The influence of drinking tea on copper bioavailability is unclear, particularly when tea is consumed with food. A breakfast meal containing white bread, margarine, strawberry jam, cheese and tea, with or without milk, was digested in; vitro and the dialysis of copper investigated. Reference breakfasts were prepared with water and water with milk. Copper dialysability (percentage of copper dialysed) was markedly increased by tea. The influence of adding milk to tea was not significant. A second study was carried out in rats using the breakfasts containing tea and water. They were spiked with 64Cu and given orally to the animals in a single dose. Whole‐body 64Cu retention was measured over a 4‐day period after administration. In order to determine the true absorption of 64Cu a control group of rats received the dose intraperitioneally. The results in vivo indicate a tendency to higher absorption and retention of 64Cu with tea. Liver 64Cu retention was significantly elevated by tea. Therefore, the presence of tea in a breakfast meal favours the formation of soluble low‐molecular‐weight ligands which can be absorbed and retained by rats. The concomitant increase in liver copper retetition may be associated with higher bioavailability and/or lower copper mobilisation.