Fate in a Teacup: The Art of Tasseography

When you’ve finished a cup of tea, what do you do with it? This might sound like a silly question. The natural course of action is to dump the remaining tea leaves in the trash and wash out the cup.

Some people don’t wash their teacups out right away, though. They instead swirl the last bit of tea left in the cup, pour out the remainder and examine the leaves that are left stuck to the bottom of the cup. These leaves solidify into shapes that are supposed to tell the reader about his or her fortune.

This practice is known as tasseography or tasseomancy, a meld of the French tasse (cup) and the Greek graphy (study) or mancy (divination.) While not as well known in the Americas as astrology and tarot, tasseography is widely practiced in Europe, Asia and the Middle East as a method of fortune-telling.

The origins of tasseography

The term tasseography describes two different fortune-telling practices that developed independently of one another, but both traditions follow the same general principles. The western practice of finding and interpreting seemingly random shapes began in medieval Europe with lead and wax, two molten substances that were widely used by smiths and artisans. The readers would discover shapes in the hardened substance that seemed to resemble animals, flowers, mountains and other beings and objects that were thought to carry specific meanings. This interpretation of patterns and shapes is the basis of tasseography.

Tea leaf readings became popular in 17th century Europe after the large-scale importation of tea from China and India. The Chinese had practiced a form of tea-based tasseography for centuries by that time. This exotic but simple method of divination quickly became popular among Europeans, who developed new types of teacups and saucers designed specifically for the purpose of tasseography.

A similar tradition emerged in the Middle East after the development of coffee in southwestern Arabia in the 15th century. The thick, brown drink known as Turkish coffee soon became the standard throughout the region. By the 16th century, the coffee-loving residents of Istanbul, Damascus and Cairo were swirling the remains of their drinks and reading shapes in the thick grounds that inevitably stuck to the bottoms of their cups. By the 18th century, reading tea leaves and coffee grounds had joined astrology and palmistry as a popular method of divination throughout Europe and the East.

How to read your own cup

Tasseography has a rather intimidating name, but it is actually one of the easiest methods of divination to perform. All it takes is a white teacup or demitasse cup (also known as an espresso cup) and some loose tea leaves or a pot of Turkish coffee.

Reading tea leaves

Tea-based tasseography requires loose tea leaves. Cutting open a tea bag will probably not work – the tea leaves contained inside are usually too fine to obtain a good reading.

First, boil your water and steep your tea leaves just as you normally would. Any variety of tea will work as long as it comes in loose leaf form. Next, simply drink your tea, leaving a small amount of tea at the bottom of your cup. Swirl the remaining liquid a few times and pour it out into your saucer, waiting a few minutes for the leaves left stuck to the bottom to solidify.

The tea leaves should form at least a few identifiable shapes. When “reading” these shapes, it is standard practice to start from the rim either at the handle or at 12 o’clock (depending upon whether your cup has a handle) and work your way clockwise, starting at the rim and ending in the center of the cup. Take down any recognizable shapes you see in order. These shapes might tell a kind of story that runs from the beginning point of the cup’s rim to the center of the cup, or they might consist of disconnected symbols that represent aspects of your future.

The interpretations of these shapes’ meanings will differ depending upon the reader. Some readers might see a dog, for example, and take it to mean loyalty or companionship in the future, while others might read a dog as a symbol of wildness or viciousness. As with dream interpretation, reading tea leaves is a highly personal affair.

If you prefer coffee to tea, you might instead choose to find your future in your cup’s coffee grounds. Be warned, however. Coffee-based tasseography only works with Turkish coffee (also commonly known as Greek coffee, Serbian coffee and Lebanese coffee) or a similarly thick form of coffee. When correctly brewed, a cup of Turkish coffee will contain thick grounds at the bottom of the cup that are not present in espresso or other forms of the drink. These grounds are necessary to generate the stains that you’ll be reading at the bottom of your cup.

Once you’ve poured your cup of Turkish coffee, drink almost all of it (but not all at once!) Place the saucer over the top of the cup and briefly turn it over, draining the remaining coffee and letting the grounds spread inside the cup. Once the thick sediment at the bottom of your cup has hardened, you can start reading your fortune. Again, you should begin reading clockwise from the handle or from 12 o’clock, taking note of distinctive patterns and shapes in the coffee grounds. If you’d like some help interpreting coffee cup patterns you can go HERE

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Coffee tasseography custom usually dictates that someone else read and interpret your grounds. Some people even operate as professional coffee grounds readers. However, there’s nothing stopping you from making your own reading. Once again, the meanings of the patterns and shapes that you find in your cup will be highly personal. In both tea and coffee reading, the shapes that the leaves and grounds form and the shapes formed by the white background of the cup are both fair game for examination.

If you’re looking for a new and interesting way to determine your fate, break out the tea and coffee and try out tasseography. It’s an easy and personalized way to practice fortune-telling with a long history.

Naturally you won’t be able to have a tea cup reading over the phone, but you will find Psychic Shri someone special you can talk with. Shri is available at 1-866-327-9032 (also toll free USA and Canada).