Definition of South Sea tea in US English:

South Sea tea


  • Any of several kinds of evergreen holly (genus Ilex), from which the leaves are infused to make a tea, especially the South American species I. paraguariensis and (in later use) the yapon, I. vomitoria, a plant of similar appearance found in south-eastern North America; (also) the tea made from any of these plants, now especially I. vomitoria, used as an emetic by certain groups of North American Indians.


Early 18th century; earliest use found in Ephraim Chambers (?1680–1740), encyclopaedist.