Tis' The Season for Tea... Gypsy Tea That Is
'Tis the season for a hot cup of tea- the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. On any given day, over 158 million Americans are drinking it. We chatted with tea guru Paula Muesse, CEO of fair trade tea company, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, to talk self-care, tea benefits and why opting organic doesn't make you a tea snob.
There is a lot of history in a cup of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. Prior to founding the company in 2001, Zhena Muzyka was a single mother struggling to make ends meet and cover expensive surgery costs for her son. Channeling her deep knowledge of herbalism and fine tea, Zhena took a leap of courage and through her entrepreneurial spirit, began peddling custom-blended teas via her gypsy-themed street vendor cart.
With hard work, charisma and creativity, Zhena managed to turn her tea cart business into a multimillion-dollar, organic tea brand that is carried in more than 10,000 stores nationwide. Talk about a girl boss…
Today, Paula Muesse, CEO for the company, continues Zhena’s legacy, bringing to the table her plethora of expert knowledge on ancient tea practices, health benefits and extensive ingredient expertise. We got a chance to ask Paula some burning tea questions (no pun intended, hehe!) we all wonder but never get around to asking...
artnaturals: Where did the name “Zhena’s Gypsy Tea” come from?”
PM: Our founder’s grandmother was Ukrainian Gypsy. The name is a tribute to her heritage.
artnaturals: What region(s) is your tea sourced from?
PM: Primarily Sri Lanka
artnaturals: How and when did you start to take an interest in tea and its health benefits?
PM: I discovered alternative medicine and the power of food in 1993 when I had been chronically ill and my traditional medicine doctors could not find anything wrong with me, but continued to prescribe antibiotics in an effort to help. Tea was a natural addition to a diet based on whole foods with ingredients you can pronounce.
artnaturals: For someone who is not familiar with “fair trade”, what is the easiest way to explain?
PM: We pay a living wage (the amount of income needed to provide a decent standard of living) to our tea workers who harvest some of the teas we include in our blends.
artnaturals: What are some health benefits of drinking tea?
PM: The list is long, but at the top of the list are the polyphenols found in abundance in all tea; these micronutrients have antioxidant properties that prevent degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Polyphenols also help improve a wide range of other health issues such as weight management, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and digestive issues.
artnaturals: Why is it important to choose organic-certified tea over non-organic tea?
PM: In order to get all of the benefits packed in the tea leaves and other ingredients, you steep these ingredients in boiling water. This leaching process, that extracts the goodness out of the botanicals, will also leech any pesticides that have been applied to the ingredients into your cup of tea. It’s not like an apple, there is no way to wash it.
artnaturals: Does loose-leaf tea have the same benefits as individually bagged tea?
PM: The great news is, either way you are getting the benefits of tea. However, full leaf teas, like those that have flower petals, whole spices and dried fruit, have more ingredients to draw micronutrients from and also double the benefit of a richer, more complex flavor profile.
artnaturals: Our focus for the month of November is self-care and self-love. How is tea a symbol of self-care or self-love for you?
PM: It is part of the end of my day. The last thing I do after dinner is put the tea kettle on for a warming, relaxing cup of something that feels like a special treat. My long-standing favorite is caramel chai- guilt free dessert in a cup.
artnaturals: Does tea retain the same benefits served both cold and hot?
PM: Yes. You can even leave the tea leaves in the pitcher in the refrigerator, and then dilute your iced tea as you drink it, maximizing the benefits while it sits.
artnaturals: Does Zhena's employ any particular ancient practices or special methods to produce its tea?
PM: We keep the principles of Ayurveda and aromatherapy in mind as we blend as part of the effort to not only bring our customers teas that taste great, but also support health and wellness, both physical and emotional.
artnaturals: What inspires the different flavors of Zhena’s tea?
PM: We try to balance food and ingredient trends with our blending principles. We draw inspiration from food, cocktails, mother nature, travel and sometimes even happy accidents.
artnaturals: What kind of tea would you recommend to someone just beginning to explore their taste for tea?
PM: Tea is really personal, there are so many more options than versions of coffee. I think if you were just starting out, you might decide first if you want caffeine or are trying to avoid caffeine, this will narrow the field considerably. Then check in with your preferences from other categories (snacks, fragrances), if you prefer fruity, floral, spicy, etc. This will narrow your choices again. Lastly, you can decide if you want to dip a tea bag or go all in with loose tea and a way to brew it. Most people have 6-7 different tea’s in their house. So, don’t be afraid to try a few things, then you will have choices depending on what you are in the mood for.
artnaturals: How is slim tea effective in losing weight?
PM: We worked with this fabulous herbalist to get the right balance of the top ten weight loss ingredients in a tea bag. Our Slim Me teas have ingredients that support: the body’s ability to metabolize fat, break up fat in the cells, stimulate overall metabolism, reduce water retention, suppress appetite, and aid digestion.
artnaturals: Is there such a thing as drinking too much tea?
PM: If you are drinking tea with powerful ingredients like those in our Slim Me, you would want to keep your intake at three cups per day. Caffeine has limited benefits and I think we all try to manage our total caffeine intake. But if you are drinking a rooibos, hibiscus or other herbal blend, you can have as many cups as you like.
artnaturals: What does the perfect cup of tea look like for you?
PM: Either a tall crimson glass of Wildberry Hibiscus on ice in the summer, with lemon, or a bright emerald cup of Coconut Matcha as a pick-me-up in the afternoon, it is a moment of self-care in an otherwise hectic world.