Zahira Marmar grew up in St. Martin, on the border between the Dutch and French sides of the island. She did her undergraduate degree in Pennsylvania and her master’s degree in England. She lived on the island until 2016, when she moved to Englewood, New Jersey with her young family.
“I would have never started this business, or known about the herbs in our teas, if I was not raised in the Caribbean where ‘bush tea’ as we call it, is literally steeped in our culture,” Marmar said.
“There was a time as a young child that we didn’t have running water or stable electricity at our home in the hills. I remember filling up buckets and lighting kerosene lamps. I also crocheted bags and I even had a hair braiding business during my undergrad at Philly to help pay my way for my degree, ” she stated.
She believes that those experiences taught her to be humble, grateful, and resourceful, and that is in my DNA as an entrepreneur.
Marmar’s most vivid childhood memories include “being in our garden where we would grow all types of Mints, Sages, Rosemary and so many more.”
She said she “can still feel in my mind the breeze blowing gently in the leaves, and the heavenly fragrance of the herbs filling the air when I went out at sunrise to water, separate lemongrass bushes, or pick leaves for the day’s tea. We would grow the plants we used on a daily basis for tea. These herbs tasted amazing.”
She credits her parents for teaching her how to search for the plants, which they would brew to treat particular ailments like fever, indigestion, pain, etc. This knowledge is what helped her when she launched her tea company, Hrbvor (Herbivore) Teas.
Prior to launching Hrbvor Teas, she also started and ran a successful business called “St. Martin Garden Artists,” where she created and maintained organic herb and vegetable gardens for private homes, hotel restaurants, and schools, with her herbal tea gardens being a customer favorite.
Once she moved, she refused to buy my children the popular sugary juices and sodas which lined the shelves in the supermarket and their friends’ lunch boxes at school.
“Instead I made my delicious teas sweetened with real honey and filled them in upcycled water bottles for my kids to take to school and sports. They caught on with their friends who always wanted to try them, and soon I had more requests from parents than I could keep up with to brew teas for their families,” she continued.
She saw a gap in the market for a better drink for the whole family that her teas filled, and went for it!
Thus, “Hrbvor was actually started just as the pandemic began, but I didn’t let the social distancing, supply chain, and so many other issues stop me!”
Additionally, in her children’s class at school, there were literally children from every single continent other than Antarctica. “Through my relationships with all these cultures, I learned about herbs they used for tea that were not native to the Caribbean, like Tulsi from India, White Peony from China, and Guayusa from South America, which I also incorporate into my teas,” Marmar added.
These connections are the reason Marmar believes her teas have a Caribbean soul with a curious personality.
The company’s mission is to “fuel healthy happy humans with herbal tea,” according to Marmar. The company uses premium organic herbs that are difficult to source, and it operates at a small scale in terms of the beverage industry at large.
Marmar’s goal is to make the teas cheaper, so they are accessible to more people.
Sugary drinks are one of the leading causes of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and so many of the health problems, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control (see data here: https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/sugar-sweetened-beverages-intake.html).
“My teas are exactly the opposite, nourishing the body and helping to protect it against illness. So I feel a real passion and sense of responsibility to get my teas out to as many consumers as possible. It’s a social mission for me as much as a business goal,” continued Marmar.
Challenges for Marmar that are impacting the agriculture and farming industry include transparency around ingredients, and social responsibility towards people and the planet. She also feels good about supporting the small organic farms and co-ops around the world where I source her herbs, which means a healthy life for farmers, maintaining the fertility of soil, and keeping pollution out of our water supplies.
“I wanted to make the same tea I make and serve to my family available to our consumers. That meant using premium quality organic leaves and flowers long brewed to extract all the benefits of the herbs. I feel good knowing our teas are free from pesticides and chemical fertilizers for my consumers,” she added.
“We also give our steeped herbs to farms and community groups for composting. Nature is our most precious resource, so we have to nourish it and protect it, so it can nourish and protect us.”
Furthermore, Hrbvor aims to reconnect people to plants and the earth for overall well being. Marmar has a beautiful garden in NJ where she grows all her favorite herbs during the warm season, and she would like to promote gardening culture.
Hrbvor was selected by consumer goods and food delivery company, GoPuff, in Philadelphia, for its “Put me on” Incubator of emerging CPG brands led by diverse founders.
“GoPuff is my first corporate account, and our iced teas will be available to order there in February,” said Marmar. “I am super excited to support GoPuff’s launch of our product, and of course leverage that success into other online grocers and large chain brick and mortar businesses in 2023!”
Marmar wants people to know: “The herbs in my teas have among the highest concentrations of something called ‘Phyto-nutrients’ with incredible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-pathogenic properties! I guess what I would tell people is ‘drink more herbs!”
To support Hrbvor, those who are interested can follow the company on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/hrbvor/?hl=en. For those who would like to see and buy the teas at a grocery store, restaurant, or gym, you can send the company a direct message there, and they’ll reach out to them. There will be announcements there of when the new bottled and canned teas hit the shelves. In the meantime, organic loose leaf teas are in stock on their website for BIY (brew it yourself): www.drinkhrbvor.com.
They can also follow them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/hrbvor/.
Those who wish to buy the company’s teas can shop online here: https://drinkhrbvor.com/collections/all.