Everything You Need to Know About Reading Tea Leaves

By Ellen Ricks

On July 30, 2021

In Magic, Spirit

Everything You Need to Know About Reading Tea Leaves

Tasseography, the art of reading tea leaves, is a form of divination that originated in Europe during the 17th century when the Chinese Trade Route brought tea to the continent. If done right, much like a psychic reading, tea leaves can foretell the tell the future, or give you some hot advice with every sip.

Reading Tea Leaves: What Is It?

I learned about tasseography the way I learned about most things: from Harry Potter. As I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I was enchanted by the thought of reading tea leaves like the trio did in divination class. While no one in the book took the leaves seriously (apparently at magic high school, predicting the future via tea is too far-fetched), I was curious on how to see the future, using a simple cup of tea.

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Fast forward years later, I attended a tea reading class the kids at the metaphysical club had put together (yay, liberal arts college!) where I got a crash course in tasseography, and I’ve been practicing ever since.

If you’re curious to see what’s brewing in your future, follow me as I give you my blend of tea readings, one mug at a time.

Tea Leaf Symbolism and How-To Guides for Beginners

tea leaf reading

Courtesy of Amazon

What’s great about reading tea leaves is that it’s more personal than Tarot or palmistry, and there are no firm rules to what each symbol has to mean. While both our cups can have a bird in it, we can come up with different meanings. For example, when I see a horse, I think of power and movement, but it can have a completely different meaning to someone else. Just go with your gut.

If you are completely drawing a blank, there are plenty of tea leaf reading guides, like Dennis Fairchild’s A Divination Guide for the Bottom of Your Cup, to give you a hand. And for those who need a little extra guidance, you can always use The Cup of Destiny, a beginner’s kit complete with a decorated cup and detailed instructions.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to reading tea leaves.

How to Read Tea Leaves

starry tea cups

Courtesy of @cristinaredesign

What You Need:


Step #1: Brew your tea like you always do. Loose leaf tea is the traditional and preferred method of tea readings, but if you don’t have loose leaf, a tea bag is fine. Wait until it’s fully steeped and most of the leaves sink. As the tea steeps, quite your mind.

Step #2: Sip your tea slowly, holding the cup in your weaker hand—if you’re right-handed, hold it in your left, and vice-versa. While you’re drinking, think about the questions you’re asking. For example, I asked what lay ahead for me in the next six months. Drink until there is only a half of a swallow of liquid left. If you are using a tea bag, now is the time to cut it.

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Pro Tip: If you’re drinking loose leaf tea, place your mouth around the rim of the cup and sip that way to prevent yourself from accidentally choking on tea leaves like I did.

Step #3: Swirl the cup three times counterclockwise. Turn the plate upside down and place it on top of the mug. Tip the cup over so most of the liquid and tea leaves can spill onto the plate. What remains is your reading. If there are no leaves left in your cup, you have too much water left. Pour the liquid and leaves from the plate back into the mug and drink until only a little bit of liquid remains.

Step #4: Hold out the mug in front of you and read your leave clockwise, writing down everything you see, all shapes and symbols, anything that jumps out at you.


For example, when I first looked down at my cup, I immediately said horse, because that’s what I saw. Again, don’t worry about something being ridiculous or not—just write it down, then we’ll tackle symbolism. If you are having trouble seeing anything, walk away from it for a while or take a picture, with a little distance, it might all become clear. What I saw in my mug was: a horse in mid-jump, a smile, a bird, an S, New Jersey, and some floating leaves.

Step #5: After you wrote down what you saw, it’s time to focus on where it’s placed. The closer the leaves are to the center of the cup, the more distance it is in the future. So if there are leaves in the center of the cup, that’s the distant future or outcome. Your cup handle is your starting point, representing yourself.


Can I Do This With Coffee?

Yes! If you’re not a big tea drinker, you can also read coffee grounds to get your divination fix. Just follow the steps above and replace tea with coffee.

Lead photo courtesy of Unsplash

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