Tasseomancy is the art of reading a cup with the remains of tea-leaves or coffee grounds left inside. It’s believed by some that these remains can predict the future. The practice involves identifying shapes in the leaves and grounds, and then interpreting their meaning. The method has been used for centuries to guide people who are curious about their future. Interestingly, the art of tasseomancy was and still is, dominated by women, with mothers teaching their daughters in a family tradition.

Who practices tasseomancy?

tasseomancyTea leaf readings evolved and became popular in the western world when tea was imported into Europe from China. Although tea-leaf reading became the most recognised way, tasseomancy was practiced before this time. Previously, splashes of lead or paint were left to dry before they were read.

Involvement of Gypsy Fortune Teller

The art of tea-leaf reading was introduced to western Europe through the eastern trade-routes of Romania. It’s a particularly well known practice amongst gipsy groups, who offered this art, alongside other fortune telling crafts, at large county fairs. The public generally viewed it as an amusing parlour trick, but young ladies in particular were drawn to it. There are numerous examples of middle and upper class ladies going to great lengths for a reading, even secretly leaving their homes after dark to keep an appointment with a gypsy tasseomancer.

Tassomancy in the great Osman Empire!

In the east, tasseomancy was also practised, but Turkish coffee grounds were a more popular tool. In the same manner as a tea-leaf reading, the coffee was drunk off and the grounds left to dry. Often the cup was turned upside down on a saucer, and used as part of the reading too. Coffee readers would often halve the cup, so that messages about the future were in the top half, and messages concerning the past were located in the bottom half. The grounds could also be read splitting the cup left to right, with negative messages on the left, and positive on the right, A further step not found in tea leaf reading, was to place a thumb in the dried grounds and twist it clockwise. This was said to reveal the inner thoughts of the individual.

Is this fortune telling method popular today?

Tasseomancy is still practiced today, handed down through generations of women. Almost anyone can practice tasseomancy if they have patience to learn the symbols and interpretations, but this takes time, patience, and often practice, as symbols can be small and difficult to see. It’s really classed as an art of the Romany gypsy and rarely used by clairvoyants and mediums. That said, tasseomancy is still popular with those wanting to get a glimpse of their future, or those needing help with a problem. The Romany gypsy is held in myth as a talented fortune-teller, well versed in the art of tasseomnacy, and it’s in the Romany world that we find most readers today.

Some of the common (and not so common!) symbols.

reading from tea leavesThere are literally hundreds of symbols to interpret in a tea-leaf or coffee ground reading. In fact, symbols start to appear even whilst the liquid is prepared! For example, bubbles in the liquid indicate that you will inherit money, and if your teaspoon is placed upside down, then a relative will soon fall sick.

To read a tea-cup, the tea is poured without a strainer, and the individual seeking guidance drinks the tea. In coffee readings, the coffee dregs are left to dry. Once done, the fortune-teller looks into the cup for symbols and interprets them. The white parts of the cup usually indicate the good fortune, whilst the dark shapes of the tea or coffee indicates the difficult or ‘bad’ omens. In both tea and coffee readings, the symbol interpretations are similar, although coffee grounds often include shapes and symbols alongside the animals and structures found in tea-leaves. In both types of reading, the handle should be pointing toward the person who wishes to be ‘read’.
Here are some of the easier signs to spot.

A tea-leaf reading

1. Happiness and success: symbols include a house, flowers, bridges, triangles, stars and arches all foretell good luck and happiness. A clover-leaf is one of the best signs you can hope for, alongside a butterfly which indicates success and pleasure.

2. Difficult times: A large clump of tea indicates trouble, but not of your own making if it’s opposite the handle. A snake, that age-old symbol, shows up a falsehood or a lie. Coffins, crosses, rats, hourglasses, ravens and monkeys are bad portents, with the raven in particular indicating death.

Click here for a pictorial

A coffee-ground reading

1. Happiness and success: The minus symbol ‘-‘ indicates that goods or gifts are coming to you, three dots in a row indicate the beginning of a friendship. A date palm foretells a holiday or trip abroad, and two lines side-by-side ‘II’ indicate a sea voyage.

2. Difficult times: Conversely, the butterfly indicates a confused friendship in coffee readings, rather than the success symbol of the tea-leaves. An eye reveals that a jealous person is watching you, and a scattering of small dots are a warning to be careful with money.

If you want to get a tasseomancy reading there are plenty of talented practitioners available to help you. If you don’t want to see someone personally, then you can begin to study the art yourself. There are many books on the subject that will successfully guide you, as well as online software to help interpret the symbols.

More divination methods explained:

Crystal gazing
5 Unusual ways to tell your future


First picture by Peter Ashley, Second one by Mike Licht, Notionscapital.com CC-BY-2.0 – Thank you both! (both pictures were edited)

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