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.
Synonyms / Related: it’s (not) to my liking, I’m (not) a fan
The 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 plenty of flavors that people dislike.
So for this phrase, the idea is that things are being likened to a cup of tea. If something is in line with a person’s tastes, then it’s ‘their cup of tea’ (it’s a flavor of tea they enjoy). If something is not in line with a person’s tastes, then it’s ‘not their cup of tea’ (it’s a kind of flavor they do not enjoy).
So… what’s the origin of this phrase? From what I’ve found, it doesn’t look to be that old. The earliest I could find this expression appearing in print is the 1930s. For example, in the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper, February 1935, it’s used similarly to how we use it today, to describe things we like or dislike:
“As Margie always says, ‘Saving energy is great, but taking the hassle out of window cleanin’ is my cup of tea.'”
The word ‘not’ is often added to the front of this phrase (e.g. that brown shirt is not my cup of tea). I guess people like to share how much they don’t enjoy something! Anyways, the earliest example I could find of this saying with the word ‘not’ in the front comes again from the 1930s. This time, it is in a literary work by James Agate, published in 1939:
“For assuredly immersion in medieval legend is not my cup of tea.”
- A friend recommended me some music, so I gave the songs he suggested a listen. Well, after listening to each one, 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, the quotes you’ll see that contain a phrase may be taken from old newspapers, poems, or books. The purpose of these citations is to give you an idea on the expression’s age. Keep in mind that if an expression is being used in something like a newspaper, then it’s probably already a known saying at the time and thus its origin is older.