Acenturies-old method of divining the future involves the interpretation of the fragments of tea leaves at the bottom of a client's cup. The first rule to follow in tea leaf or tea cup reading, also known as tasseography, is to brew the tea in a pot without a strainer in order to allow sufficient bits of leaves to enter the cup. Obviously, tea bags will not work at all. For those who prefer reading coffee grounds, the same rule applies: fresh-brewed coffee—no instant coffee or coffee bags. The rest of the rules that follow regarding tea leaf reading are also those required for the interpretation of coffee grounds.

The best results in a reading will be obtained from a white or light-colored cup with a wide top. The person whose fortune is to be read must drink the tea, leaving a little in the bottom of the cup. Once the tea has been drunk, the subject of the reading should slowly move the cup from left to right three times, thereby distributing some of the leaves around the sides of the cup.

At this point, most tea leaf readers may sit for a few minutes in silence, allowing the psychic rapport to be better established with the client. When they feel a mental connection has been made, the readers will take the cup from the client and begin an interpretation of the symbols made by the bits of leaf within the cup. There are some readers who prefer to have their client shake the cup to be certain the leaves are scattered around its surface and then place it upside down on the saucer. When the cup has been emptied, it is handed to the reader for interpretation of the leaf particles. Whichever method the individual reader prefers, they all agree that the first impression upon looking into the cup is the most important.

Experienced readers take in the total pattern of the leaves and envision the various symbols in terms of the whole picture before picking up on individual details. Again, there is little dogma among tea leaf readers. For some, the rim of the cup represents the future; the bottom, the past. For others, the rim represents the present, the sides predict the future, and the bottom foretells the very distant future. There seems some consensus that the cup's handle stands for the client's home life and personal environment, so the nearer the symbol to the handle, the sooner it will occur.

If the reader sees some of the specks of tea leaves as forming numbers, these may be interpreted as representing time—hours, days, weeks, months, depending upon other impressions received by the reader. If the reader envisions some bits of leaves as letters of the alphabet, they usually represent people close to the client. Very small specks, appearing as dots, indicate a journey for the client. Larger dots indicate money coming soon. Leaf residue that appears to be arranged in a wavy line suggest uncertainty. Straight lines represent a definite course of action that must be followed carefully. If the reader interprets any specks as stars or triangles,

Tea leaf reading. (
the indication is good fortune; circles, great success; squares, a need to be cautious.

The reputation of any tea leaf reader is dependent upon his or her innate psychic ability and an imaginative interpretation of the meaning of the symbols that have been formed by the scattered bits of leaf. Here are some suggested interpretations of tea leaf imagery that seem somewhat common among tea leaf and coffee grounds readers:

  • Angel: Good news is on the way. Someone is watching out for your best interests.
  • Ant: You are an industrious person, but there is more hard work ahead for you.
  • Axe: Someone near to you may be planning to stab you in the back with lies or deceit.
  • Bear: Trouble ahead.
  • Bell: Good news. Perhaps a wedding day will soon be set.
  • Bird: There is a journey to be planned soon. It will be pleasant and productive.
  • Cat: Keep your eye on a treacherous friend or relative.
  • Clouds: If the flecks are scattered, troubles will soon be over. If they are solidly grouped, financial woes will soon materialize.
  • Flies or other insects: Minor annoyances will soon become major problems if not dealt with immediately.
  • Flowers: Love or an important honor is about to come to you.
  • Frog: Be ready to make a dramatic change in your life.
  • Heart: There is someone close to you in whom you may always confide.
  • Horseshoe: Go ahead with your plans. The outcome will be fortunate.
  • Hour glass: Take more time to make your decision.
  • Knife: Avoid misunderstandings with those closest to you. Be more mindful of your health. Beware of a potential lawsuit.
  • Moon: If it appears full, there is romance ahead for you. A half moon represents a time to leave old projects for new. The quarter moon warns against making hasty decisions.
  • Ring: There is an approaching marriage or engagement for you or someone close to you.
  • Snake: A small misfortune will only slightly impede your plans for success, for you will easily overcome its ill effects.
  • Wheel: You or someone close to you are about to receive great advances in work and will soon receive much needed financial increases.
  • Woman: Your great desire is for love and a happy family life.


Cirlot, J. E. A Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1993.

Gibson, Walter B., and Litzka R. Gibson. The Complete Illustrated Book of the Psychic Sciences. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1966.

Petrie, Jodra. Tell Fortunes and Predict the Future. New York: Award Books, 1968.

Woodruff, Maurice. The Secrets of Foretelling Your Own Future. New York: Signet, 1969.

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