Something that a person finds to be agreeable to their tastes; delightful.
If something is your cup of tea, then that means you like it. If something is not your cup of tea, then that means you do not like it.
Example: We couldn’t decide which movie to watch, so we ended up settling on a comedy. Half-way through the movie, I concluded that its humor was not my cup of tea.
Origin Of ‘Not My Cup Of Tea’
Most people have a preference when it comes to the kind of beverage they like to drink. For many people, that beverage is tea. In fact, tea is one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world, next to water. It has a variety of flavors that people enjoy, including green, apple, and ginger tea. And of course, there are flavors that people dislike.
So then, the idea here for this phrase is that things are being likened to a cup of tea. If something is in line with a person’s tastes, then it could be said that it’s ‘their cup of tea.’ If something is not in line with a person’s tastes, then it could be said that it’s ‘not their cup of tea.’
From what I’ve found, this phrase goes back to at least the 1930s, as this is when it started to appear in writing. It’s used similarly to how it is today, to describe things that a person likes or dislikes. For example, in the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper, February 1935, there’s an advertisement that reads:
“As Margie always says, ‘Saving energy is great, but taking the hassle out of window cleanin’ is my cup of tea.'”
Perhaps anecdotal, but I’ve found that this phrase is most often used to describe things that a person dislikes. Thus, the word ‘not’ is added to the front of the expression (e.g. that brown shirt is not my cup of tea). The earliest example I could find of this saying with the word ‘not’ in front, comes again from the 1930s. It’s written by a man named James Agate in a literary work of his, first published in 1939:
“For assuredly immersion in medieval legend is not my cup of tea.”
- I listened to some music that a friend recommended me. After giving it a thorough listen, I have to say this type of music is not my cup of tea. (In other words, I don’t like it.)
Note: The origin of an idiom may not be known sometimes. So what’s provided in cases like these are theories that may be plausible to how a phrase originated, but not necessarily so.
In addition, quotes that contain a phrase may be taken from old newspapers, poems, or books that were written centuries ago, but this by no means shows they originated from these. In all likelihood, if an expression is being used in a newspaper, it’s probably already well known, and thus, from an older period of time.