My Cup of Tea / One's Cup of Tea Expression in English

154 - Expression: My Cup of Tea

This is the first part of a two-part lesson. In the second part, we learn all about "The Boston Tea Party." 

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Words that are bolded in red are suggested vocabulary words for this episode.

It’s episode 154, My Cup of Tea.

How are you doing today? I hope you’re having a nice day wherever you are in the world. I hope that you’re safe. I hope that you’re happy. If you’re not happy, I hope that you find this podcast a positive and upbeat place that you can turn to.

Today we have another expression episode. As usual, expression episodes come in two parts. In part one, so this episode, we’ll start with a joke, I’ll teach a common expression used in American English, and at the end, we’ll go through some pronunciation exercises in which you need to repeat after me.

In part two of this episode, you’ll learn about one of the most iconic events in U.S. history, the Boston Tea Party. It’s one of the major events that fueled our fight for independence from Britain, and the story is just nuts. It’s not your average tea party, it’s a crazy one and really worth learning about if you don’t know about it already.


It’s also worth learning about if you’re interested in the very beginning of the United States; if you’re curious how the US was created and what led to our independence. If you’re taking the US citizenship test any time in the near future, you can’t miss that episode.


On that note, I’ve created a webpage on americanenglishpodcast.com for those of you who want to prepare for the US citizenship test. I have a bunch of different episodes that cover the material you may be asked about, and in my opinion, it’s better than memorizing information. You get stories! And all of this is free. So do check out that webpage, you can find the link for it in the episode notes.

Let’s begin today’s episode. As usual, we’ll start with a joke.

The Joke of the Day


Why didn’t the Englishman drink the cup of coffee?


Any idea?


It wasn’t his cup of tea.


You probably are aware that the English drink a lot of tea; they’ve got that reputation. What’s funny about this joke is the wordplay with "his cup of tea."


When taken literally, we understand that the cup of coffee doesn’t belong to him. The coffee wasn’t his cup of tea, so naturally he didn’t drink it. Why would you want to drink someone else’s coffee? Right?


Now there is a figurative meaning to "his cup of tea." When something is "our cup of tea," it means we enjoy it. We like it. It’s something that pleases us.


If something is not our cup of tea — and notice how I’m already saying cup of tea, not cup of tea — it means that we do not enjoy it, it doesn’t suit our tastes or interests, we don’t like it very much.


So, perhaps this Englishman didn’t drink the cup of coffee because he just doesn’t like coffee, he likes tea. All right, so perhaps it didn’t belong to him. Perhaps he didn’t like it. That’s the wordplay.


Let’s listen to the joke one more time:


Why didn’t the Englishman drink the cup of coffee?


It wasn’t his cup of tea.


I like that, it’s simple. I bet you understood it without my explanation. Thank you for being patient, and let’s move on to the next section. [00:05:00] 


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Word Definitions


Let’s go through the individual word definitions for cup of tea.


Cup – A cup is a small and typically cylindrical-shaped container used for drinking liquids. She sipped her tea from a delicate porcelain cup.


It’s also important to note that “cup” is very general. If you want to pour a hot beverage into a cup with a handle, you might ask for a tea cup or a coffee cup, or even a mug.


Of – Of expresses the relationship between a part and a whole. It indicates belonging or association. A slice of cake was left on the plate.


Often you can’t hear of, we just say of of (sounds like a a), slice of, a slice of cake, a slice of cake, a cup of tea, a cup of tea. Yeah. Note that because it does help improve listening comprehension if you know that "of" is often reduced to simply "a."


And then…


Tea – Tea is a hot drink made by infusing dried and crushed leaves in boiling water. It’s typically served without milk, occasionally with it, occasionally with honey.


Popular tea types include chai, earl gray, English breakfast tea, peppermint. There are just so many options. In the morning, she prefers tea to coffee, so she likes tea more.

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That’s it for the free part of this transcript. For the vocabulary, definitions, quiz, full transcript and more, be sure to sign up to Season 4.