Every once in a while, I discover a product that flips me upside down and I can't help but rant and rave about it to everyone who will listen. This week, the spotlight belongs to Zhena's Gypsy Tea.
Now get this - for the first 25 years of my life, I hated tea. Tea - blech! BUT things have changed, almost overnight; I was introduced to Zhena's Gypsy Tea. After much coaxing, I gave in to my sister's coaxing and bought a tin of Zhena's Gypsy Tea Fireside Chai. On a chilly, rainy morning I prepped a cup, gave it a healthy splash of milk and a teaspoon of sugar, curled up in a comfy chair, took a sip and... delightful! I know, I couldn't believe it - not only I liked it, I loved it! Fireside Chai is a gentle marriage of cinnamon, cloves, orange, ginger, cardamom and rooibos - very comforting.
Since my first encounter with Fireside Chai, I've had the chance to experiment a few other flavors: Coconut Chai (only tried one cup but may eclipse Fireside Chai as my favorite flavor), Brazillian Berry (refreshing, ends with lovely fruity tones of mandarin and peach) and Lemon Jasmine (this one I must admit I wasn't a fan of; I've come a long way in a short time but it tasted too much like "tea" for my liking). I also look forward to trying Pumpkin Spice, Egyptian Mint, Raspberry Earl and Luminous Lemon Rooibos (I'd really like to find a lemon tea I like).
The fact that Zhena's Gypsy Teas are delicious is enough to make me a convert but there is so much more to this brand! The teas are organic, fair trade, the tins are recyclable (or even better - reusable- you can buy refills from their website: www.gypsytea.com). But perhaps most touching is the story behind the brand. From the company website:
In 2000, Zhena's son, Sage, was born with a severe birth defect, which would result in a series of surgeries. At that time, Zhena had no health insurance to cover the surgeries and very little income from her young writing career. "In my desperation and heartache, I prayed for an answer. How could I raise my son, who would need special care every day from now on due to his condition, and still work and keep us fed and in a home?" Zhena said. "The words 'Gypsy Tea' answered me."
"My grandmother was a Gypsy from a little village in the Ukrainian countryside and her parents were trapeze artists in the Moscow Circus. Together they walked through war-torn Ukraine during World War II to escape and they walked all the way into Germany and then after many years came to America. What resourcefulness and strength they had! I looked at their traumas and realized, if they could do that, I could do just about anything."
"So, I borrowed enough money to buy a catering cart, I wheeled it into my friend's antique store, and with Sage in a baby carrier, I began selling my organic blend teas."
Five years later, and four operations later, Sage is a thriving young boy and Gypsy Tea is a thriving young company. Through Fair Trade activism, they give the women in their tea fields guaranteed maternity leave, healthcare, and childcare--"all of the things I needed when I had my own baby," Zhena said. "I realize now how much of a difference I can make as a business owner with an understanding of human need and that I can change a small part of the world and improve people's lives. I am so grateful for this opportunity."
Zhena's Gypsy Tea is located in Ojai, California, and the company's teas come from Fair Trade, organic gardens in Sri Lanka, India, and China. The Fair Trade criteria that Gypsy Tea follows includes: paying a fair wage in the local context, offering employees opportunities for advancement, providing equal employment opportunities, engaging in an environmentally sustainable practices, being open to public accountability, building long-term trade relationships, providing healthy and safe working conditions within the local context, providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever possible, and ensuring that there is no abuse of child labor.
Seriously, Zhena's Gypsy Tea is worthy of all praises and support. Please try it and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear which flavor is your favorite!