Reading Tea Leaves


Tasseography: The Art of Reading Tea Leaves

Tasseography is the practice of reading tea leaves with a goal to derive deeper meanings.  These meanings could be of a fortune-telling nature, but I’m more inclined to read the leaves for the purpose of broadening perspective or confirming intuition.

Tasseography was initiated and mastered by the Chinese who have held a deep reverence for tea and its life-affirming qualities for centuries.  Coffee grounds and wine remnants can also be interpreted, and these practices also fall under the heading of tasseography.

This article offers a few tips on reading tea leaves as was passed on to me by one of my teachers.

Choosing a Tea:

Choose a tea of choice.  Black, green, herbal – it makes no difference.  Whichever you prefer.  Choose a loose tea for optimal results (I love oolong, rolled or cut – makes great designs in the cup).  If you don’t have loose tea, you can cut open a bagged tea.

Brewing the Tea:

Put your loose tea in a small teapot.  Fill the pot with water and put to a boil.  Swirl your teapot a bit (think of your question as you do so) to kick up the loose tea and then pour out the tea in your cup being careful not to burn yourself.  Note: Use a teacup with a handle.

Settling the Sediment:

1)  Enjoy drinking your tea.  As you do so, think about a question you want clarification on.

2)  When you are almost done, swirl the last little bit of liquid and tea remnants three times:  Clockwise if you need clarity on future events, counterclockwise if you need clarification on past events.

3)  As you are swirling think upon the issue/question  you are seeking guidance about.

4)  Place your teacup rim-down on the saucer to empty out the last bit of liquid remaining.

The sediment left in your cup is what you will read.

Reading the Tea Leaves:

The Chinese have a whole dictionary of tea-leaf-shapes and meanings.  These reference guides are filled with hundreds of potential symbols that may be interpreted from remnant tea leaves.  You can certainly use reference books (there are several books on the market, or you could go to your library).  However, my teacher encouraged the use of self-determination and imagination to interpret leaves.

There are a few ground rules however.  Your teacup will serve as a guide in your tea leaf interpretation.  Specifically, the position of the handle on your teacup in relation to the tea leaves will help you determine the timing of your oracle (past or future).  The cup will also help to determine if your oracle is referencing you, or other people – consciousness or unconsciousness.

Here are some diagrams to illustrate what I’m talking about:


When you are contemplating the arrangement of tea leaves, and they are mostly flowing to the left half of the teacup (according to the left-pointing handle) then you are dealing with past issues.

Alternatively, if most of your leaves are arranged on the right half of the cup (according to the handle), then you are dealing with the future.
How you turn the cup handle will be determined by your intuition.  You will see, during the practice of tasseography, the leaves will convene naturally to make a coherent design.  That design will look differently according to how you turn the cup.

The tea leaf design will look more coherent and take on a real shape depending upon which direction you’re turning the cup.

The last illustration on this page will explain this more fully.
In the same way, you can determine if the tea leaves are offering an oracle about yourself or about others.


Likewise, your leaves can tell you if your question/issue is rooted in your conscious awareness, or buried in  your subconscious.

So how do we read the actual leaves? 

Turn your cup around to get the best view of your tea leaves.  You will notice that turned in different directions, there will be no discernable feature.  Yet turn the cup in a different direction, and you may be able to make out a clear figure.

Take this image (left) for example.  When I turned the cup clockwise (with the handle facing left), my intuition could not make out any definitions.


However, when I turned the cup the other way (handle facing east/right) then I could clearly see a rabbit leaping about.

Can you see the rabbit?

You will have to move the cup (not the remnants, that cheating) around and your intuition will tell you which position offers the clearest tea-leaf-symbol.

Once you define a specific symbol in your leaves, allow your intuition to provide the answers.  My tea leaves form a rabbit, so I ask my intuition “What does the rabbit mean to me? How does it relate to my life?”

Rabbits, in my training symbolize fertility.  And, as I’m not having babies any time soon, that means my future is filled with a different kind of fertility.  I could interpret this as: “New creative ideas will be born in my future.”

Keep it simple.  Let your intuitive vision fall on very simple symbols. Then allow your basic reasoning skills to understand what that symbol means to you, and how it applies to your life experience.

And don’t forget the most important rule: Have fun and enjoy yourself during the process.

I hope you have enjoyed these thoughts on tasseography as a means for clarification.

Wishing you happiness while reading tea leaves,