A new simple and reliable method has been developed to separate and preconcentrate trace copper ion in drinking water and tea samples for subsequent measurement by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS). The copper ions are adsorbed quantitatively during passage of aqueous solutions through Amberlyst 36 cation exchange resin. After the separation and preconcentration stage, the analyte was eluted with a potassium cyanide solution and determined by FAAS. Different factors including pH of sample solution, sample volume, amount of resin, flow rate of aqueous solution, volume and concentration of eluent, and matrix effects for preconcentration were examined. The analytical figures of merit for the determination of copper are as follows: analytical detection limit (3 sigma), 0.26 mu g/L; precision (FSD), 3.1 % for 100 mu g/L; enrichment factor, 200 (using 1000 mL of sample solution and 5 mL of eluent); time of analysis, 3.5 h (for obtaining enrichment factor of 200); capacity of resin, 125 mg/g. The method was applied for copper determination by FAAS in tap water, commercial natural spring water, commercial treated drinking water, and commercial tea bag sample. The accuracy of the method is confirmed by analyzing tea leaves (GBW 07605). The results demonstrated good agreement with the certified values.