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The internet has made sharing gossip a sport, and social networking has made it a daily part of our lives. There’s not a day that goes by where someone isn’t “spilling the tea” on something.
Twitter and TikTok allow you to access exclusive information about all things tea, from court cases to the most recent season. 90 Day Fiancé.
When exploring these platforms, you’ll probably find phrases like “Give me the tea” and “Where’s the tea?” You might even see a tweet that features Kermit the Frog sipping a Lipton tea. Tea is everywhere. But where did this phrase “spill the tea” come from?
The ‘Spill The Tea’ Origin Story
The first definition was published in Urban Dictionary, the phrase “spill the tea” means “gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop; the news.” But why? How did this happen?
Chalk Magazine reported the theory that the phrase “spill the tea” goes all the way back to the late 18th century. According to this story, women would sit on front porches and chat while drinking tea. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to prove This.
Merriam-Webster claimed the phrase actually originated in black drag culture, just like the term “shade.” But this kind of tea doesn’t have anything to do with the herbal beverage.
In 1991’s One of the Children – An Ethnography for Identity and Gay Black Men by William G. Hawkeswood, a person named “Nate” is quoted as saying “Straight life must be so boring. Because everyone conforms. These gay kids carry on… They give you dance and great tea [gossip].”
One of the earliest known uses of the phrase in pop culture happened in John Berendt’s 1994 best-selling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Berendt interviews The Lady Chablis, a prominent drag queen, about her love life. And she explained how she avoided certain men who got violent when they “find out her T.”
“My T. My thing, my business, what’s goin’ on in my life,” she said. Evidently, that was the birthplace of spilling the tea. As Americans installed dial-up internet, the phrase began to spread and take root.
Chablis’ interview in the book introduced the world to black drag culture and vocabulary. Her “T”, or her truth, was that she’s transgender.
Chanté, You Stay
After being introduced in Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilThe phrase began to appear in various places. On Comedy Central’s The Nightly ShowLarry Wilmore used it often. He also called out someone for lying by saying “weak tea.”
But it was most likely Rupaul’s Drag RaceThis made it a part of our everyday vocabulary. It’s in this iconic show where “tea” (meaning gossip) is used interchangeably with “T” (meaning your personal truth).
The days of gossip are gone. Now, when you’ve got some juicy news to share, it’s time to spill the tea.