What is “spa water”? Uproar over viral TikTok drink explained

While the internet provides the opportunity for online creators to teach the world what they know, on some occasions it is the creator who gets a little lesson, sometimes by thousands of people.

The drama began on June 24 when Gracie Norton, a wellness influencer, shared a now-controversial recipe with more than 500,000 followers on TikTok. Norton, who usually shares videos about skincare, grocery finds and other healthy food tips, named her recipe “spa water,” a drink she concocted from of water, cucumber and sugar.

Touting the drink as “anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants”, Norton in at least one later video does a variation on 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” is that it’s the exact same recipe as “agua fresca,” a drink that’s been around since the Aztec Empire. , according to the Mexican tradition. Agua fresca, which translates to “sweet water” in English, involves mixing fresh fruits, vegetables, rice or hibiscus with water before straining to make a refreshing drink with a rich centuries-old history.

Even without the agua fresca provenance, the term “spa water” already referred to a trend from the early 2010s where people floated slices of fresh fruit and herbs in water – drinks that still found in luxury spas and fancy halls. hotels today. Now, the term “spa water” has unfortunately become synonymous with cultural appropriation, with many TikTok users responding to Norton’s video in kind.

“They are gentrifying the agua frescas now,” TikTok user @itsdonutshole said in a stitched video. “They call it spa water.”

In another video, user @alexa.alexuh can be seen asking a woman doing agua fresca if she does “spa water.”

“Spa water?!” says the woman in the video, followed by a series of chosen words in Spanish. The woman ended her exclamation by remarking, “This is delicious water with cucumber and chia. Thermal water!” Insert the rolling eye emoji here.

In another TikTok, user @erikangel_ poses as a woman approaching an agua fresca stand and ordering “spa water” from a confused vendor who responds in Spanish with comical results.

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

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

“Recently, I filmed a series on thermal water, which I mistitled. The proper name of this drink is agua fresca, and the origin belongs to the Latin community,” Norton said.

Even though Norton removed the videos on July 26, the controversy has reignited discussion of the Internet phenomenon of “Columbusing,” a term for a situation where a marginalized culture is appropriated for the benefit of a dominant culture. While it is undoubtedly true that “Columbus sailed the blue ocean in 1492” as the famous poem on his historic voyage to the Americas, what he “discovered” there is a point of contention for many. many people, especially the millions of people who lived on this earth for millennia.

“I noticed that several color creators that I follow on TikTok were all commenting on this new trend among white creators,” said Daniela Rabalais, a TikToker who was inspired to create her own series of videos where she turns the tables. on food appropriation, to food TODAY. “It’s something that we Mexicans have enjoyed for many, many moons, called agua fresca. When I saw this I was a bit blown away. I thought it was a joke and it turns out that was not the case.

“The criticism that spa water has received is valid,” Rabalais said in another interview with Refinery 29, adding that “spa water” is cultural appropriation because it’s something that Mexicans and Latin Americans have appreciated that for generations and that is being touted as a new idea by white designers. “These drinks are meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone, but it’s important to call them by name and recognize their cultural roots. Just saying, “I can’t take credit for it. It’s an agua fresca, which is a popular drink in Latin American countries that comes in a variety of flavors that I’ve learned to love since I was introduced to it, “would have made that a non-issue.”

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

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

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

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