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Black Joy

Whenever life gets crazy, I turn to mother nature for solace.
I go outside and focus on the greenery that didn’t die from winter’s touch. I slip on my warmish fleece hoodie and feel the breeze a little bit. The sun ain’t shining because it’s cloudy, but I know it’s still there. I may go sing to my plants as I water them, just as my grandma did.
This newsletter wasn’t originally supposed to start this way. But between the violence in Ukraine and folks coming for my girl Meg Thee Stallion (again), I thought it would be best to ease into this week’s topic.
Throughout February, we at how we pass down Black joy through our family line. We talked about how plant joy is liberation at a Black-owned Dallas shop, we’ve indulged in the uplifting scents of Black candle making and we’ve admired the servant’s heart of an 11-year-old nonprofit director. Now we get to talk about Black beekeepers who work in a world buzzing with business and drippin’ with golden joy. As a bonus, we’re also chatting about the healing power of herbal teas.
Before we dive into the hive, we wanna know how Black Joy is sustaining you during your turbulent days. So, hit us up. Our ears our open and your stories always matter.
— Starr
She’s got the tea…and the honey

The kitchen is more than a place to whip up good meals for Titilé “Tee” Niamke. It’s a sacred space where she combines the medicinal properties of tea and honey to help her community.
One of two Black women beekeepers in Memphis, Tee’s business, the Tea Bar 901, sells health-boosting teas and local raw honey infused with herbs, fruits and spices. Since starting the business in 2016, Tee’s products have received praise for their results. One woman who suffered from neuropathy recently told Tee how her Relief tea, made with pain-relieving turmeric and ginger, helped ease her aching joints. Another customer bragged on social media about how Tee’s turmeric honey facial soap zapped away her acne.
“I make these items thoughtfully in the kitchen and it makes me happy to know that what I’m making for society is helping people,” Tee said. “I hope my teas and honey bring lifelong health, wellness and harmony to many generations to come on a physical and mental level.”
The kitchen is Tee’s sanctuary of happiness for a reason. It’s where the women in her life found joy through cooking. Her grandmother’s popular tea cakes is made with a recipe that’s multiple generations old. The mixture of warm and sweet spices made the tea cakes taste like Christmas. Tee’s mother, Thelma, has been cooking since she was nine and her meals were always the talk of the town. The popularity inspired Tee’s mother to start a catering business called Thelma’s Cookin’.
Tee may not be serving up pies and tea cakes, but she still follows the tips she learned from her grandmother and mother as she makes her own products for the Tea Bar.  One of those lessons taught her the importance of making more than enough. According to her grandmother and mother, you don’t just cook for your family. You fed the neighborhood, too.
“You never just make a little bit for yourself. You make enough for everybody just in case somebody else comes over,” Tee said.
So when Tee learned about the health properties of herbs, she knew she had to share that knowledge with others.
As a Middle Tennessee State University student in the throes of post-breakup anxiety, she started ordering tea. Unable to recognize any of the ingredients on the packaging, she conducted her own research that unlocked a life-saving treasure trove of information. One tea helped calm nervousness before she attended career fairs. Another tea helped a friend with ADHD focus on completing an important job application they had languished for a week to finish.
After a year’s worth of reading up on herbs, Tee launched the Tea Bar 901. In all, she has studied the healing properties of about 200 herbs.
Tee realizes how her family’s cooking taught her about the supportive power of Black love. If a neighbor needed food, her family had it handled. If a parent had to work late, they are watching your kids.
“So often people portray Black people as crabs in a bucket. If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and one tries to climb out, the other crabs will climb on that crab’s back and push him down to try to get out,” she said. “But from what I’ve seen in my family and other Black families I know, Black people are some of the most giving people in the world.”
Tea Bar was a few years underway before Tee got into the beekeeping business. She wanted her teas to be sweetened, but she didn’t want to dilute the health benefits with processed sugar. She started studying the benefits of honey, which has wound-healing, cough-soothing, seasonal allergy eliminating abilities.
One problem: continuing to buy jars of honey as a college student on a budget was becoming pricey. She thought, why not get it from the source? So she tapped a local beekeeper who agreed to mentor her and teach her the importance of bee care. Tee learned what to put on the honey frame to protect the bees from diseases and pests. She stayed calm around her buzzing new friends because if she got too aggressive, the bees may start knuckin’ and buckin’, too.
The first time Tee worked with a frame of honeycomb was in 2018. But she didn’t get to taste raw honey until about two years later. Golden joy oozed from the honeycomb as she picked it apart.
“It was way too sweet, but I didn’t stop eating. It was like nothing I ever tasted,” Tee said.
Of course, Tee had to add her own kick to the honey. She began infusing it with the same herbs she uses in her teas. Her first combination eucalyptus and honey as an immunity boost for the winter.
Tee now works with 40 hives and has infused her honey with multiple flavors, like strawberries, lemon and cinnamon. Tee believes honey can be like an elixir for the Black community, especially in a city where the air quality isn’t the best, according to the American Lung Association’s 2021 “State of the Air” report.
“In Memphis, everybody has terrible allergies because of the toxins in the air,” she said. “Honey helps people with their allergies, asthma and sinuses. The diabetes rate is also high in the Black community. Raw honey doesn’t spike blood sugar like processed sugar does and it has antioxidants in it.”
To learn more about the growth of Tee’s business, you can continue to read the story here.
Sweeten your day by checking out these Black beekeepers

Mother’s Finest Urban Farm: Samantha Foxx is the “farm mother” of this 2.5 acre family farm in Winston-Salem, N.C. A one-stop shop for all things farming, healing and beekeeping, Mother’s Finest sells honey, tonics, shea butter, elderberry syrup and community supported agriculture, or CSA, boxes. You can sponsor a hive to help Foxx and her family save the bees or you can sign up for their Intro to Beekeeping workshop that’s set up for March 17th!
Honey Bee Goode Apiaries: Military veteran Lloyd Hardrick and Spelman College alumna Ashley Hardrick are all about educating people about how to preserve the honey bee population in Atlanta. The couple works with children to ease their fear of bees and educates them about why bees are important pollinators to have in our lives.
“Bee” amazing by spreading your own Black joy. See y’all next week!


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