Senteurs d’Angkor’s empire is spreading: it’s already a successful shop with two branches and a workshop on Road 6. Now a new café and spa – Kaya Café and Kaya Spa –has just opened opposite the Old Market.
Senteurs d’Angkor managing director Stéphane Bourcier, who founded the company in 1998, says he had been thinking about expanding the company into a spa for a while and when the French colonial building came up for rent, he jumped at the chance.
“The idea was to continue the link with our products,” he says. “We make them locally and for the spa we are creating a totally new range – massage oil, body cream, facial scrub, foot cream and so on. We are going to open a Kaya shop early in November in Shinta Mani and it will sell all the new products.”
As the new building was too big to house just a spa, Bourcier decided to build a café next door with a walk-through area joining the two, but with the aim of providing something different.
“I didn’t want to be just another coffee-shop like you get everywhere,” says Bourcier, “And I had the idea of Khmer desserts. I remember when I first arrived in Cambodia I ate a lot of them. But I’m not sure if customers who go into the market will know what the desserts are, how they are made, if they’re clean.”
Kaya Café has a selection of Khmer desserts in perhaps more accessible surroundings, where customers can sit in air-conditioned comfort and both staff and menus are on hand to explain what the desserts are and the ingredients.
The chef behind the sweet treats is passionate about his skill, according to Bourcier. “His thing since he was young is Khmer desserts,” he says. “He really has talent. I remember when he came to the workshop he picked some jasmine flowers in our garden and made a dessert with these fresh flowers, it was amazing. He has all these great ideas.”
The café is also an outlet to showcase some of the company’s locally made products such as jams, coffees and teas.
“We sell a lot of flower tea, a lot of flower coffee, but we had no place except our workshop where we could give them to the guests to try,” Bourcier explains. “So we use Senteurs d’Angkor products for the café and we expanded to Khmer desserts.”
Kaya sells a range of Khmer beverages, from cinnamon coffee from Ratanakiri to sugarcane juice, to guava and lemongrass milkshakes. The iced latte that Insider tried was notably different from anywhere else – delicious with a subtle flavour of cardamom and sweetened with palm sugar rather than condensed milk.
Bourcier says he made a conscious decision not to stock drinks like Coke, and to only serve Khmer flavours of ice-cream such as ginger and black sesame rather than the more typical strawberry or vanilla, even though they are the Blue Pumpkin’s best-sellers.
“It you put Coca Cola on the menu people will ask for it, but the objective here is to maybe push them a bit to taste something else, like sugar palm juice,” he says. “With the ice-cream, I decided I didn’t want vanilla, strawberry. If we have strawberry when kids come with their parents they will take what they know – Coca Cola and strawberry ice-cream. Why not galangal ice-cream?”
Adjoining the café is the spa, which as well as having the usual aromatherapy and reflexology massage, also has something a little bit different on the menu.
“We didn’t want to build a spa that you could find in Bangkok, we wanted something Khmer,” says Bourcier. “One of the things we do is candle massage. It’s a secret recipe – you burn oil at the beginning of the massage, it melts and it’s really nice because it’s hot but not too hot. It’s a bit heavier than normal oil, it smells good and when they put it on your back it’s really relaxing.”
Like the majority of Kaya Spa’s products the essential oil candles are made by Senteurs d’Angkor using natural ingredients. Other unusual therapies in the pipeline include spirulina clay wraps, facials and a steaming treatment called traditional herbal spoong.
“Spoong is for the body, a bit like a sauna, it takes about fifteen minutes,” says Bourcier. “It’s very Cambodian and very good for you. We will start doing this in a few weeks.”
As for the name, ‘Kaya’ has multiple meanings in various Asian languages.
“Kaya means ‘body’ in Sanskrit and it’s also significant in Asia especially in Malaysia and Thailand,” says Bourcier. “Kaya is a coconut jam and in Japan it’s also a kind of tree. So I picked ‘kaya’ because it has different meanings. I asked my staff to give me a name close to body, or wellbeing, and something easy to pronounce.”
Kaya Café is open every day from 11am-9pm, then from November will be open 7.30am-10.30pm. The spa is open 10am-10.30pm.