‘Spill the Tea’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Amy Gilmore, updated on November 15, 2022

‘Spill the tea’ is a saying that means tell the truth. It originated from a book published in 1994 called, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. In the book, one of the characters, a drag queen named Lady Chablis, frequently uses the term when telling others to tell the truth. 

To learn more about this figure of speech, take a look at this guide. It includes definitions, meanings, and examples, as well as tips for using this idiom and others. 

What Does ‘Spill the Tea’ Mean? 

‘Spill the tea’ is a statement used to tell someone to tell the truth. At least that was the original meaning derived from John Berendt’s 1994 novel. However, today, people often use it to share gossip. So, when someone says ‘spill the tea’ they may want you to share information about someone else. 

When Do People Say ‘Spill the Tea?’

‘Spil the tea’ is frequently used on social media and in YouTube videos. For example, you may see YouTube videos that start like this: 

  • Hi followers! I am so happy you are joining me today because we are about to ‘spill the tea’ on…

The term is not a great one to use in business emails or communications in which you want to sound polite. So, this one may be better to save for a postcard or text to a friend rather than a formal message to your boss or client. 

Also, people often use variations of this term like:

  • Spill the T
  • Spill the truth

‘Spill the Tea’ Examples

Now that you know what ‘spill the tea’ means, take a look at these usage examples. 

Example One

Person One: I have the craziest story to tell you the next time I see you. 

Person Two: Now I am interested. I do not want to wait until the next time I see you. ‘Spill the tea.’

Example Two

Person One: Did you hear what happened this weekend? 

Person Two: No, ‘spill the tea.’

Example Three

Person One: ‘Spill the tea.’ What has been going on with you? 

Person Two: Well, I have been working on a new project that has been keeping me really busy. 

Idiom Usage Writing Tips

Idioms are great for connecting with your audience. For example, you may use the term ‘spill the tea’ when connecting with a young adult audience. Despite the phrase coming from a book published in 1994, it is more commonly used in younger crowds. Here are a few other tips. 

1. Do Not Overuse Idioms

Using idioms can help you connect with a specific audience. But, overusing idioms can make you look like you are trying too hard. So, it is best to use figures of speech sparingly.

2. Use Phrases Your Audience Understands

If you are writing content set in current times, you need to use idioms in the way the audience uses them. If you are setting a story in a different period, you would want to use the saying in the way it was used during that time. For example, if you are trying to write like Earnest Hemingway, you would not want to use 'spill the tea,' 'woot woot,' or 'shoot your shot.' 

3. Ensure You Understand the Appropriate Usage

If you decide to use idioms in your writing, you must make sure you are using them correctly. For a quick reference to verify meanings, bookmark writingtips.org.

4. Be Mindful of Your Tone

The tone of your writing will impact the message you send, no matter what idioms you use. So, it is important that your message and tone match. Read your work out loud to see how it will sound to the reader. 

5. When in Doubt, Leave It Out

If you are unsure of how a saying may come across to your reader, it is best just to leave it out and explain what you want to convey in simple language. 

Final Advice on Using ‘Spill the Tea’ and Other Idioms

Idioms are an interesting and fun way to add creativity to your writing. However, when using terms like 'spill the tea' make sure you use them correctly. Otherwise, it will make you look disconnected or like you are trying too hard.

Furthermore, while there is nothing wrong with saying 'spill the T,' it is best saved for informal communications. Instead, it is better just to say what you need to say in a professional setting.


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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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