I came across this quote about "nothin' tea" from "The Martian", though I haven't read the book.

I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.

I googled for "nothin' tea", and most hits I got were for the book.

Are there any more common terms for this concept, apart from "hot water"? An example usage would be

My grandma sometimes has ____ - not because she's stuck on Mars, but because of problems she has with tea.

  • I dun wrestling with yer grandma and still can't read the tea leaves on this one, what? Oct 16, 2016 at 3:56
  • 1
    nothin' coffee perhaps Oct 17, 2016 at 18:24
  • This reminds me of my mother's favourite drink (known within the family as a "Mummy Special"): hot water, milk and sugar. It's normally explained to strangers (e.g. flight attendants who ask "would you like a drink?") as "tea without the tea in it".
    – AndyT
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:12

3 Answers 3


I believe this word is just a humorous phrase made up by the author as a way to show that the main character has limited resources (he's on mars) and so is not able to drink regular tea, or other desirable food items.


Adam's Ale is a colloquial term for plain water to drink - from the idea of the biblical Adam having nothing else to drink (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adams_ale)


Nothing Tea is much like the basis for Stone Soup.

From Wikipedia

The travelers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire.

In the story, the stone is inert and makes no difference to the water. In the beginning, Stone Soup is the same as Nothing Tea. But then more is added to Stone Soup, where nothing is available to add to Nothing Tea.

  • Stone soup is a great story. Always reminds me of the Australian story of 'Cockatoo Stew' (a cockatoo is a big parrot, renowned for being tough and inedible): Take a pot of water, a cockatoo, and a big round river stone. Boil until the stone is soft. Throw the cockatoo away and eat the stone.
    – Beejamin
    Dec 22, 2016 at 15:59

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