and director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, the smell of chocolate “is pretty heady, and maybe even intoxicating.”
Katz found that people who regularly ate dark chocolate or drank cocoa had improved cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate is high in bioflavonoid antioxidants, he said.
Although there isn’t any research on the health effects of a chocolate whirlpool bath, Katz said, “Chocolate has a potent aroma; aroma can influence the brain. Ergo, chocolate aroma could have psychoactive effects.”
Might that explain the giggling?
“The olfactory nerve is hard-wired into a primitive part of a brain. You catch a whiff, and you’re transported back 30 years, through a portal in time,” Katz said. “Also, it’s hard not to giggle when you say, ‘I’m bathing in chocolate.’ “