Tasseomancy Guide: The Art of Reading Tea Leaves


Tasseography is a fortune-telling technique that involves reading tea leaves and other drink residues, like coffee grounds. Tasseographers interpret symbols from tea leaves in the bottom of a teacup to divine the future.

The word tasseography comes from the French tasse, or cup, and the Greek -graph, or writing, though you may have heard this practice referred to as tasseomancy or tasseology, too. Reading tea leaves may seem like a simple process, but it involves precise movements and a strong intuition on the reader’s part.

Readers must also understand the symbols, as no one’s cup will look precisely the same. You don’t need to be psychic to have the ability to read tea leaves, but it helps if you can listen to your intuition.

How Does Tasseography Work?

When you read tea leaves, you’re doing more than drinking tea and looking into the cup. You typically ask the person whose leaves you want to read to focus on an area of their life in which they need guidance. For example, someone may want to know how to proceed with a relationship or get their dream job.

As with any type of divination, tea leaves won’t tell you every detail of your future. However, they can help guide you toward your goals by providing insight into what behaviors, practices, or attitudes will get you closer.

When you read tea leaves, you must focus your energy. Both you and the sitter must have clear intentions.

With the energy you put into your readings, you can gain insight into challenges and receive advice about your current or future circumstances. Your tea leaves may indicate good fortune just as easily as they can forecast difficulties in your situation.

How To Do A Tea Leaf Reading

Before You Begin

Whether you read for yourself or someone else, you must take specific steps before you begin a tea reading. It’s easiest to use a white teacup, so you can see the leaves and their patterns against it. As a beginner, using loose black tea leaves will give you the clearest readings.

Don’t use leaves from a teabag—they’re finer than loose leaf teas, which means they can’t create the shapes and symbols you need to perform a successful reading. With a tea leaf reading, you don’t use infusers either.  You also need a proper tea cup with a round base, and a saucer or small plate.

Step 1 – Boil The Water and Pour It Over The Tea Leaves

Boil the kettle and pour it over the tea leaves in your cup. Allow the tea to steep for a moment or two, depending on taste. You can add sugar if you must, but make sure it is fully dissolved. Do not add milk.

Step 2 –  Think of A Specific Question While Drinking The Tea

When the tea is steeped, the person having the reading should sit quietly holding the cup for a few moments, to allow it to reach drinkable temperature. Once the tea has steeped and reaches the correct temperature, tell the querent, or the person you’re reading, to think of a specific question.

When the tea is ready, he or she should drink it holding the cup in the opposite hand to normal – this is said to unite both halves of the brain and will help to create suitable energies for the reading to take place.

Make sure they don’t drain the entire cup of tea, as there should be just under a tablespoon of liquid left in the bottom.

Step 3 – Swirl Cup Counterclockwise

At this point, have the querent hold the cup in their left hand and swirl its contents three times counterclockwise. This left to right movement helps create the symbols that you will then interpret, though you still have a few more steps before you’re ready to look at them.

Step 4 – Drain Remaining Tea in Cup

After the querent has swirled the leaves, they will place the cup upside down on the saucer to drain the remaining tea. Wait one minute, and then turn the cup three times on the saucer before turning it over with its handle pointing south.

Step 5 – Interpret The Tea Leaves and Their Placement

You’ll see leaves stuck to the inside of the cup, and their placement matters. The leaves at the bottom of the cup apply to events in the distant future. The leaves on the rim hold insight about the present, and the leaves on the sides of the cup show information about events in between.

As the reader or seer, you should concentrate on the querent, whether that’s you or someone else. Begin to identify shapes, figures, and symbols in the cup, as well as their positions. Some symbols will play upon each other and work together to show good fortune or bad omens.

Interpreting the Tea Leaf Symbols

When you work with tea leaves, reading them means knowing how to interpret specific symbols. It may take time for you to remember them all, so if you’re a beginner, it may help to keep a reference on hand. Here are some of the most common symbols you’ll see at the bottom of the cup:

  • Letters: Letters can offer clues about a symbol depending on their placement—for example, next to a rectangle, a letter may mean you will send a message to someone whose name starts with that letter
  • Lines: Lines can appear straight, wavy, or broken, and they indicate a trip—straight lines mean quick, comfortable journeys, while broken or wavy lines show challenges on your path
  • Dots: While the dots’ positions matter, they often indicate incoming money
  • Angel: Good news related to love
  • Birds: A safe journey, and good luck, depending on the kind of bird
  • Butterfly: Success and happiness
  • Clouds: Trouble on the horizon
  • Coffin: Impending illness or death of a friend or family member
  • Cross: Unfortunate circumstances and possibly death
  • Dragon: Significant changes in your life
  • Fox: Deceit by someone close, such as a friend or family member
  • Hourglass: Approaching danger
  • House: Success in business ventures
  • Ladder: A journey or travel
  • Mushroom: Fighting between partners and subsequent breakup
  • Ring: Events related to marriage
  • Scissors: Fighting or illness
  • Snake: Deception and bad omens
  • Tree: Good fortune and happiness

While the meaning of these symbols can vary based on how they relate to one another, each one has a distinct interpretation on its own. Your intuition as the reader will also affect how you interpret the symbols, and you will learn to identify them better over time.

Tea Leaf Cups

tea leaf cups

As for the cups themselves, most diviners will prefer to work with a simple, white one, which allows them to see the symbols more clearly. However, some also believe there is a special meaning to the leaves’ positions in the cup, and some find that easier to read using marked cups, which is why some potteries make special cups and tea sets meant to be used in tasseomancy readings. These cups are usually grouped in one of three categories: zodiac cups, playing card cups and symbol cups.

Zodiac Sets

Zodiac sets contain, as the name indicates, planetary and zodiac symbols. Usually, the cup has the planetary markings and the saucer the zodiac signs. These sets are mostly used to combine tasseomancy with astrology.

Playing Card Sets

Fortune telling cards usually contain a full deck of cards imprinted inside them. It can be a poker deck with 52 cards and the joker or a smaller 32-card euchre deck. Some cards may be printed on the saucer, or it might contain brief interpretations instead. These sets are used to combine cartomancy readings with tasseomancy.

Symbol Sets

The symbol sets are the ones that are strictly meant for tasseomancy, as they display symbol cues to assist the reading. These may also come with an explanatory booklet, which makes them ideal for someone who is making their first attempts at tasseomancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Read Your Own Tea Leaves?

You can read your own cup if you like, yes. However, some people find self-readings more challenging. Either way, the process remains the same. Just make sure you drink the tea, swirl the cup three times, and ask a question.

It’s crucial that if you read yourself, you focus on your energy and intention, just as you would instruct another person to do. If you don’t train your focus on your question, you won’t get an accurate reading.

What Type of Tea Should You Use?

You should always use loose leaf tea when conducting a tea reading. For beginners, black tea works best, as it shows more distinct symbols. You can also use oolong tea.

As you gain experience, you may feel comfortable using other types of tea, too. However, you want to choose a tea that has only leaves, rather than blends containing fruit, herbs, flowers, or other flavorful additions. These components don’t form any symbols or enhance your reading, and they may even disrupt it.

Above all, avoid using teabags of any type. The leaves in teabags have been crushed too finely to offer accurate insight. Even if you follow the steps perfectly, these leaves won’t form clear symbols, which means you’ll find them difficult or even impossible to understand.

Are Tea Leaf Readings Accurate?

The accuracy of interpretation depends on several factors, including the:

  •         Reader
  •         Sitter or querent
  •         Type of leaves used
  •         Intention and energy in a space

When these factors combine positively, you are more likely to receive an accurate interpretation. If you have a reader who knows the symbols to look for and how to understand them and a receptive sitter, you’ve gotten past the first step.

Make sure you use loose leaf black or oolong tea, or a similar type of tea. The tea you use will determine, in part, the clarity of the reading.

Lastly, the intention and energy you put into the reading affect its accuracy the most. If you don’t form a clear query or lack focus, you may find that you don’t receive the answers you want.

Keep in mind that reading tea leaves does not mean you get definitive answers about your future. Your will and choices both factor into the events of your life. If something you see in the cup doesn’t come true, that doesn’t mean you read the leaves wrong. It merely means your life took a different course.

What Does a Tea Leaf Reading Tell You?

A tea leaf reading provides insight into your future. However, much like other divination practices, they do not typically answer yes or no questions.

The leaves and symbols in the cup may give you hints about how to bring about good fortune through behaviors, habits, and life changes. They can warn you of challenges or bad omens approaching. They can also help you understand how to handle a difficult situation, as well as predict less specific events about whatever area of your life you choose to focus on.

The leaves won’t tell you the name of your future spouse, though they may indicate initials, as well as how or where you might meet them. Keep an open mind when it comes to this form of divination. You may receive unexpected insights and answers, and tuning into your energy will ensure you get the best reading possible.

alissa monroe

Alissa Monroe is a self-proclaimed “psychic junkie” with over 10 years of experience in the world of psychics, tarot, and spirituality. Her goal is to help people find happiness through spiritual enlightenment and self-discovery.