Tea terminology can sometimes seem very fluid (pun intended), so when I saw the term “tea soup” being used, it was no surprise. Since this first sighting, I have seen other sites using this term, too. I suspect, though, that the term has come about based on an issue of translation.
The site I originally saw the term “tea soup” on was owned by a Chinese tea company. They were native speakers of Chinese who were translating into English, always a tricky thing to do, and for the most part they did a very reasonable job. It seemed, though, that their use of the word “soup” instead of “liquid” was a typical mistranslation (I’ve seen a number of such issues when helping foreign students at university with their various class papers).
It seems that other tea sites have picked up this term and are now using it, but inconsistently. They are basically referring to the liquid that is steeped from the tea leaves. Some call it “liquor,” some call it “liquid,” others call it “soup.” And some sites use all three in the same paragraph for the same tea.
The various terms being used interchangeably is not a big issue here. This is not like when people use the term “chai” (which means “tea” according to hubby’s Indian co-worker) instead of “spiced tea,” a practice that is commonplace but which causes comical moments and leaves one wondering if the tea company really knows anything about tea. (See my article Tea Terminology — “Chai Tea” vs. “Masala Chai”.) Using “soup” instead of “liquor” or “liquid” will not lead to confusion. They’re all liquids and so no miscommunication is caused here.
Even so, I tend to prefer to use the word “liquid” instead of “soup” and “liquor.” This is mainly due to connotative meanings. When you hear the word “soup,” do you think of chicken or other soups, something that is eaten with a spoon, not sipped from a cup? As for “liquor,” it implies alcoholic content, which is not the case with straight teas (as opposed to tea mixed with beer, vodka, wine, etc.)
Which term you use is your choice, and your meaning will be clear in any case.
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