- The experience of bathing in whey, a byproduct of cheese manufacture, dates back to the 1800s.
- Local cheesemaker Salmi Tongi offers tourists the rare bathing experience.
- He produces four cheeses at Alpkäserei Gerschnialp outside of Engelberg, Switzerland. The leftover whey is collected into an outdoor bathtub.
- We tested out this unique spa treat to find out if it made our skin softer.
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Traditional Swiss dairy Alpkäserei Gerschnialp produces 35 tons of cheese a year, using milk from nearby dairies. During the cheese-making process, curds are separated from whey, which is usually discarded.
Records of bathing in whey goes back to the 1800s in Switzerland, as visitors believed it had restorative properties. Outside of the high-end spa market, it's still a niche activity.
Local producer Sälmi Töngi offers the whey baths as an add-on to a tour of his cheese production. It costs 40 Swiss francs for one person, around 40 dollars. Or 60 Swiss francs for a couple.
Owner Salmi Tongi cuts the curds by hand. He has been producing cheese for 43 years. He believes the whey has health benefits:
"Whey still has many good vitamins in it, and globulin [proteins]. You could only take it out if you heated the whey to 92 degrees, and with acid. The whey bath is good for the skin and for the mind, for the nerves."
The dairy uses traditional methods to turn local milk into four different types of Swiss cheese. Approximately 3000 liters of milk gets delivered each day. The milk used for the whey comes from 200 cows, and seven different farmers. That makes about 350,000 kilos of cow's milk, which is about 32 tons of cheese. He also buys 30,000 kilos of goat's milk to make another 3 tons of goat cheese. 80% of this is sold at local markets.
To enjoy a whey bath, visitors sit in a traditional wooden tub in the fields outside of Alpkäserei Gerschnialp. The tub is filled with whey by hand.
We tried the spa activity out and tested three things. One: How good it is for your skin. Two: How relaxing the experience is. And three: whether the fragrance of the bath is pleasant.
You can find Sälmi Töngi's cheese production here.
Produced by Ju Shardlow and Charlie Floyd. Special thanks to Engelberg-Titlis Tourism AG