That Wikipedia section needs a rewrite. It does mention that that usage is a class marker but then conflates it with the pastry-and-tea afternoon snack practice of upper classes. They are two radically disjoint uses.
The origin of the “tea” being the term for evening meal are pretty well attested to lie the poverty of the English lower classes who could not afford much more than a cup of tea in the evening.
I grew up using the word “tea” to refer to the evening meal in Australia (actually my parents were at pains to avoid this usage, but the rest of my dad’s family still does). My father, the only one in his family to attend university, clearly saw it as a dangerous class marker.
Interestingly my mother grew up using a chai language (Marathi) in the home but te languages (Cantonese and Fujianese) in the street. These usages of course were all for the drink.
(And btw your comment was funny to me because on of the all time greatest linguists of English was a Dane, Otto Jesperson).
I'd never heard of this before. Growing up in rural Scotland, meals were always "Breakfast", "Dinner" and "Tea". There was sometimes confusion with other people over whether dinner was a midday or evening meal, but I'd never thought much of it until now.
I've heard "Second Breakfast" is actually a thing with farmers, i.e. they get up super early (say 4am) to feed the livestock or do some other such thing (cow milking?) and they have a lightish breakfast - a cuppa, some cereal or maybe toast. Then later on, say 730am-8am, once these tasks are done and dusted, they head back to the farmhouse where they have a more hearty affair - sausages, bacon, eggs.
Damn, forgot about brunch. Too late to edit in now. I left out elevenses because that's really just a cup of tea and a rich tea or digestive. I feel you need a bit more than that for it to be classified as a proper meal.
In spanish I think all countries agree on at least: desayuno (breakfast), comida (lunch), cena (dinner) as the three basic. But we also have merienda and almuerzo which get different times and portions depending on country.
And there can be other terms of course. In Guadalajara, México, where I live, schools say "hora del lonche" (lunch time) to the midday meal.
'Desayuno, comida y cena' is how people refer to the main meals in the Dominican Republic, 'almuerzo' is also used to mean lunch but mostly in formal settings. I also just asked a Colombian friend and he says 'comida' is mostly used to refer to dinner, and 'almuerzo' for lunch.
Edit: He also says 'cena' is a more formal, less common way to refer to dinner.
Lunch is most commonly "almuerzo" in my experience, with some variation. I think there are some Europeans and perhaps pockets of Latin Americans who use "comida" to refer to either lunch or dinner as a meal, while most people use it to refer to food in general. Dinner is "merienda" in some places, while many others reserve the common "cena" for dinner and use "merienda" to refer to an afternoon snack.
'La Comida' as the main meal of the day at approximately lunchtime is a Castillian term and generally a Spanish (in the sense of: people that live in Spain) practice. The practice and this sense of the term 'comida' aren't common in Latin America, in my experience.
We usually have one main meal, and another that is lighter and more like a snack.
If you have the main meal in the middle of the day then it is called "dinner". The snack you have at the end of the afternoon is "tea".
If you have the main meal at the end of the afternoon it is "dinner". The snack you eat in the middle of the day is "lunch".
The difference probably depends on if you go home for a meal at mid-day or not. The later is probably more traditional as people used to work or study much closer to home. And there was somebody around during the day to prepare a meal. But nowadays going home for a main meal in the middle of the day is unusual so we all just have a small snack.
It can be confusing when other languages get added to the mix, because they don't necessarily follow that convention. E.g. in Russian, you traditionally translate the main meal of the day as "dinner" in English - but it's actually eaten early in the afternoon (usually around 1pm), so it's more like lunch in that regard, and honestly should probably just be rendered as such. I often found that whenever I would refer to "dinner" in my conversation, my (native English speaking) friends would automatically assume the end-of-the-afternoon meal; and the idea of having a dinner with colleagues implies some sort of highly formal event.
On the other hand, the after-work evening meal is usually less heavy, and is rendered as "supper" in English. And, again, I find that Americans usually assume that it takes place much later than it normally does, and is also much lighter than it normally is (basically a snack rather than a proper meal), if I use that word.
So clearly there is some implicit time-of-day mapping there.
In spanish you have 3 distinct meals, 'desayuno' 'almuerzo' and 'cena' mapping strictly to a moment of the day, more or less 'breakfast' 'lunch' and 'dinner', with the option of a merienda (roughly 'tea' but usually just sweet food like cookies or some such) between lunch and dinner. Each of this happens on a specific moment of the day (morning, noon, the optional afternoon thing and well into nighttime).
Are there other languages/dialects where the word maps the importance of the meal instead of the actual time it is consumed?
In my part of the world (Nova Scotia, Canada), "dinner" often means either lunch or the largest meal of the day. When planning for Christmas dinner I've found myself asking, "Lunch dinner or supper dinner?"
I grew up in England and it was similar.
Growing up Dinner was the hot meal using taken in the middle of the day either at school (dinner ladies), or at work (I imagined hot meals servers in factories or canteens).
And tea (teatime!) was cold/lighter possibly taken with tea, essentially late afternoon tea, followed by supper later in the evening.
Pretty sure it’s still like this in many places.
At some point dinner transitioned to lunch and teatime to dinner for us.
There is tons of disagreement about this stuff, as it varies so much region to region, but in general, in most English peaking places:
The three meals are "Breakfast", "Lunch" and "Supper". And if Lunch or Supper is the biggest/most formal meal of the day it may be called "Dinner" instead. Hence family "Christmas Dinner" may be at lunch time, but your "Dinner party" is in the evening.
I have only encountered “supper” as the name of a primary meal in parts of the USA. I think “breakfast, lunch, dinner” likely is the most widespread formulation. I never heard “supper” in Australia or Canada at all.
FWIW, I was taught "breakfast", "dinner", "supper" at school, and their English courses were supposed to closely follow British usage (although I'm not sure which regional dialects, if any specific ones, they tracked in practice). We were taught "lunch" as well, but it was treated more like a second breakfast.
In farms in Ireland its typically Breakfast - Dinner - Tea. Where your main meal of the day (dinner) is around 12-1pm and the evening meal (tea) is light. Your occasional cup of tea before bed is supper.
Outside of farming people have their main meal (dinner) when they come home from their office in the evening. So the lighter meal in the afternoon becomes lunch and theres no tea.
Interesting! Never heard anyone use "tea" to describe the evening meal. Tea refers to the light meal at late afternoon, after lunch and before the evening meal (dinner) at my place, seems to be same as the "common" usage.
BTW, Cantonese is actually a "chai language": the character 茶 (tea) reads like "char" as in charcoal, without the h sound and in a low tone.
Now I'm really curious, because breakfast/dinner/supper is what I was taught in school, English being my second language. And I also very quickly found that it doesn't match common usage in any of the countries I've been too... but I thought that it's because of an attempt to better reflect the times of the meals in translation that backfired. Now it sounds like they were basically just teaching us English circa first third of the 20th century?
In standard American English, dinner always refers to the main meal of the day. In traditional agrarian contexts, the meals were breakfast, dinner, and a light later meal called supper. Supper is related to the word soup and is therefore similar in connotation to the North English/Scottish use of tea to refer to a later light meal by the name of one of its (potential) components.
The shift over time from breakfast, dinner, and supper to breakfast, lunch, and dinner primarily reflects changing socioeconomic realities rather than some fundamental lexical shift.
Fairly well-off family in the Ozarks, USA. We only say "dinner" when it's a special occasion and it isn't in the morning. For normal meals it's breakfast, lunch, supper. Most of my classmates in elementary school (many of whom had not enjoyed those "changing socioeconomic realities") were the same.
I feel like you're conflating "traditional agrarian" with "rural." I also feel like you're conflating "changing socioeconomic realities" with "people getting rich or well-off."
Was your elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse? Did most people go home for the mid-day meal? Was school in session through the summer and winter with breaks for the planting season and the harvest? Did most people stop going after 6th, 7th, or 8th grade? If not, then I feel like your post may be non-responsive to mine.
Yes I probably misunderstood you, because I have no idea what you meant by "standard American English". I'm an American and I speak English, and my rural neighbors are the same, so I thought I would report my observations. Around here we rarely use the word "dinner" for meals eaten in one's own home.
I think breakfast/dinner/supper was standard usage among my extended family in Alabama -- I have to say "was" because I haven't been there since the early 1970s, but I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't changed.
> It does mention that that usage is a class marker but then conflates it with the pastry-and-tea afternoon snack practice of upper classes. They are two radically disjoint uses.
Yep, that looks like a serious mistake. My impression is that 'tea' or 'high tea' describes an all-class, or primarily lower class, nighttime meal. "Afternoon tea" describes the ~4 PM snack with sweet pastries instead of a primary meal.
A bit of investigation says that our mutual impression is correct, but complicated by Scotland, where "high tea" may be served with the size and timing of "afternoon tea" but with heavier, savory dishes on offer.
No, in Ipoh, Malaysia, where there were (unsurprisingly) few Maharashtrians, though plenty of Tamils and Sikhs due to te British Empire. Mostly Chinese people though so she needed to communicate in Marathi, Hokkien (Fujianese), Cantonese, and Malay. Then the country was (re-)invaded; the Japanese had schools (pretty much only for Indians) and taught them Japanese; after that the English came back and she learnt English.
In fact, though I also use three languages, the only one she and I have in common is English. Though I learnt some Marathi as a kid it was just how to read and how to talk about family relations (so limited in the European languages!) and food. We were in a part of Australia that hadn't yet heard that the White Australia laws had been abolished so speaking anything but English, even in your own home, was Very Bad, and emphasized your wog status.
I run into Mumbaikars and Punekars all the time here in the bay area but most are Hindi speakers.
In French, dejeuner, meaning literally breakfast, used to mean just that. But the nobility was used to getting up so late that dejeuner became lunch, diner became the evening meal, and they invented the 'petit dejeuner' to name the breakfast.
In southern France and rural areas, dejeuner remained breakfast, dinner the mid-day meal, and souper the evening one. Miscommunication ensues :)
Being a Sri Lankan immigrant to Australia, I say dinner, lunch and breakfast. But I always was familar with tea being meal in England. I though it was something I got from my Noddy and William books. But actually, it might just have been an Australian thing that I was reading into othose books.
When I acutally went and lived in London, I learned that it was a northern thing. Which is odd, because in other ways Australia seems to be dominated by London culture. Or at least Australians talk like Londoners.
I remember the lunches I used to have back in primary school up in Scotland; instead of having a school dinner, you used to go down to the chip shop, and their 'lunch' was a bag of chips, and you got a free potato fritter. So it was essentially a bag of chips, with a really big chip.
Ahem, my English book certainly featured a story about a worker kid coming home from school and having some kind of grub "for tea" at 5 pm, i.e. food with tea as the drink.
My understanding was that this usage referred to a meal eaten in the evening, i.e. not lunch. Your link seems to confirm that.
My grandmother used to serve tea for the evening meal when there were no guests other than her little grandson. But that's the only Danish example I personally know of. Don't know why, tea is not a bad drink for a meal.
As a kid in Sheffield I understood it as 'dinner' was your hot meal whenever you might have it, and tea was a lighter meal. So many kids had a hot meal at school (school dinner) and then went home for tea.
As a Norwegian in London, I still find it weird that my sons school serves "school dinner" around lunch-time. Even though the Norwegian word for dinner is "middag" which literally means "middle of the day" (though nobody uses it in that meaning any more, since it would be very confusing given that "middags-tider" "dinner-time" is pretty consistently late afternoon/early evening)
The Swedes also have Frokost at breakfast. The word, via germanic roots, means "early food" (present day German früh = early) and used to denote a meal taken before noon (as made sense when farm workers rose with the sun), but not necessarily the first meal, which would be "morgenmad", or "morning food" in all three languages (and a much simpler meal, as nobody was up to prepare it, as opposed to the later meal). From there, as this meal became more redundant, the word drifted earlier in the day in Norwegian and Swedish to become breakfast, and later in Danish to become lunch.
The large meal taken in the middle of the day was "middagsmad", or "midday food" (still is in the older generations, especially rurally, in Denmark), while "middag" is generally the larger, evening meal today (so, same deal as "dinner" in English).
Interesting. Fenno-Swedish did away with "frukost", and the only morning meal is "morgonmål". Though I remember reading about someone having separate "morgonkaffe" and "frukost" as a child, and thinking it very strange...
From an Australian heritage, I would say that dinner and tea were, more or less, used interchangeably. Some families used one, some the other, but pretty much everyone understood both. Over time I get the feeling that dinner was the winner in that choice war, but that might just be an east coast/west coast thing.
My upbringing was middle-class, my dad taught for a time in Sheffield - tea just meant "evening meal" and was probably always a larger hot meal than was served at school dinners.
In South Wales they talk about "cooked dinner" which is a roasted meat meal, usually chicken for Sunday lunch, but can be any time of the week. Presumably that harks back to families having lots of uncooked meals (through poverty).
Tea is the evening meal in most places outside of London, isn't it? It certainly was to me and my friends who grew up in Wiltshire, and going by my (admittedly poor) memory the only people I can think of who don't call it tea grew up in or near London.
I'm no Chinese expert, so somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I've found that the Chinese word 茶 (cha) doesn't always necessarily mean tea, but can refer generically to a number of different brewed drinks. e.g. barley tea (大麥茶), ginger tea (薑茶), golden oats tea (燕麥茶), etc. all of which translate to tea, but often contain no tea leaves. It may seem like a nitpick, but when you're in China and order what you expect to be a ginger flavored tea, only to receive a cup of hot water with chopped ginger at the bottom, the distinction can be important. That isn't to say you can't simply order 茶 in China and receive what you would expect, as long as you're expecting green tea. Likewise, if you simply order tea in England, you'll likely receive what the Chinese call 紅茶 (red tea). So in my mind, the words aren't exactly equivalent and I wonder how much the different variations of tea and cha relate to themselves and each other.
Most of the people in the US don't seem to care much about the distinction between infusions containing tea leaves and infusions that don't (when it's not just tea leaves); those who do, would often ask whether it's a caffeinated "tea" or not (infusions containing tea leaves usually contain caffeine).
Personally, I prefer to use the term "herbal infusion", because it unambiguous and relatively widespread.
However, in common usage people will say "herbal tea", both in English and Russian, even when aware that the tea plant is not in the mix. It seems like the crusade for "tea/chai" meaning something brewed from tea leaves is not only doomed, but has been lost before the West started to drink tea.
Tisane probably comes from French, where it is relatively common (at least understood, and a stickler for tea would correct your usage) and perhaps one would use it in English like other French culinary terms like “à la mode”
I've never heard "tisane" before, but it seems to mean "herbal tea". In which case, I've seen that distinction before also. ("Tea" having the actual tea plant, and "herbal tea" being any other plant-based brew.)
They are made from batter rather than dough, which I think disqualifies them as bread. On the other hand, corn bread and banana bread are also made from a batter, so you could call Yorkshire pudding a bread based on those. If I really wanted to assign them to a more common category than pudding, I would say they are a cake.
So one thing that a lot of people, including the author of the article, may not realize is that Chinese 'dialects' aren't really dialects. They are each different languages spoken by different ethnic groups, kind of like how Spanish and Italian are different languages but still related. These different languages are called dialects mainly for political reasons, with the main one being unification. It's useful to think of China as Europe, unified through force instead of legislation.
Anyways, I'm going to disagree with you. imo 茶 has the same meaning in different parts of China. It's just said differently in differents parts of China just as like it's called different things in different parts of Europe. The only difference is that in China it's written as the same character.
The reason that China split and unite again and again is all the dialects/languages share the same characters even sound differently. The phonetic based Latin can easily evolve differently to match the pronunciations of dialects. That's why after Rome collapse there are many new nations and can not unite again.
Translating the article:
Pu-erh (chin. 普洱茶, pǔ’ěr chá) – a kind of tea that is classified as red tea in Poland (black tea in China since the Chinese classify the tea according to the colour of the brew, as opposed to Europeans who classify tea according to the colour of dried leaves).
Not exactly. According to Bruckner, it comes from simplification of herba thea, which means "plant of tea", not "herbal tea". Then the cluster of Polish herbata, Belarusian harbata, and Lithuanian arbata grows from the same te-, even if it sounds so different, so the article is not THAT wrong. Though, I agree the statement "the world has..." is still technically incorrect as there are more languages around, than just English, and words for tea are many even if they are all of the same roots.
Same here. I live in San Francisco and to the best of my knowledge, Pu-erh seems to be called just that. “Red tea” is not often said, but I would assume it meant rooibos. (BTW — if you haven't tried rooibos, please do. It is delicious.)
In modern usage you're right, 茶 is used as 'beverage'.
When the character was created (appears in Erya under 'plants', so a very early character), it referred to one of a number of 'bitter herbs,' and linguists think it might have sounded like 'rlya'.
The character is composed of the top part, 艹 (classically written as 艸), meaning 'herbaceous plant' and the bottom part, 余, which supplied the pronunciation 'lya'.
There are two modern characters that come out of this, 茶 (cha) and 荼 (tu); the first one is used for tea/beverage, the second one has been borrowed a lot for its sound but at least one of its meanings is still 'bitter plant'.
Although I don't speak Mandarin I am quite familiar with Oriental culture and my impression is that it means "brew". They have a bewildering variety of infusions, more often than not medicinal, and sometimes I have the impression it means anything with hot water. In fact, its common to just have plain hot water.
My impression (as a heritage speaker) is that cha's usage has simply broadened a bit, in the same way that American English has herbal teas and fruit teas. These also don't contain any tea, and have a different term, tisane. But both cha and tea still primarily refer to, well, tea leaves.
I have just realized that I have never heard anything remotely close to "dim sum" when talking about dim sum, in both Mandarin and Cantonese. I've only heard "ying cha" or "yum cha." In fact I had to search up why it's "dim sum" in English just now. It literally means "snack"
At least in Australia, "chai" is on sale in cafes meaning Masala chai, a mix of leaf tea and Indian spices and herbs. And then you've got the "chai latte", like a regular latte but with "chai" instead of espresso.
Amusing weirding of language - it should really be a "masala"!
Masala means "blend of spices" "Garam masala" is a blend of hot spices, "chai masala" is meant for making tea, In the US, Chai usually refers to Indian style tea with milk and spices. Source: I've worked with a lot of Indian people.
As an Indian I want to put this on record, the spiced tea is absolutely obnoxious. We do not drink it. There is a different one flavored with ginger or cardamon, which people like and tastes so much better than 'masala chai' sold in US etc.
The call center beverages seen in "Slumdog Millionaire" appeared to me to be some sort of hot milk+tea beverage. At the time based on sources I had already read, I thought this would be spiced. I remember that in the movie, each serving was in a decent size drinking glass of about 10-12 oz and the glass was wrapped with what appeared to be a paper napkin. For some reason this is stuck in my mind.
This would appear to be confirmed based on regional dialects from this area.
In the Samogitian dialect of Lithuanian it's spelled "erbata", however the first "a" in modern Lithuanian isn't stressed, so it's very similar. Also in Kashubian (spoken in parts of northern Poland, often considered a dialect of Pomeranian) it is the same as modern Lithuanian.
On the other hand in Sambian Prussian it is "tejs", which is similar to "teja" in modern Lativan. It's interesting how two different forms emerged in the same geographic area.
If you mean "kobieta", from what I understand, it used to be offensive until about the 19th century, but the etymology of it is unclear and contested. I have no idea by what process it ceased to be offensive.
I don't know russian and can't read most of that anyways. Here's for polish: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/kobieta and it's definitely mare in croatian, and via that same in all languages in the region since we share large volume of vocabulary.
You should check in a real etymological dictionary. It's not entirely clear what the origins of 'kobieta' are whereas those of 'mare' are fairly well understood - it helps that it's practically universal in all slavic languages. There are lots of etymological mysteries out there, even surrounding very common words. It's fun to try but they generally don't get resolved by thinking of a somewhat similar-sounding word in a related language and glancing at wiktionary.
Well yes the term tea is used "in the wrong way" a lot and one could argue that it is common enough that it's the right usage these days (language evolves etc.). But technically tea is only from camelia sinensis varieties. So the "herbal teas" should technically be called something else like tisane.
I’m a native (simplified) Chinese speaker and I found it interesting to see the growth of meanings of tea, from originally a kind of bitter vegetable (荼, as 艹 for vegetable-related, 余 from 涂 for muds), to brewed drinks. For instance if you order a cup of 果茶 (lit. fruit tea), you will end up having a cup of hot water with sugar and cut apple pieces and more. The meaning of the “brewed drink” is IMO really pervasive.
The friendly article notes that both Japan and Korea likely acquired the word long before the Silk Road.
Relevant random factoid: it's possible to tell when many Chinese words were imported into Japan based on the pronunciation, which varies based on where the Chinese capital (and hence the ruling class dialect) happened to be. See "Onyomi" under
I somehow missed that part of the article, but that's not true. Tea is cha in Korean and Japanese, and that pronunciation post-dates Old Chinese. (which is why Min Nan is different, as it preserves numerous features from Old Chinese)
This was during the Heian period of Japan / Tang dynasty of China though, and the spoken language in Xi'an would have been closest to modern day Min Nan. I'm not sure what other dialects pronounce tea as "cha", but modern day Mandarin originated with the Henan dialect during the Song dynasty with heavy influences from Mongolian in the Yuan dynasty and Manchurian in the Qing dynasty, and contains many sounds not present in any other indigenous Han dialects. Japan would have adopted tea long before. However, from what I know of the Japanese language, they have both archaic and modern pronunciations of many words, and perhaps their word for tea may be one of them with the modern form adopted much later.
"The history of tea is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years. Tea likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink. An early credible record of tea drinking dates to the 3rd century AD, in a medical text written by Hua Tuo. Tea was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century. Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. The British introduced tea production, as well as tea consumption, to India, in order to compete with the China monopoly on tea."
Spices were far bigger initially. Black pepper, cloves, nutmegs and mace were the real money makers. Cloves and nutmegs especially, since they only grew natively on a handful of the Molucca islands, and a succession of bloody and exploitative regimes maintained a monopoly on production and export almost into the 19th century.
Cloves and nutmegs may have been somewhat more widespread than just the Molucca islands, although the Dutch and Portuguese did much to try and protect their spice trade monopoly by limiting production to those few islands.
Visiting Mindanao island, in the Philippines in 1686, the Englishman William Dampier observed the following:
"...but the nutmegs this island produces are fair and large, yet they have no great store of them, being unwilling to propagate them or the cloves, for fear that should invite the Dutch to visit them and bring them into subjection as they have done the rest of the neighbouring islands where they grow. For the Dutch, being seated among the Spice Islands, have monopolised all the trade into their own hands and will not suffer any of the natives to dispose of it but to themselves alone. Nay, they are so careful to preserve it in their own hands that they will not suffer the spice to grow in the uninhabited islands, but send soldiers to cut the trees down. Captain Rofy told me that while he lived with the Dutch he was sent with other men to cut down the spice-trees; and that he himself did at several times cut down 7 or 800 trees. Yet although the Dutch take such care to destroy them there are many uninhabited islands that have great plenty of spice-trees, as I have been informed by Dutchmen that have been there, particularly by a captain of a Dutch ship that I met with at Achin who told me that near the island Banda there is an island where the cloves, falling from the trees, do lie and rot on the ground, and they are at the time when the fruit falls 3 or 4 inches thick under the trees. He and some others told me that it would not be a hard matter for an English vessel to purchase a ship's cargo of spice of the natives of some of these Spice Islands."
Whether the trees were truly native to this island, or brought there from elsewhere, is probably not known.
Are you sure? I thought the English brought tea to India after stealing it from China in the 19th Century.
Was there another source in India which the Portuguese had earlier access to? My initial cursory investigation via Wikipedia seems to indicate China as the initial source. I'd be really interested, from an historical point of view, if this wasn't the case.
Charles II, after losing the Battle of Worcester, fled to Europe where he stayed for nine years . There he discovered tea. He also discovered Catherine of Braganza, a tea drinker (like most of the Portuguese nobility) whom he married .
In 1660 the British monarchy was restored. Charles and Catherine then introduced the custom of tea drinking to the British court.
The demand for tea amongst the English aristocracy predated production in India.
The main impetus for the English to grow tea in India, was that it was costing too much to buy from the single monopolistic source, China. Basically, the Honourable Company was trading opium for tea. More money could be made, meeting English demand for tea, by producing it on Company controlled land.
The question is, where did Catherine of Braganza source her tea from? India, as suggested by the grandparent comment, or China.
In modern Taiwanese Min Nan, "tê" sounds more like "day" than "tea". Maybe it sounded different in the Min Nan of Fujian a few hundred years ago, or something was "lost in transcription" when the dutch wrote "thee".
I’m not sure how you got “day" out of it, the linked recording sounded (to me) more like "the", if you were trying to say the word "there" (but obviously without the "re").
My mums' native dialect is Teo Chiew, which is a variant of and falls under the Min Nan family of dialects (but can be quite different in many ways, a native speaker of one does not necessarily means mutual understanding of the others). And while similar, Teo Chiew uses a "dê” rather than "tê" for tea.
On another note, the area is also the origin of the "Gong Fu Cha" style tea ceremony. 
I have a hypothesis, mostly dependent on the position of a native English speaker, which I have no idea whether you are or not:
It's common to not be able to easily distinguish /e/ and /ai/. English does not have the former, and it tends to best match to the /ai/ diphthong, which glides over and would "average" to /e/.
It's also common to confuse aspiration and voicing on stops. English initial voiced stops are unaspirated, while initial unvoiced stops are aspirated. Hence, an unvoiced, unaspirated initial stop does not typically occur in English, and can vary in listener interpretation between /t/ or /d/.
This article covers voice onset time (VOT) and how voicing and aspiration play into it:
Important note is that VOT is negative for voiced, near zero for unvoiced, and positive for aspirated. This measurable phenomenon backs up the fact that unvoiced, unaspirated sounds are basically in between standard English sounds and why you can get differing interpretations.
I can hear a slight difference between the vowel sounds in both tê and day. That's something I always just attributed to accent, not a different vowel - but I suppose vowel changes can be very subtle.
Er... No, I brain farted. The diphthong in "day" is /eɪ/. /aɪ/ (which I was listing as /ai/ on my phone) is as the word "tie".
So maybe that makes it more obvious why it would be easy to confuse /e/ and /eɪ/, especially when your native language only has the latter. Brain heuristics work regardless of whether you want them to or not, and they'll fill in the missing /ɪ/ even if it's not present.
My father is a baby boomer born in Xiamen, Fujian and then left for Taiwan as a child with his family in 1949, although did most his schooling in Hong Kong and then came to Canada for University. He pronounces it somewhere between "te" and "de", but nothing like "day".
The Min Nan "t" is an unaspirated consonant (meaning if you hold your hand in front of your mouth when you pronounce it, you shouldn't feel the puff of air), like the t in Spanish. English speakers routinely interpret these sounds as aspirated consonants since we lack those sounds. Why Dutch writes it as thee, I don't know, since Dutch lacks aspiration. Wiktionary just said the h is faux-Greek but I don't understand the motivation of that.
Neither Cantonese nor Mandarin has voiced stops. In Yale and Pinyin, t is aspirated as in English "tea", d is unaspirated as in the t in English "Steve". English does have the sound, but only as an allophone of t when it's preceded by s.
Interestingly in my home state of Kerala situated in the south western coast of India. Tea is called Chaaya while tea leaves are called Theyila where ila means leaf. The heavy commercial production of tea was started in Kerala only after the British arrived.
The reason it drops the T is that the word came to Russian from French (as did so many other words). And the French word "restaurant" is pronounced with a silent 't' at the end, in the typical French way. So the cyrillic rendering of that sound ends up without a 'т' on the end.
That's Cyrillic alphabet, not Russian. Cyrillic is used in other languages as well. I was born in Serbia (which also uses Cyrillic) so I understood the punchline, even though I would hardly say I "read any Russian". It's more of a south and east Slavic thing than it is a Russian thing.
Yeah, thats the pun - sorry for not being clear with my intention! Same idea applies for many words or names where the cyrillic characters have close resemblance with some other latin characters ("Hatawa is a popular russian/slavic girl's name" - of course properly it should be translittered as Natasha...)
In Slovak tea is caj (ignoring diacritics, or "čaj" as written properly, it's just I have English keyboard and diacritics is hard to use on it). And it’s pronounced as “chaj”. So very similar to cha. And it turns out Slovakia is a landlocked country. Just one data point but seems to be additional evidence.
In Croatia it is "čaj". Although it has a coast on Adriatic and coastal people use "čaj" as a word too, despite Italian influence (which uses tè for tea). Even people on islands that were influenced hugely by the Republic of Venice.
I'm curious - was the Croat language (or some parent of it) pretty predominant during the times of the Republic of Venice? Or is that a "new" thing after the unification of Yugoslavia, and prior to that Italian (or some Venetian dialect) was widely spoken?
It was predominant. Only difference was that latin was predominant in written form until 16th century, after which there was some kind of standardization of the language on one main dialect (we have three) and a movement(s) towards written croatian as well.
Any Vietnamese know why Vietnam has "tea" in the middle and "cha" in north or south on the map?
I spend 2 months in the north then lived for a few month in Saigon. I never came across people using anything other than "trà" (cha).
Sorry if I wasn't clear. Looking at the map, there are 6 dots over Vietnam. The 2 in the middle of Vietnam (around Hue and Danang I guess) are pink, for "te" as opposed to the other one which are blue, for "cha".
This is a quite cool breakdown of the differences.
One thing it misses is in English (ie, the country) usage there is both.
Tea, obviously, is more common but the phrase "a cup of char" is clearly derived from the Chinese and Indian origins. Interestingly it (at least was) primarily a working class phrasing, possibly originating with sea-faring types and dock workers.
Of course now the US is confusing matters by making "chai" be ubiquitous for Massala chai, but that's a different matter!
I'd always understood the T to come from the Taxa (Alfandegaria) imposed upon the blocks the Portuguese imported to Europe and sold to the rest of Europe.
Cha (Portuguese) because the Portuguese were not only the first Europeans to reach China by boat, but Japan and India as well, so they used the rightful Asian terms for it, having no other. (back when the Dutch were still pirates hoping to catch a laden Portuguese caravella. FWIW.)
"A few languages have their own way of talking about tea. These languages are generally in places where tea grows naturally, which led locals to develop their own way to refer to it. In Burmese, for example, tea leaves are lakphak."
If you want to read more about history of tea consumption and the role of China, India and England, I recommend reading "For all the team in china: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History" https://www.amazon.com/All-Tea-China-England-Favorite/dp/014...
It helped me understand why green tea is dominant in China vs. black tea in most other places..
Tranliteration, particularly into English, is fraught with myriad difficulties, the least of which being English orthography itself: there isn't a consistent mapping of sounds to letters. And there are often different systems of transliteration: from Japanese, 茶 (tea) can be transliterated as cha (Hepburn) or tya (Kunrei).
I don't read the article and the spellings as prescriptive with respect to pronunciation. I'm not familiar with transliteration of Hindi or Urdu (if someone more knowledgable on the subject would chime in, I'd love to learn a bit more), but I wouldn't read too much into the spellings.
Right, this was probably because it was already called "cha" in India by then, and the Portugese didn't have direct contact with the people speaking Min Nan Chinese, but rather the Indians who used the Sinitic version of the name.
Comments like this are what the internet is all about! AFAIK Yugoslavs call tea "čaj" (pronounced... chai!). I have no idea about other Slavs. And if by Commonwealth you mean the British one, I think the biggest member state is India, where "chai" is also the word.
I know the history of the word very well, and I understand that clickbait headings have to simplify.
But if you want to call CHA and TEA different words, in what sense are TEA and THE (French) the same word? I would say they are either all the same word (how I would phrase it) or all different - since they are in different languages.
But this is all semantics, not very interesting really.
In the Philippines, it's "cha-a" or "tsaa", which is a counter-example for "cha" being spread across land. The Philippines was consecutively under Spanish and American rule and 99% of Chinese there speak Hokkien/Min-nan yet do not use "te".