Zhena Muzyka has a passion for tea. She wanted to work with her passion, but as a single mother it was a daunting task especially when she learned that her son, Sage needed many expensive surgeries to live. Her struggles began to mount and she didn’t have any health insurance to help pay her son’s medical bills.
That didn’t stop Zhena though. She fell back on her strengths of creativity, courage, and her knowledge of fine tea that she learned from her Gypsy grandmother. Now with her son, Sage living the life of a healthy teenager Zhena created a strong brand called Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.
Even though her tea can be found in more than 20,000 stores nationwide, her product and concern for social responsibility and sustainability in today’s world still remains true. Next month her book, “Life By The Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success” comes out and people will get to learn how she made her dreams come true.
I was able to chat with Zhena and learn about how she used her passion to fuel her life’s journey.
Art Eddy: Tell me about your new book coming out on June 17th called “Life By The Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success” and what inspired you to write this.
Zhena Muzyka: Well Art as a writer yourself, you know that you have the passion to share your stories with others. I started to write about my Gypsy grandparents escaping from Russia to Germany. They were told that they would be safer in Germany and out from under the Stalin regime. That material was really intense for me. It was extraordinary and yet very dark at the same time.
I was writing that when I was pregnant. My editor read the first draft. He told me to focus on the baby and then we can work on the second draft. When Sage was six weeks old they were saying I was going to lose him so I had do whatever it took to save him.
So I went back on my hobby, which was herbal remedies and medicine. I had to go into commerce since no one would hire me since I just had my baby. I couldn’t put Sage in daycare because his bladder was open. He was going to be that way until the age of four. So I had to have a job where he could be with me. I started these crazy tea parties and it worked. You get to read about my journey through life in this book.
AE: In the book you discuss that you were a twenty-four-year-old single mom with a mere six dollars in her wallet, but you still wanted to pursue you dreams. What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to make that dream happen?
ZM: I had to do everything I could to save my kid. Tea was my big idea, but people were saying who needs another tea idea? I would say mine is going to be cool. It is going to be different. It will be about Gypsy tea and the tea from my heritage. It will include my herbal medicine studies. I told myself that I am going to throw Gypsy tea parties with belly dancers and tea leaf readers. People didn’t think I was being serious, but I was. Ultimately in the end it worked.
Gloria Steinem read my book and wrote an endorsement for it. That was a great experience for me since she is my hero. There is a quote of hers that says, ‘Most women are a man away from welfare.’ That has changed, but back then that was me. At that time when I was starting out I had doubts about myself worth. I knew striking out on my own was going to be dangerous. Yet I knew in my heart that I was capable of more.
The moment I stood up for myself against the doctors was a turning point. They kept saying when Sage was a baby that he just had colic. Even though I didn’t have health insurance I told the doctors that I will pay these bills, but you need to give Sage some tests.
It was really the mission of saving Sage that gave me my strength. I have a huge level of faith in God. I realized that I have found my destiny.
AE: What advice would you give others facing hardships in trying to complete their goals? I feel with some people that once negativity creeps in, it is hard to get out from that mentality.
ZM: I agree with that. I still struggle with self-doubt.
ZM: Oh yeah. If I didn’t meditate, pray, and have a daily practice I wouldn’t be as confident. Just because you have some success doesn’t mean that you no longer have any self-doubt. It is a commitment that you have to keep making with yourself.
I find that when I have time for meditation, prayer and tea that I am more grounded. I look forward to having tea with my family. It centers me. It is really crucial and it sets the tone for the day. It also helps to find that inner voice. Once you find that voice and hone in on it you have to support it and trust in it. No matter if you think that inner voice is God, angels, or confidence, that voice is like your inner GPS. (Both laugh.) It helps to guide you through the tough times.
AE: What was it about tea that was so intriguing to you?
ZM: It is pure love. I always wanted to be a perfumer. I got really passionate about that. My grandmother was basically a medicine woman. On my mother’s side she is Native American and there is a history of medicine women there too.
It was my hobby. I was creating remedies for friends. Plants and botanicals have been a passion for me from day one. I could use that passion and add it to tea. I could do something cool and unique and it just started from there.
AE: Do you have a favorite type of tea?
ZM: As we are doing this interview I am drinking an iced coffee, so go figure. (Both laugh.) For me though I really love black Ceylon tea. It is a great alternative to coffee. Two cups of that tea equal the same amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee, but it doesn’t affect the central nervous system like coffee. It is a fuller rise of energy and you don’t get that drop as you do in coffee. So I say that coffee gives me courage and tea sustains me.