What is ‘tea’ as a phrase on the internet?


By now, most of us are familiar with the term "tea", but not in the context of, say, the hot beverage-but as in the goss. You know, the dirt, juice, scoop... The tea can be sipped, served, or spilled, depending on whether someone is simply enjoying a good bit of gossip or spreading it on their own.


But how did this bit of internet slang become so ingrained in our collective vernacular? The most obvious origin is that it was ostensibly derived from imagery of housewives or little old ladies sitting around drinking tea while sharing the neighborhood gossip.




What Does 'Tea' Mean?


Urban Dictionary's top definition dating back to 2003 states that tea is "gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop; news Spill the tea about what happened at the club."


Usage of the word really picked up steam in the drag community-the Black drag community, in particular-as another entry from 2010 states:


In the drag community, tea is particularly juicy or sought after gossip or info. Often, but not always, drag drama is associated. Tea is often served during or after drag pageants, especially in online chat sites like Carrie Fairfield where gossip feeding frenzies involving the latest drag related news are a common occurrence.


According to Merriam-Webster, the very first known appearance of the word "tea" in its current slang context came from the 1991 research publication, "One of the Children: An Ethnography of Identity and Gay Black Men," by William G. Hawkeswood.


"Straight life must be so boring. Because everyone conforms," quoted a subject known only as Nate. "These gay kids carry on ... They give you dance and great tea." Given the source, it only makes sense that, eventually, the word made its way to the drag scene.




Drinking Tea Reaction GIFs


GIFs including Morticia Addams, the rapper Dreezy, and Wendy Williams declaring that "the tea is exceptionally good today" have all become popular examples. 






tumblr/Reality TV Gifs


However you prefer your tea-hot, iced, black, or with sugar-we can probably all agree that tea is best served salacious AF.


Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.