Reading the Future of Tea

By Chris Cason


Ever gaze into the bottom of your mostly-empty teacup and imagine that there was a pattern forming in the gathering dust? Some folks believe that this collection of leaves can actually foretell the future! Tasseomancy, the art of reading tea leaves, has intrigued tea lovers and mystics alike for hundreds of years. It is still fairly common through England and Ireland, as well as several other parts of Europe, and can even be found in the back rooms of some tea rooms in the United States! So for the opening of a new year, TeaMuse will put one eye towards the future in an exploration of this numinous craft.

First, prepare a cup as usual. Add tea leaves to your teapot, pour hot water and allow to steep until desired strength is reached. Instead of straining the leaves with an infuser, though, simply pour the infusion into your cup, leaves and all. A white cup is recommended so that all of the leaves are easily visible. Drink most of the tea (my favorite part), only leaving about a teaspoonful of liquid and hopefully all the leaves (unless you didn't have lunch) in the cup.

Next, hold the cup in your left hand and swish three times in a counterclockwise motion. At this point you'll discover that, if you've left too much tea in the cup, your future is already clear: cleanup. Then tip the cup onto the saucer, allowing the excess liquid to drain. Hold the cup with the handle facing towards your body and study the pattern of the tea leaves that remain.

Leaves to the left of the handle represent the past. Those to the right represent the future. Leaves closest to the rim represent the immediate future. Supposedly, various leaf patterns have particular meanings: straight lines indicate careful planning and peace of mind, while a cup shape indicates love and harmony. Some tea-reading experts, called tasseologists, claim that they can go into a light meditative trace so that they can easily discern hundreds of patterns from loose leaves.

In the book The Magic in Tea Leaves, Amber McCarroll (considered on the world's leading tasseologists) says that there is a "universal symbolism" involved in tea leaf reading that "acts as a pictorial shorthand for the subconscious.. We can all benefit from developing this forgotten skill."

In circles that take this form of divination seriously, it is considered ill-advised for one to attempt tasseography using tea from a cut-open tea bag (the bigger the leaves the better to discern shapes more clearly). It is also not recommended to try it with ground coffee either, even though this was a fairly common practice in 17th century Italy (Adagio wasn't around there yet). As a side note, this Tea Maestro completely supports this tasseological ban on supermarket-quality teabag use as well as ground coffee.

The information gained in a tea leaf reading is also generally only supposed to apply to the immediate future (most tasseologists claim 24 hours), and is only pertinent to those who had a swig of tea. Also, the reading can only provide answers to specific questions asked by the drinker.

Whether or not you'd stock your faith in the patterns of wet leaves, with 2006 now in full swing, one question is still relevant to anyone reading this: what does the future hold for this year in tea? Studying the tea leaves, it appears that 2006 is going to be a record-breaking year. With new health reports being published practically daily, new businesses popping up all over the map, and great products coming out all the time, all signs point to the fact that folks are finally catching on to the greatness of tea.

Within the next several months, Adagio will be introducing several new ways to enhance the tea experience and many more amazing ideas are on the way.

It has honestly never been more exciting time to be a part of it all.