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Idioms about tea

    one's cup of tea, something suitable, appropriate, or attractive to one: Horror movies and westerns are just not my cup of tea.
    spill the tea, Slang. to reveal interesting or confidential information; share gossip: In this exclusive clip, the famous actor spills the tea on who gets offered the best roles first.

Origin of tea

First recorded in 1590–1600; 1940–45 for def. 9; from dialectal Chinese (Xiamen) t'e, akin to Chinese chá


tea·less, adjective


tea , tee
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does tea mean in slang?

There are, of course, many types of tea: green tea, bubble (boba) tea, the redundantly named chai tea, the tea tree and its oil, the Boston Tea Party, the teacup poodle, the Long Island iced tea, to name just a few.

But in slang, tea means “gossip,” a juicy scoop, or other personal information. (It’s best served piping hot.)

Where does the slang meaning of tea come from?

Tea refers to gossip or other private information. As far as we can tell, it was steeped in Black drag culture.

One theory connects tea to the celebrated drag performer The Lady Chablis, who is quoted in the 1994 bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: “Yeah, my T. My thing, my business, what’s goin’ on in my life.” T, here, is short for truth.

The slang tea may riff on The Lady Chablis’s T as well as on tea parties, at which well-to-do Southern women are popularly imagined to gossip. The term is especially found in the expression spilling the tea, or dishing out the gossip, associated with Black gay slang.

Tea spread thanks in part to RuPaul’s Drag Race starting in 2009. The reality show frequently uses (spilling the) tea for “gossip.” Meanwhile, talk show host Wendy Williams, has been known to drink actual tea while spilling some tea on her Wendy Williams Show.

One internet-famous tea-sipper is The Muppets‘s Kermit the Frog. In it, he is smugly taking a sip of Lipton tea and remarking “But that’s none of my business,” used to throw shade. The meme emerged as early as 2014 and is sometimes used, true to the slang tea, in contexts of gossip.

How to use the slang term tea

The Black gay and drag communities stills love tea, which spread into a more mainstream vernacular thanks to the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

You can spill the tea like you would use the more common expression spill the beans

Other tea expressions include no tea no shade, what’s the tea sis, and that’s the tea.

It’s also common to see tea being used as a reaction to someone revealing some sensational information (e.g., Tea!).

More examples of tea:

“East St. Louis may not have the staple food like the overrated Harold’s Chicken (all tea, no shade). However, it was the mom and pop shops from your everyday neighbors, educators and church folks that ensured anyone could have a cooked meal when asked.”
—Alana Marie, The Root, February 2019

“When Drake dropped his highly anticipated Scorpion album on June 29, it’s safe to say that everyone was shook by a handful of lyrics in “Finesse,” which seemed to hint at a romance with the model.”
—Lara Walsh, Elite Daily, June 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use tea in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tea

/ (tiː) /


Word Origin for tea

C17: from Chinese (Amoy) t'e, from Ancient Chinese d`a
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with tea


see cup of tea; not for all the tea in china; tempest in a teapot.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.