Book Review: Life by the Cup, by Zhena Muzyka
In Life by the Cup: Inspiration for a Purpose-Filled Life, Zhena Muzyka tells the story of her journey to build a multimillion-dollar fair trade tea company, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. Incorporating the wisdom of her Roma Gypsy grandmother’s teachings on botanicals with her passion for herbal remedies, she created a line of teas she branded as “Gypsy Teas” as a shout-out to her heritage.
Starting as a single mom with six dollars to her name and an infant son in need of life-saving surgery, she claims to be “as unlikely an entrepreneur as could be.” Since many kombucha brewers can likely relate to these humble beginnings, she provides an informative and practical guide to the lessons she learned on her journey.
Each chapter has four parts:
She is unabashedly excited and inspired by the ingredients in her teas: the strength of lavender, the purity of white teas, the character and complexity of teas steeped in boiling water. Each chapter uses the inspiration of an ingredient as a point of departure.
Her intensely personal stories detail the challenges she had to overcome to build her business. The mechanics of her strategy and tactics take a back seat to her emotional and spiritual struggles as her business grew. In the early days, this was searching for the inspiration for her blends, then opening her first tearoom in a shared space. As the business grows, she addresses the question of sourcing organic, fair trade ingredients. She visits plantations in Sri Lanka and realizes the beneficial impact her sales have on the women who harvest the tea. Later she deals with the challenges of investors and runaway growth.
At each stage, she distills the story into specific lessons learned.
The lessons she learns on her journey are worth the price of the book. They include:
- Start where you are—realizing you have everything you need on hand.
- Collaborate to be great – to see the answers to questions through another’s eyes.
- Without hot water, leaves impart little—embrace the lessons of failure.
While some of these lessons might seem trite, Zhena grounds each one in the story of her growing brand.
Each chapter has a set of practical exercises to encourage the reader to explore where they are on their journey and what the options are. These range from cultivating curiosity by taking a different route to and from work each day to guided meditation exercises to deepen love and kindness.
Zhena’s insight is that women are the answer to the world’s woes. She asserts that the feminine perspective can bring more grace and a holistic viewpoint to life and business. Life by the Cup differs in both tone and substance from many business books authored by men. It is infused with the strength gained from family and friends, the value of service to others, and the importance of intuition and feeling. It’s a great counterpoint to the more male-focused books that dominate the industry and reminds the reader that we all have feminine qualities that can be nurtured regardless of gender.
This review originally appeared in the Fall 2021 edition of SYMBIOSIS – the Official Journal of Kombucha Brewers International. Both print-on-demand and electronic versions of the magazine are available for purchase.