The aim of this study is to explore the influence of tea consumption on diabetes mellitus in Chinese population. This multicenter, cross-sectional study was conducted in eight sites from south, east, north, west and middle regions in China by enrolling 12,017 subjects aged 20–70. Sociodemographic and general information were collected by standardized questionnaire. Standard procedure was used to measure anthropometric characteristics and obtain blood samples. The diagnosis of diabetes was determined using a standard 75-g oral glucose tolerance test. In the final analysis, 10,825 participants were included, and multiple logistic models and interaction effect analysis were applied for assessing the association between tea-drinking with diabetes. Compared with non-tea drinkers, the multivariable-adjusted odds ratios for newly-diagnosed diabetes were 0.80(0.67, 0.97), 0.88(0.71, 1.09) and 0.86(0.67, 1.11) for daily tea-drinkers, occasional tea-drinkers and seldom tea-drinkers, respectively. Furthermore, drinking tea daily was related to decreased risk of diabetes in female by 32%, elderly (>45y) by 24% and obese (BMI>30kg/m2) by 34%. Moreover, drinking dark tea was associated with reduced risk of diabetes by 45% [OR: 0.55 (0.42, 0.72), P < 0.01]. The results imply that drinking tea daily was negatively related to risk of diabetes in female, elderly and obese people. In addition, drinking dark tea was associated with decreased risk of T2DM.