Tasseography, the art of reading tea leaves, is a form of divination originated in Europe during the 17th century when the Chinese Trade Route brought tea to the continent. If done right, tea leaves can foretell the tell the future, or give you some hot advice with every sip.
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 “unfog” 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.
Step One: Brew your tea how you would normally. 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 steep and most of the leaves sink. As the tea steeps, quite your mind.
Step Two: Sip your tea slowly, holding the cup in your weaker hand, so if your right handed, hold it in your life, and vice-versa. While you’re drinking, think about the question you’re asking. For example, I asked what’s ahead for me in six months.
Pro Tip: If you’re drinking loose leaf tea, place you mouth around the rim of the cup and sip that way to prevent accidentally choking on tea leaves like I, the genius, did.
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.
Step Three: 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 liquid reminds.
Step Four: 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. Could you see a horse at the bottom of my cup? Maybe, maybe not. Again, don’t worry about something being ridiculous or not, just write it down, then we’ll talk about 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 Five: Now that you wrote down what you saw, its time to focus on where it’s placed. The close 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 distance future or outcome. Your cup handle is your starting point, representing yourself.
Now coming back to your list, it’s time for some symbolism! This is where my English degree finally comes in handy (who’s useless now?!). What’s great about reading tea leaves is that it’s more personal than tarot and palmistry, there’s no firm rules to what each symbol has to mean. Both our cups can have a bird in it, but we can come with multiple different meanings. When you look at your list of what you saw in your mug, write the first word that comes to mind when you think of that thing. For example, when I saw the horse, I thought 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 symbol guides to give you a hand.
Can I do this with coffee?
If you’re not a big tea drinker, you can also read coffee grounds to get your divination fix. Just follow the step above and replace tea with coffee!
Enjoy the tea, darlings!
Ellen Ricks is a writer and fashion blogger who loves leopard print. Follow her on Instagram.
Photo via @SnappyPete via Twenty20