Tasseography - Divining Tea Leaves

Sunday, February 8, 2009

From the Archives, because taxes and a paper have sucked up any semblance of free time I might possibly have.
Tasseography (aka: tasseomancy), or the art of divination by reading tea leaves. We've all heard of it, seen it in Harry Potter, and have some semblance of what it consists of. The wet tea leaves at the bottom of white cup form shapes and through a use of symbology and universal patterns interpret one's fortune and future.*

Now, for me, I'm not one who believes in divination, tea reading or otherwise, to predict and guide my future. I also do not practice it in any way, this post was just a way of satisfying my curiosity about something new. However, I am a believer in the use of such practices in meditation. Such as laying down tarot as a way to help you clearly think through life issues the way one person might write extensive pro-con lists to make a decision or free write in a journal to deal with a problem. Tea leaf reading may be used the same way; some may even see it as a way of exploring the subconscious the way a Rorschach (Ink Blot) test does. In essence, tasseomancy is simply a mode of self reflection or for some, entertainment.

The basic practices for tasseography are simple.

Tea: The teas used are simple loose leaf black or green teas, whole leaf, torn, diced, but rarely powdered as the powder may be drank by accident. The tea has to be able to form symbols or shapes. Earl Grey, Ti Kuan Yin, peppermint tea, etc. are all fine choices.

Teacup: A plain white tea cup is usually the preferred cup as it gives the clearest picture. However, other cups with symbols, zodiac signs (Greek and Chinese), elemental patterns are popular and allow for further customized and specific interpretations of the leaves.

How to read: Pour a cup of loose leaf tea and allow the tea to steep for about three minutes. Drink the tea, leaving only a very small amount, just enough to hold onto the tea leaves. Swirl the cup in your hand clockwise in your left hand three times. Allow the tea to settle on it's own. Turn the cup over and allow the liquid to drain off, allowing the leaves to stick to the cup.

Interpreting the leaves: There isn't a solid way to go about it. Each person can interpret the shapes differently, and assume the images formed mean different things. What may look like a heart to one may seem an antelope to another. Readings are personal and subjective, allow your first thoughts and intuition to guide you, and ignore your conscious mind's second guessing. Click here to see a sample reading.Even if tasseography isn't your thing, as a foodie, it's interesting to see how food is used for mystical, self reflective, entertainment, or even psychological purposes. Food isn't necessarily always about eating and recipes, but how it affects our lives as a whole. Looking at other interpretations and ideas about food and in a larger sense culture, religion, and society is an important aspect to appreciating food and drink, and in this case, tea.

Links & Resources:
Divination by Tea Leaves
Tasseography - Wikipedia

*In some cultures however, tea isn't even used. In Middle Eastern countries, wet coffee grounds are turned out onto a white plate and read the same way. However, the black grounds are considered "bad" omens, and the white shapes of the plate created by the surrounding grounds are the "good shapes" and prosperous signs.


  1. This is an uber-creative foodie posting Garrett! Love it. I'll have to try reading my tea cup next time....

    Right now I think it'd just say, "you are not interested in being at work right now..." Ha.

  2. What a really unique post! I didn't even know that divining tea leaves had a name. This might be a fun addition to tapas night at our house and let each guest "read" someone else's tea leaves!

  3. that was simply an awesome post, just because it mentioned my fav Harry Potter!!:)

    hehhee...actually, it was pretty informative!

  4. this is interesting. do you have any idea where i can find a tea leaf reader in Singapore?

  5. very interesting.. besides harry potter, it's also in coraline (just saw the movie yesterday)!

  6. I was surprised to learn today that there is also a type of divination using beans, thus favomancy. This came to mind because over the weekend I was at Georgia's Greek Restaurant in Seattle where I ordered a dish of gygantes plaki, a nice light bean dish. I was trying to figure out what kind of beans they were to recreate it at home. I'm thinking you could use big limas, butter beans, or faba beans. The dish is similar to foul, the dish another of your readers mentioned in your “Financial Bitch Slaps” post.


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