In northern China, we can say "喝茶了吗?" to ask someone if they have already eaten.

However, there are also 3 means of "喝茶":

     1. drink hot water
     2. drink hot water with tea
     3. arrest the offender

  • 4
    Is there a question in here?
    – Mou某
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 9:19
  • The third meaning you is just a Internet slang(and your translation for it is not exact). Common context will not remind people of that meaning. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 0:20
  • LOL the 3rd one made me laugh. It usually comes up when someone mentions something policitally-sensitive, which in mainland China can get the speaker detained.
    – iBug
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 4:51
  • 1
    “Drink hot water with tea” is not how you’d say it in English. You just say “drink tea”. Drinking hot water with tea sounds like you have a cup of tea and then you have a cup of hot water next to it, and you take turns drinking from both. Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:58

1 Answer 1


I start with 2. It's the literal meaning of 喝茶. 喝 = drink, 茶 = tea, so "have some tea" is a perfect translation of 喝茶.

To explain 1, you should think it as an interpersonal communication. In some cases, 喝茶 means "sit down and have some drink", usually after a guest visit. In this case, 茶 does not necessarily be 茶 and may be any drink. It's usually when people have something to talk or discuss that the host serves some drink first.

The 3rd one as recognized by 神秘德里克, is an internet slang. When one talks about something politically-sensitive (like the Tiananmen Square Massacre) in mainland China, local police would ask them to “来警察局喝点茶” (come to the police office and talk seriously), which then boils down to the above paragraph (serve drink before discussion).

  • Also relevant somehow is the opposite of 1, whereby 水 is used to refer to tea (e.g., in a restaurant). Not sure if that’s just an abbreviation of 茶水, though, or whether it’s the notion of water standing in for the notion of tea. Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:01

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