Category:Cup Reading

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Fortune-telling in a Tea Cup
Cup Reading is a term for divination systems in which readings of the future are made by a seer or fortune teller who interprets visual symbols that are found within the client's cup of tea leaves or coffee grounds. Specific forms of Cup Reading include Tea Leaf Reading, also known as Tasseomancy or Tasseography, and Coffee Ground Reading.

Tasseomancy is probably as old as the invention of drinking cups. Some claim it originated in China, the region where tea was first commercially grown, but it seems to have been an ongoing form of divination in Scotland, Ireland, and England before trade with China developed, and was probably developed for use with herbal teas. Meanwhile, it is also found in the Middle East as a method for reading coffee grounds, where tea has never been popular.

Ultimately, the idea of reading a drinking cup for signs of the future is part of the cultural history of many parts of the world, and thus its invention probably dates back to early history or pre-history. As a homey and domestic form of fortune-telling, cup-reading is rarely performed at an altar, but instead is usually conducted by the reader and client in a warm, comforting, social environment.


Tea Leaf Reading (Tasseomancy)

A tea leaf reader foretells the future for her client, as portrayed in a 1906 painting by Harry Roseland
Tea leaf readings are based on specific visual omens seen in the cup; according to this 1907 Fred Lounsbury postcard, when tea leaves form an image of a Tree, it is an omen of good health
1935 sheet music for "In a Little Gypsy Tea Room" by Edgar Leslie and Joe Burke, with cover art by Cliff Miska; the Gypsy-waitress foretells that her clients will fall in love
A self-reading astrological cup and saucer made in Japan during the 1940s for sale in America by the Ardalt-Lenwhile company
Antique and vintage fortune telling tea cups; some with playing cards, some with astrological symbols, and some with representations of popular symbolic omens and objects
Tea leaf readers may also perform divination by means of crystal ball scrying, card reading, and pendulum divination
An old coffee can label shows a reader fortune-telling for her client with coffee grounds
Coffee ground reading in the Turkish and Greek style makes use of its own system of symbols and omens

Tea Leaf Reading, also known as Tasseomancy, is a method of divination or fortune-telling in which the seer brews a cup of tea for the client and then interprets the patterns or "signs" in the tea leaves after the client has finished drinking her tea.

History of Tea Leaf Reading

The word Tasseomancy comes from the French "tasse" (cup) plus the Greek suffix "-mancy" (divination). Other names for Tea Leaf Reading include Cup Reading, Tasseography (literally "cup writing"), and "Tasseology" ("cup knowledge").

The earliest printed references to tea leaf reading date from the 19th century. In one book from 1899, the author, an American named John Hanley, referred to "Figures and Signs as Interpreted by Our Grandmothers," implying that the practice, in its domestic form at least, dated well back into the early 19th century. It is thought that the practice originated in Scotland and Ireland, and spread into England, and thence to the United States, Calanda, Australia, and New Zealand.

In the early 20th century, tea leaf reading became a widespread form of divination, its popularity paralleling the development of the female suffrage movement, the temperance movement, and the movement toward economic independence for women. Women who became entrepreneurs after the First World War often opened tea rooms -- small, cozy, domestic restaurants serving light lunches and non-alcoholic beverages. Getting one's cup read was a popular adjunct to dining out in such restaurants, especially during the period between World War One and World War Two. Some tea rooms of that era featured special fortune telling waitresses, who dressed as Gypsies and offered patrons "a free reading with every meal." In some tea rooms, the "Gypsy" waitresses often also offered palm readings to guests, usually for tips.

What Tea Leaf Omens Mean

When a diviner reads your tea leaves, he or she will look at the patterns formed by the leaves left in the cu and mentally compare them to a set of traditional symbols and omens, passed down through the generations. Most professional cup readers know and can interpret 200 or more of these symbolic shapes. With thi knowledge, they can tell you what they see in the cup and describe its significance to you and your life at the present time and for about one month into the future. To give you an example, here are just a few traditional tea leaf symbols and their meanings, according to the old way of working:

  • Acorn: At the top of the cup, near the rim, slow growth; at the bottom of cup, good health.
  • Airplane: Long journey; a rise in social position.
  • Anchor: At the top of the cup, near the rim, stability and rest; at the bottom of cup, safety.
  • Apple: Achievement; if bitten into, temptation.
  • Arrow: Point down, bad news; point up, good news.

Special Tea Cups for Tasseographic Reading

Although tea leaf reading can be performed in a plain white cup, many designers and potteries have released special "fortune telling cups" since the late 19th century. These generally fall into three types:

Astrological Cups and Saucers

Astrological cups and saucers are tea sets on which there are depictions of the signs of the Zodiac, the symbols of the planets, and other symbols from astrology. The tea leaves are read with their usual meanings, but their imagery is combined with the meanings traditionally given to the astrological symbols upon which the tea-leaf symbols lie.

Symbol Cups and Saucers

Symbol cups and saucers are tea sets that contain popular symbols from tea leaf reading and other well-known omen-symbols, such as a snake or an anchor or a horseshoe. The tea leaves are read with their usual meanings, but their imagery is combined with the meanings traditionally given to the other images upon which the tea-leaf symbols lay.

Cartomancy Cups and Saucers

Cartomancy cups and saucers are decorated with small images of scattered playing cards, usually either from a 32-card euchre deck (as used in LeNormand style card reading) or a 52 card poker deck (as used in Italian and English style card reading). The tea leaves are read with their usual meanings, but their imagery is combined with the meanings traditionally given to the playing cards upon which the tea-leaf symbols lay.

How Tea Leaf Readings are Conducted

Tea leaf reading is almost always performed in person rather than over the telephone, as it is the cup of the client or "sitter" that is read. In addition to being conducted in the home by family members or between friends, tea leaf reading is also a form of divination for which one can seek out a professional "cup reader" who will brew the tea, perhaps drink a cup while chatting with you, and then tell your fortune in the leaves.

Tea leaf reading remains a popular form of divination among women, especially those who live in Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Coffee Ground Reading

In Turkey, Lebanon, Greece, the Balkans, North Africa, and other nations of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where coffee drinking is traditional, readers are trained to read coffee grounds instead of tea leaves. Due to the finely ground nature of the coffee, the symbols formed in the cup will look different from those comprised of tea leaves, but the principles of reading are much the same.

History of Coffee Ground Reading

In North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, coffee ground reading is probably as old as coffee drinking itself. Although it is uncertain when coffee reading began, what we do know is that coffee drinking was first introduced into these areas in the 15th century in Yemen. Coffee readings are done with what is commonly referred to as “Turkish coffee,” although many cultures refer to this special finely-ground, unfiltered brew under their own country’s name; for example, in Cyprus it’s called “kypriakos kafes” (Cyprus coffee) or in Greece where it’s known as “elliniko” (Greek coffee). Coffee ground reading also has its own name in each of the countries where it is practiced. For example, it is καφεμαντεία in Greek, гледање у шољу in Serbian, and kahve falı in Turkish.

Special Tools for Coffee Ground Reading

There are many similarities between coffee reading and tea leaf reading. Like tea leaf reading, coffee readers look at the remains of the coffee grounds to see images and symbols which have significance as to the client’s current issues or future events. Coffee readings are also done in an intimate environment with the friend or client and the reader enjoying a cup together before the reading begins. However, the tools for preparing and drinking the coffee are quite different from tea leaf reading.

Coffee for Coffee Ground Reading

The coffee for a reading is prepared using regular coffee beans which have been ground into a fine powder. This coffee is prepared and served unfiltered, which allows each cup to have a residue of coffee grounds remaining to be read after the cup is finished. It is traditionally served either black or sweetened with sugar.

Coffee Pot for Coffee Ground Reading

The coffee is made using a special type of pot called a “cezve” in Turkey and an “ibrik” in most other countries. These coffee pots are sold in different sizes, with the size corresponding to the number of cups to be brewed. The coffee is heated in this pot according to recipe and cultural tradition.

Cups for Coffee Ground Reading

Traditional cups for this style of coffee are small, demitasse-style cups. For coffee readings, a white cup with sloping sides and no patterns on the inside is said to give the best results.

How Coffee Ground Readings are Conducted

A coffee ground reading begins with the ritual of the preparation of the coffee. The reader prepares the coffee for both him or herself and the client or clients, usually in accordance with a cultural or personal ritual, such as bringing the coffee just to a boil and removing it from the heat source three times. The coffee is then served and sipped by the reader and client together. When finished, the remaining coffee grounds in the client’s cup are examined closely by the reader, who looks for symbol or images which give indications of past, present, and future events, interpreting those symbols for the client so that he or she may use that information to their benefit.

See Also


  • Divination and Fortune Telling by Psychic Cup Reading, Tea Leaf Reading, and Coffee Ground Reading

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Pages in category "Cup Reading"

The following 10 pages are in this category, out of 10 total.











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