Tea Leaf Reading: Looking for the Answers

December 11, 2016

Have you ever finished a cup of tea and found that the remaining tea leaves looked like something? Like finding images in the clouds, some people find interesting pictures in the remnants of their teacups. Unsurprisingly, tea leaf reading is nothing new and can be traced back to hundreds of years ago.

History of Tea Leaf Reading

What do you see in your teacup?

Tasseography refers to interpreting patterns found in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments. In essence, using sediments in divination or fortune telling. Tea leaf reading has an ancient history in China, where tea has been a drink for thousands of years. People began to notice that the leaves left in the cup sometimes formed symbols or pictures. There was a similar practice in medieval Europe, where lead and wax splatters were used in divination. Once tea was introduced, fortune tellers branched into tea leaf reading as well.

Steps to Tea Leaf Reading

The steps are quite simple. Since you’re reading the patterns created by tea leaves and sediments, refrain from using a strainer.

  1. Pour a cup of tea. Let the leaves and sediment settle at the bottom.
  2. Drink the tea or pour it away. The person who wants their fortune told is the one who drinks. Make sure to get rid of as much liquid as you can by turning the cup upside down.
  3. Shake the cup.
  4. Note the images you find in the remnants.

As with many other methods of fortune telling, each reader interprets the tea leaves as best they can. They see images in the leaves, and then interpret them through symbolism and other means. The traditional way to read tea leaves is to go from the cup’s outer rim, near the handle, and then inwards in a spiral manner. This represents reading from the present to the future.

Tea Leaf Reading Tools

Kabusecha Saemidori Tea Leaves

Tea, of course, is a necessity. Generally, any kind of loose tea leaf will do, but be sure to avoid ones with large leaves or flowers that will make it hard to form patterns. Green, black, oolong, earl grey, or jasmine are fine choices. If there are bits of flowers or fruits in your tea, make sure they are not drastically larger than the tea leaves. It is not recommended to use tea from inside teabags, as they are too fine to make accurate readings.

Note: Depending on the tea you are drinking, you may like to add milk or sugar. This is fine so long as you do not add cream or other additives that tend to make the leaves clump together.

As for the receptacle, any handled teacup will do the trick. Usually a saucer is used so that any remaining tea can be poured away. White teacups are the most common, as they make it easy to see the leaves. There are also sets made especially for tea leaf reading. Some common ones show images of zodiac or astrological signs, playing cards, or iconic tea leaf reading symbols.

Moving in a clockwise direction, read events in the immediate future to the far future.

Source: Pinterest

Special marked cups also make it easier to read the leaves. Each part of the cup holds meaning, with the reader or client being the handle. Starting from the handle, the reader then moves clockwise to the center. Symbols or shapes close to the handle are clues to the person’s present. The past can be represented by patterns to the left of the handle. Moving inwards, events go from the present to the far future.

What’s In Your Future?

Interpretations may vary between readers, but there are general guidelines and common interpretations of symbols. For example, stars tend to mean good luck, hearts mean love, up arrows mean yes or moving in a good direction, and snakes mean enemies or lies. Again, fortune telling is not an exact science. There is no harm in tea leaf reading, and it continues to be popular in many countries. It is also one of the more popular types of divination due to its simplicity. Even better, it makes for a fun activity at parties or gatherings.


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