Tasseography…the art of reading tea leaves

What is Tasseography? Also known as tasseomancy or tassology, it is a defined as a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments. Tea leaf reading conjurs up visions of gypsy carnivals and dark tents off to the side of the main event with fortune tellers, or a more modern divination of Harry Potter discovering his fate. In its essence, tasseography isn’t seen as magic or witchcraft, but as a meditative practice that allows the tea drinker to tap into one’s own subconscious. One thought is that Tea leaf reading is all about slowing down, allowing the mind to centre, focus and organise its thoughts, and listening to the inner self through the stirrings of the tea leaves.

Tea leaf reading became popular in the 17th century after Dutch merchants introduced tea to Europe. Victorian ladies, who ran their households, began to host social gatherings that often centered around tea — whether drinking it, painting their pretty tea cups or divining with it. This is how certain traditions of interpreting patterns and symbols of tea-leaf reading were often passed down by the female side of a family through the generations; even in the present day this still seems to be. Door to door tea leaf readers became quite fashionable in the 19th Century and because the only thing required was a cup of tea it was an affordable way of socialising and entertaining. Today tea leaf reading is still popular in the Middle East, England Ireland, Scotland and Wales and there are a number of practicing professional Tea Leaf Readers.

Reading the Tea Leaves

So how does one read their tea leaves? Start with a freshly brewed cup of tea, using uncomplicated tea leaves. And by uncomplicated I mean not a fruity tisane or a heavily floral tea – keep it simple.

  1. Drink the contents of your cup, leaving about a teaspoon of liquid in the cup.
  2. Take the cup by the handle in your left hand and quietly ask your question or ask for guidance about your future.
  3. Swirl your cup gently three times in a counter-clockwise direction.
  4. Carefully invert your cup over the saucer, leaving it there for about a minute. This is so all the excess liquid can drain away
  5. Carefully turn your cup back up the correct way.

The tea leaves are now ready to be read. It doesn’t matter how many leaves are left in the cup. Before you start the reading, allow your mind to relax. Quietly take a few deep breaths, look at the tea leaves and tune into them. Mentally divide your cup into sections. This helps create a time frame in which the different leaves belong.

The Handle of the Tea Cup

The handle represents you or the person who is receiving the reading.

Traditionally, the tea leaves are read starting at the handle and moving clockwise around the cup.

Any tea leaf patterns or symbols that are close to the handle depict things presently effecting the person having the reading. It might also indicate something the person is thinking or worrying about or events they are currently going through.

Anything to the left of the handle is depicting the past and is leaving the person’s life.

Any leaves to the right of the handle features the present and immediate future.

The Bowl of the Tea Cup

  • Symbols or patterns near the rim of the cup and in the top third will possibly occur quickly, usually within a few days.
  • Patterns or symbols in the middle third of the cup depict the near future, usually a few weeks.
  • The bottom third and base of the cup are in the more distant future, around a month or so away.
  • In all three parts of the cup, the closer the symbols are to the handle, the sooner things may happen.

When you first look at the tea leaves, you will likely see the leaves scattered about in lines, splotches, and groups. Don’t despair!

Take your time to pause and look at the different patterns and scatterings from different positions, turning the cup to see it from different angles. The shapes and their meaning will start to become clear.

The tea leaves will come together to create an image or tell a story, each one filling in a small detail.

Your job as the reader is to decipher that story.

You will look at the patterns, groups and shapes formed by the tea leaves and see if any of them form images of objects you may find in nature or your surroundings. Remember as a child you would look up at the clouds and make pictures and stories up of the images they portrayed?

You might see shapes in your tea leaves that resemble a tree, a flower, shapes, stars, numerals, letters etc. Each of these images has a symbolic meaning.

The symbols and shapes you see could be big or small. The larger they are generally indicates the more important and imminent they are. For example, if you saw the symbol of a bat (which can represent a long journey), if the symbol was small, it might refer to going to the next town or village. If it was of a larger scale, it might mean a trip to somewhere further afield.

If you see letters, they often represent the name of a person. For example, the letter J will represent someone whose last name begins with the letter J. If the letter J appears next to a flying bird, it may mean you will hear of some news from that person.

Handy Hints

  1. Start with the biggest patterns and shapes and work down to the smaller ones.
  2. If there are a lot of shapes in a cup, this can mean an important phase in the life of the person having the reading.
  3. Look to see if the shapes are spread out evenly throughout the cup or if they are concentrated in one of the sections.
  4. Keep a record of your tea leaf readings. You may like to take notes as you go through your reading, cataloguing the shapes and your interpretations. Then reflect in a few days or weeks to gauge your accuracy.
  5. Mostly I hope you enjoy this and don’t take it too seriously ♥


9 thoughts on “Tasseography…the art of reading tea leaves

  1. There’s actually an art to this…I didn’t realise, a bit like palm reading only with tea leaves and not hands.

    [My Mom has actually just shouted…do you want a cup of tea…right on cue – true story]…

    I thought my Nan was making things up when she said she was reading my tea leaves, cause they just looked grainy to me, but perhaps she knew the art.

    I’ll give this a go! Love trying anything like this.

    Great knowledge of all things tea and creating aesthetically pleasing content too.


  2. Wow this is so interesting! I had no idea that there was a real art to it, my perception was as yours that it was a thing done at fun fairs and similar. Such an insightful post, thanks for sharing, I feel I need to buy some loose leaf tea and give it a try 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s