Expressions about tea abound. Not surprising. Tea is becoming of more interest, and we humans tend to fold our interests into our vocabulary, sort of like folding chocolate chips into cookie dough. They make the cookies sweeter, and the expressions make our daily speech more interesting.
- A friend invites you to a Lady Gaga concert. You reply, “Sorry, but she’s not my cup of tea.”
- The hostess at the dinner party hands you a dish of pickled squid. You suppress the urge to toss your cookies and then say, “Squid, pickled or otherwise, is not my cup of tea.”
- You travel back in time to the private chambers of Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, in Buckingham Palace, set your teacup down to excuse yourself for a little nose powdering, then return to the room. The Duchess hands you a teacup. You say, “Sorry, that’s not my cup of tea.” (Hey, you knew I had to say it!)
Of course, this expression has a positive side. “That’s my cup of tea” is for those things you really like.
Another expression is “not for all the tea in China.” That’s a lot of tea. There’s Keemun Panda, Oolongs, Tie Kuan Yin, Snow Dragon, Pai Mu Tan (White Peony), etc. … see what I mean? It usually indicates that someone is asking you to do something you don’t want to do. “Can I wash my car with your new Armani evening gown?” “Not for all the tea in China.” Hey, if someone wanted to give me all the tea in China, I’d have that gown off the hanger and in the bucket quick as a wink.
Like to make a big issue out of a tiny one? That’s a “storm in a teacup.” A good example is the movie by that name with Rex Harrison and Vivien Leigh. An alternate expression is “tempest in a teapot” for making a totally humongous issue out of an absolutely minuscule one.
If something is “about as useful as a chocolate teapot,” it’s, well, pretty useless. Sort of like using a facial tissue to clean the snow and ice off your windshield.
Some expressions that should be about tea and could be interpreted that way:
- All Thumbs = Like me sometimes when I’m preparing tea.
- Bend Over Backwards = Do some stretches while waiting for your tea to steep.
- Drive Someone Up a Wall = Serve low-quality, bitter tea.
- Feel Like a Million Dollars = Your state of being after drinking that better quality tea.
- Knock Someone’s Socks Off = What that high-quality tea will do when you serve it to your guests.
- Leave Someone High and Dry = Don’t share your tea with that someone.
- Money talks = Spend a bit more for a better quality tea, taste will be your reward.
- Play It by Ear = Listen to your tea kettle to know when the water is boiling.
- Spill the Beans = Give up coffee for tea.
- String Someone Along = Serve someone tea with the bag still in the mug and the string and tag hanging over the side.
Some expressions about tea have been mutated into expressions about other things. (All true — every word — I swear! Well, maybe not every word. Okay, so I made them up.) Here are a few:
- “A penny for your thoughts” was “a cup of tea for your thoughts”
- “A stitch in time saves nine” was “a cup of tea in time saves the tummy”
- “A penny saved is a penny earned” was “a penny saved buys a cup of tea”
A few things to consider as you sip your cuppa!