The History of Tea Leaf Reading

 Tea leaf reading, also known as tasseography, is said to have origins in Asia, the Middle East, and Ancient Greece, with Middle Eastern cultures typically using coffee. However, modern tea leaf reading began in the 17th century, when tea was introduced from China to Europe. 

Although loose leaf tea was initially a product for the upper class, once it became more readily available, rituals surrounding tea like tea leaf reading emerged.  Tea leaf reading was thought to have developed because life was often discussed over a cup of tea. People realized that they could see their discussions reflected in their tea leaves, much like finding shapes in clouds in the sky.  The Romani people continued to spread tea leaf readings throughout Europe, even going door-to-door to offer tea leaf reading services. By the mid-1800s, the Romani were regularly incorporated into European tea culture, with tea parlors and tea rooms inviting them in to offer tea leaf readings to guests.  

In the U.S., tea parlors opened in the 1800s, with tea becoming more and more popular over the years.  After WWI, women in the U.S. even began opening their own tea parlors. They would serve light snacks, offering to read tea leaves after drinking to further increase the experience of community.  From this, the art of tea reading was often passed down between women from generation to generation. Although there is thought to be a level of clairvoyance involved in tea leaf reading, it is something that you can do at home.

Tea leaf readers interpret the symbols and patterns found in the leaves. Typically, this is done with a black loose leaf tea drunk out of a light colored cup in order to see the tea leaves more clearly.  The person having their fortune read is often asked to think of a question that they would like answered as they drink the tea, leaving about one or two inches at the bottom of the cup. From here, the teacup is turned upside down and tapped to move the tea leaves onto the saucer.  Tea leaves are usually interpreted by reading from the rim inwards, with the events near the outside thought to depict what is going to happen first, and symbols near the center of the mug showing what is going to happen in the distant future. Tea leaf reading is unique in that it tends to focus on positive energy rather than negative, for a well-needed dose of positivitea. So next time you receive loose leaf tea in your tea subscription box, you’ll also be getting potential insight into your future. Bottoms up!

Want to become a tea leaf reader? Here are a few symbols you can look for in your next cup:

Tea Leaf Reading Symbols

  • Angel: Good news
  • Circle: Wedding or love
  • Crescent moon: Changes
  • Cross: Addition 
  • Bird: Travel 
  • Waves: Unity
  • Star: Good luck
  • Spiral: Creativity

Related content: How to brew loose leaf tea


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