What is the ‘Spa Water’? TikTok viral drink buzz explained

While the Internet offers the opportunity for online creators to teach the world what they know, sometimes it’s the creator who gets a little lesson, sometimes by thousands of people.

It all started on June 24 when Gracie Norton, a wellness influencer, shared a now-controversial recipe with her over 500,000 TikTok followers. Norton, who often shares skincare videos, grocery store finds and other healthy food tips, called her recipe “spa water,” a drink she made with water, cucumber and sugar.

Touting the drink as “anti-inflammatory and packed with antioxidants,” Norton in at least one subsequent video makes a variation of the drink she calls “spa water” by replacing the original recipe’s pineapple with another fruit.

What Norton didn’t say in the video about his “spa water” was that it is the exact same recipe as “agua fresca,” a drink that has been around since the Aztec empire, according to Mexican tradition. Agua Fresca, which translates to “sweet water” in English, involves blending fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, or hibiscus with water before straining to make a refreshing drink with a rich, centuries-old history.

Even without the provenance of fresh water, the term “spa water” already referred to a trend from the early 2010s in which people floated slices of fresh fruit and herbs in water, beverages that can still be found in luxury spas and in luxury lobbies. hotels today. Now, unfortunately, the term “spa water” has become synonymous with cultural appropriation, and many users on TikTok responded to Norton’s video in the same way.

“Now they are gentrifying fresh water,” said TikTok user @itsdonutshole in a stitched video. “They call it spa water.”

In another video, user @alexa.alexuh can be seen asking a woman preparing fresh water if she is preparing “spa water”.

“Spa water?!” the woman in the video said, followed by a series of select words in Spanish. The woman ended her exclamation by commenting: “It is a delicious water with cucumber and chia. Thermal water!” She inserts an eye-rolling emoji here.

In another TikTok, user @erikangel_ poses as a woman who walks up to a fresh water stand and asks for “spa water” from a confused vendor who replies in Spanish with comical results.

This video has since garnered 4.7 million views and inspired TikToker to create a series of videos of the same character trying to order “spa water” from the same vendor off-camera.

These responses and more to Norton’s original “spa water” clip were consistent enough that Norton removed the original videos and posted an apology to his Instagram Stories.

“I recently filmed a series on hot springs, which I mistitled. The proper name of this drink is fresh water and the origin belongs to the Latino community,” said Norton.

Although Norton removed the videos on July 26, the controversy reignited a discussion about the Internet phenomenon of “Columbusing,” a term for a situation in which a marginalized culture is appropriated for the benefit of a mainstream culture. While “Columbus sailed the blue ocean in 1492” is undoubtedly the famous poem about his historic voyage to the Americas, what he “discovered” there is a point of contention for many people, especially the millions who had been living on that land for millennia.

“I noticed that several creators of color that I follow on TikTok were commenting on this new trend among white creators,” said Daniela Rabalais, a TikToker who was inspired to create her own video series where she turns the tables on the food appropriation. to TODAY Food. “It is something that we Mexicans have enjoyed for many, many moons, it is called fresh water. When I saw that, I was a bit shocked. I thought it was a joke and it turns out it wasn’t.”

“The criticisms that spa water received are valid,” Rabalais said in another interview with Refinery 29, adding that “spa water” is a cultural appropriation, as it is something that Mexicans and Latin Americans have been enjoying for generations and which is being pitched as a new idea by white creators. “These beverages are meant to be shared and enjoyed by all, but it is important to call them by their proper name and acknowledge their cultural roots. Just saying, ‘I can’t take credit for this. This is a fresh water, which is a popular drink in Latin American countries that comes in a variety of flavors that I have loved since it was introduced to me, I would have made this not a problem.”

For his part, in addition to his initial apology, Norton apologized further in an exclusive interview with The US Sun.

“Upon reflection, it became clear to me why this was so damaging to the Latino community. I hope that in time, everyone will know how much I have learned from this experience and that I am truly sorry for the people I have offended,” Norton told The Sun.

“I’m a big believer in learning and growing from our mistakes, but people should be given the opportunity to do so,” Norton said. “If we cancel everyone who makes a mistake, we don’t give them a chance to correct it and really evolve, and I think that’s a shame.”

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