How to Interpret Tea Leaf Reading Symbols

How to Interpret Tea Leaf Reading Symbols

As a tea leaf reader, I often get asked what, exactly, reading tea leaves is and how it works -- and how on earth I go about interpreting those tea leaf reading symbols. So I thought I’d share the basics of this fun and relatively simple form of divination. Pop the kettle on and let’s get started!

What Is Tea Leaf Reading?

Reading tea leaves -- also called tasseography or tasseomancy -- is a fairly modern style of divination (only a few centuries old). It came about in the 1600s, when tea first came to ultra superstitious Britain, and became popular amongst the lower classes as a cleaner, less expensive alternative to reading entrails. The idea is that your energy gets infused into the tea leaves, which can then form themselves into symbols in the cup to send messages. People have used tea leaf reading to divine their future, get advice on a problem, or even forecast the weather.

Tea Leaf Reading Basics

Anyone can enjoy reading their tea leaves; all you need is a teacup, tea, hot water, and your intuition. As you can see from my own tea leaf readings, I like to place my teacup in the middle of a crystal grid and cast a protective circle first, but none of that is strictly necessary.
Steep the Tea
Leave the infusers in the drawer -- tasseography won’t work unless the tea leaves are free to float about the cup. That’s right, you’ll be placing the tea directly into the cup and pouring your hot water over it. Put whatever else you want in there: sugar, honey, cream, almond milk. You do you. Don’t worry too much about steeping times since the leaves need to remain in the cup anyway. When the tea is cool enough to drink, go for it.
Drink the Tea
Enjoy drinking your tea, and if there is a specific question you have for the tea leaves, keep it in your mind while drinking; otherwise, the leaves will give you a general divination. The hardest part of this is keeping yourself from accidentally drinking the tea leaves! Keep drinking until you have about a tablespoon of liquid left in the cup.
Turn the Cup
“Turning the cup” is simple that: You swirl the tea, flip the cup upside down on the saucer to drain, then turn the cup around in the saucer three times clockwise.
Read the Leaves
Flip the cup back over, and you’re ready to read the tea leaves.

Reading Tea Leaf Symbols

This is where your intuition and personal style come in to play, because there’s really no right or wrong way to interpret tea leaf reading symbols; it’s actually extremely personal. For instance, some symbols that many people might consider to be bad omens -- such as a black cat -- I consider to be lucky. Much depends on your perspective as well as the situation you have asked the tea leaves for help with.
Many tea leaf readers will start by dividing the cup into sections representing past, present, and future. I use the bottom of the cup for the past, the middle for the present, and the top for the future, but I’ve seen folks who flip it in the opposite direction -- and some who ignore it altogether!
When looking into the cup, you’ll generally encounter four kinds of tea leaf reading symbols:
  • Animals
  • Mythical Beings
  • Objects
  • Numbers

The symbols won’t always be distinct. As always, go with what your intuition tells you. I highly recommend using pen and paper to jot down thoughts as they come to you and to record the symbols. (I keep an entire journal for this purpose and enjoy looking back on past readings.)
To interpret, or read, what you see, use a guide on symbology, the internet, and your own personal experiences and gut feelings. If you’re still unclear as to the tea leaves’ message, take some time to meditate on the symbols and the problem at hand. And if that doesn’t help, start over and try reading your tea leaves again! As with any method of divination, a little practice (and learning to trust yourself) goes a long way.

Ciaran Keast

Ciaran Keast loves art, semicolons, books, cats -- and all the tea, ever. When they're not posting tea photos on social media, you'll catch them at almost every Plum Deluxe event.
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