I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Blogger Luke Burke! My Best Friend! Part Two

It had been about a year since Rae spoke at my University. I was now a college grad, living and working in New York City. Rae had such an impact on my life that I vowed to keep in touch with her. Rae however did not know I made this vow with myself.

I gave Rae a call on a random hot summer night in my studio apartment. I had no air condition and no furniture. I was young and trying to make it. The call probably lasted about five minutes. Rae answered the phone and I explained to her who I was. She acted like she remembered me but in her voice I felt she had no clue who I was. I told her I lived in NYC now and that next time she was in the city to let me know so we could grab dinner. She was very polite and agreed and we hung up the phone. I was so happy just to hear her voice. I was on total groupie status at that time 

A year later, true to my personal pact with myself – I gave Rae another call. I just wanted to see how she was doing and hear her voice. I expected this call to be just as awkward as the last call but I didn’t care. I wanted to check on her. Rae answered the phone with a sense of urgency, I felt so stupid for bothering her. I began to tell her who I was and to my surprise this time I felt she really remembered who I was. I didn’t know if this was good or bad so I just went with it. At the end of the day I just wanted to get to know Rae and yes I wanted to be her friend. I attempted to engage Rae and start conversation and it worked! Before I knew it we were on the phone for over an hour. The rest I guess you can say is history. Rae and I now talk on the phone everyday…often multiple times a day.

Rae’s transparency is something I had never seen before in another human being. I am from the south and in the south people say what they think you want to hear. Rae is from Chicago and speaks the truth ALWAYS! She is not afraid to tell you exactly what she thinks. With Rae you can expect her to be honest at ALL times. She often says “You can’t sugar coat shit” and that she doesn’t do “half truths”. For me, growing up in a place where people were so judgmental on everything from race to sexuality Rae was a breath of fresh air. I saw in Rae a fearless individual that was both confident and strong. I admired these personality traits that Rae possess and still do.

Throughout our friendship Rae has taught me many things. I think of her as both a friend and mentor. I’ve learned so many life lessons from her. Her knowledge and wisdom on everything from politics to worldly subjects proves her extensive education and life experiences. We can talk for hours and not even realize it. We are the type of friends who can call each other in the middle of the night just to get thoughts our of our head. I’ve never had such unconditional love in friendship. Rae is beyond a friend to me - I consider her family. (To be continued)

Since Rae and I became friends we have shared many great experiences together. Despite our age difference (We are 18 years apart) we hang out like we were separated at birth. We both have an affinity for the finer things in life (although I think Rae is way worse than I am in this area!). We have come to the conclusion that sometimes we are each others Kryptonite. Neither one of us really know how to say “no” when it comes to treating ourselves (or each other).

One time when I was in Chicago on a business trip I invited Rae to my hotel to have dinner. I was staying at the TRUMP and she HAD to see how beautiful this place was – it was right up her alley! She met me at the hotel and we made our way to the restaurant on the top floor. We gasped at the view of Chicago from the floor to ceiling windows surrounding the room.

We were seated promptly and felt right at home. Great service, great views, and hanging out as besties. Rae and I decided to splurge and opted for the Chefs 10-course tasting menu. Each course was the size of a small saucer but we were blown away by the exceptional taste of each dish and how full we became after about the fifth tasting. We laughed and shared stories in between eating. Rae doesn’t drink (I do) so out of respect for her I never order a drink when I am with her. It’s amazing to me how I feel as if I’m high on life when we spend time together. Who needs a drink when I got Rae!? You can imagine my high deflated by the time the bill came. We are no good together when it comes to budgets but we have no regrets – it was worth it and a memory we both cherish.

There have been times when Rae and I do the exact opposite of lavish dinners at five star restaurants and we still have a great time. Last Thanksgiving Rae and I spent almost the whole weekend in her apartment on Chicago’s Gold Coast eating home cooked meals made by yours truly (Rae, not me). She cooks like she expects to eat…with perfection. Rae is an AMAZING cook! We spent lazy days in our pajamas on the couch arguing over what to watch on TV (we have VERY different taste) and drinking tea. We eventually compromised and I have come to love Law and Order and she grew to love Real Housewives. For Rae and I, spending time together is always fun. It doesn’t matter where we are.

As much as Rae and I like nice things she has shown me that she is humble enough to not be attached to them. When speaking engagements became sparse and few Rae downsized and moved out of her beautiful three bedroom condo to a small studio on the Gold Coast. She sold jewelry, furs, purses, and designer suits just to make ends meet.

Yet, even during this low time of a financial crisis as we walked past a young man begging for a meal on the street, Rae stopped to help. Living in New York I am accustomed to seeing people beg and I was naturally inclined to ignore him and continue about our business. Rae however took the young man in the nearest restaurant and bought him a meal. I was upset with Rae for doing this. “How do you know he is really broke Rae? You don’t even have a lot of money yourself?” I asked. Rae looked me straight in the eye and told me “I know what it’s like to be hungry. Just because that young man looked like he wasn’t homeless doesn’t mean he isn’t struggling. If he is asking for help who are we to question him?” she said.

I had a revelation at that moment. It dawned on me Rae was speaking truth. Here we were driving around in Rae’s Jaguar, yet she was selling personal items to survive. On the outside Rae looks like the picture of health. She is beautiful. Sharp from head to toe and no matter how she feels each day she still pushes herself to get out of bed and face the day like the DIVA she is.

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 Her compassion for others is admirable on many levels. Even when her speaking engagements were few and far between she still strives to educate. Her ministry never stops and she practices what she preaches. Rae doesn’t get paid to tweet on twitter, post on facebook, or recount her daily struggles on her blog.

She exposes personal and painful aspects of her life in hopes that her transparency will allow others to make better decisions. It hurts her to hear of new diagnosis of HIV because in 2011 people know to use a condom. At the time of her infection AIDS was not supposed to happen to a straight woman -- but it did.

Earlier this year, I attended a meeting at work that was catered by a well known soul food restaurant. I made a plate of Salmon topped with lump crab meat, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens. I even put a slice of pecan pie in my takeout box for dessert. I couldn’t wait to get home and eat the food while catching up on some of my favorite shows on TIVO.

As I got off the train I heard a mans voice ask for help. He was hungry and needed food. I tried to ignore him because I really wanted to eat this meal. I took a few more steps and heard him cry out for food once again. I stopped in my tracks and thought of Rae. I thought about how at a time when she had no money she was willing to spend the little she had to help someone in need and I knew what I had to do. I turned around and gave the man my food.

Thank You Rae for making me a better person.

Part One Click Here! 
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