According to Wiktionary, spill the tea (idiomatic, informal) means:

To disclose information, especially of a sensitive nature.

Apparently, the expression appears to be a recent one.

2012, Demetria L. Lucas, "Should I Worry That He Earns Less Money?", CARE, Issue #18, October 2012, page 18:

  • They are up in your business because you invited them in by spilling the tea on what you and your man earn.

And recently on YouTube, I read this comment

enter image description here

Can anyone tell me where it comes from? Is it British or American in origin?

  • 8
    In UK there is the much older expression "spill the beans". Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 20:07
  • 6
    It's unlikely to be American since we haven't spilled the tea since 1773.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 20:07
  • 1
    As a (Scot)Brit I have never heard of 'spilling the tea' in that context. 'Spilt milk' is used of an action that cannot be reversed, usually one that is culpable. 'Spill the beans' is to disclose something confidential or just pass on information which is not (yet) known generally.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 20:30
  • 1
    @NVZ - in what sense is this question unclear? Did you read it before close voting?
    – user 66974
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 5:55
  • 1
    @WeatherVane: “Spill the beans” means “divulge secrets” in the US, also. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 5:07

2 Answers 2


The expression appears to have originated in American black drag culture:

It appears that T, also spelled tea, had a double-edged meaning in black drag culture. It could refer to a hidden truth, as Chablis uses it, and it could also refer to someone else's hidden truth—that is, gossip:

  • Straight life must be so boring. Because everyone conforms. These gay kids carry on. ... They give you dance and great tea [gossip]. — "Nate" quoted in One of the Children: An Ethnography of Identity and Gay Black Men, William G. Hawkeswood, 1991

As drag culture—and particularly black drag culture—gained prominence, so too did this dual meaning use of tea. It's spread far beyond black drag culture at this point. The phrase "spill the tea," used as an encouragement to gossip, has been used in everything from Harlequin romance novels to "RuPaul's Drag Race"; "no tea, no shade" has been featured in explainers on black gay slang; comedian Larry Wilmore used "weak tea" regularly on his 2015-16 Comedy Central show in response to people who weren't telling the absolute truth.


The expression is American:

Spilling tea (American Slang)

On the day that I was working on this video, I searched ‘spilling tea’ online and found that it was in the headlines. “Rob Kardashian’s Instagram Is Disabled, But His Tea Spilling Continues On Twitter”. Spilling tea means to gossip about someone. So here, Kardashian was gossiping about his ex-fiance, which included posting naked pictures of her. Not good.

(Rachel's English.com)

  • "weak tea" is not necessarily a related expression. It's used in the UK to mean a poor performance, particularly at explaining ones failures. "weak sauce" means the same, I think. Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 21:18
  • The question already had 2 VTC, I think, before you edited the question. A good edit but it was really radical, the original question made very little sense and did not ask about the idiom's origin but its meaning, and then the OP seemed to have supplied it. Very weird. No wonder then some users voted to close it. So, I'd go easy on the warpath if I were you. You should have voted to keep it open in the review queue, if you hadn't already.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 10:06
  • 1
    what's weird? The fact that I supplied the answer? Or that I tried to save a potentially good question? The original question was very weird. It was nonsensical. Please try and be less sensitive.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 10:09
  • 1
    You forgot about this answer, didn't you? english.stackexchange.com/a/621901/44619
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 5 at 22:27

The word 'tea' in this context is slang for gossip or news. For example:

"Girl, did you know Renee is having ANOTHER baby?"

Urban Dictionary dates this entry: May 12, 2008

The American version I believe is spill the beans. Spill the tea is most likely British (not that only British people drink tea.)

However, in another UD entry, dated April 09, 2012, user Beava Diva says

To share gossip. A term started within the gay community of San Antonio, Texas and spread originally throughout the South Central region of the United States. Now used throughout the gay communities in United States and possibly other countries. It comes from the idea of having old Southern tea parties in the South to gossip behind people's back.

Presumably, the tea drunk in the Southern Sates must be sweet tea also known as iced-tea, and not the typical British cup of hot tea.

enter image description here

  • The question has been edited: Can anyone tell me where it comes from. It is British or American? Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 20:04
  • The American version I believe is spill the beans. Spill the tea is most likely British (not that only British people drink tea. 🙄) Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 20:07
  • 3
    I never heard "spill the tea" before. We (UK) "spill the beans". Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 20:09
  • @Junior Shepherd These Google Ngrams seem to confirm my suspicions that 'spill the beans' is the idiomatic choice on both sides of the Atlantic. Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 22:30
  • 1
    The etymology given on UD is almost certainly spurious. It comes from T, as in "truth", as noted in the top answer. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 7:28

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