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Reading Tea Leaves


Reading tea leaves is a century’s old tradition that was very popular in Europe in the late 1800’s early 1900’s.

by Gail Thackray


Reading tea leaves is a century’s old tradition that was very popular in Europe in the late 1800’s early 1900’s. Ladies in England enjoyed having their tea leaves read at social events. Ladies would often get together and “pop over for tea” when they had a specific issue they wanted advice on. Other readers have their roots in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia. Reading tea leaves is often associated with Russian “Gypsies.” Reading coffee grounds was more popularized in Middle Eastern countries, simply because this was a more popular drink. Whether reading coffee grounds or tea leaves, it works in exactly the same way.

Reading tea leaves works in a similar way to reading Tarot cards, crystal balls and other symbolized communications. I believe that it is a way of allowing us to tap into the universal knowledge, Divine Source, Higher Self or God. We are connecting to the spirit world, to our spirit guides and allowing these guides to help us through symbols. By showing us symbols that we can interpret into answers or messages. I find that Tea Leaf Reading is more accurate when interpreting events in the near future. Further into the future becomes less accurate as we have the option to change our paths. Therefore I usually consider the cup to be no more than a six month forecast.

I believe when we are the reader, we are communicating with our spirit guide, either our main guide or a guide that is helping specifically for this purpose. We are communicating with our guide not the spirit guide of the person being read or the “sitter.” Our guide knows us well and therefore will give us symbols that will spark the correct message they are trying to get across to us. If we are the reader, the sitter’s spirit guide will talk to our guide and the guides will share information but then it is up to our own guide to communicate the message to us through symbols that we will understand.

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Gail Thackray

That being said, this is not always the case, when you open yourself up to communicating and receiving messages, loved ones who have passed over may take the opportunity to come through and guides from the sitter may jump in with messages as well. These messages are usually unrelated to the symbol, they come as just a thought or knowing that you are asked to pass on. Therefore sometimes I am asked, “which symbol did you see that message in” to which the answer is usually“I don’t know, it just came to me.

”We communicate spiritually visually through visions and symbols (clairvoyant), through audio, hearing and thoughts (clairaudient) or just a sense or knowing (clairsentient). We may communicate slightly stronger through one channel than the other. Reading tea leaves is a clairvoyant skill as we are using our third eye to connect visually through symbols. If you are more clairaudient the interpretations may just pop into your head more easily. If you are more clairsentient you may just feel or just know the meaning. Those that are strongly clairvoyant have an easier time seeing a meaning in a symbol.

Making Your Cup of Tea

Now let’s get started; first prepare your tea the old fashioned way in a tea pot. Use loose leaf tea, don’t cut open a tea bag as they will not give you large enough leaves. Green tea, Earl Grey, Darjeeling or Assam all work great. What ever is your preference. Actually I sometimes add a little from a tea bag as well so that I have a mixture of large and small leaves. You may add milk or cream, or lemon, if you desire (being English, I always add milk). Non caffeinated loose tea is fine too. Red tea from South Africa is a very healthy non caffeinated tea that has similar health properties to green tea without the caffeine and tastes more like an English Breakfast tea. Basically any drink that leaves a residue will work. So coffee and even smoothies or fruit drinks work fine.

English tea is traditionally prepared by first putting a small amount of boiling water in your tea pot and swilling it around to bring the tea pot to a higher temperature. Then throw out that water. Then add the tea leaves (about two tablespoons for a large pot) and fill the tea pot with boiling water. Cover with a lid and preferably a tea cozy (a knitted cover). Then let stand for a few minutes (English call this letting it “mash”). Serve the tea unstrained, so that you get enough tea leaves for your reading.

You need a teacup with a wide mouth and therefore the sides of the cup slope to the bottom. The wider the brim will give you more slope space. Cups that have straight sides are much more difficult to read and the leaves don’t stay on the sides as well. A plain, undecorated surface inside of cup is easier to read off as patterns can distract the shapes made by the leaves. Pour your tea, making sure lots of leaves go into the cup. If this is not happening you can cheat by stirring up the leaves in the pot first and even spooning some extra leaves into the cup as a last resort. Then add milk, sugar, honey or what ever you desire, it doesn’t effect the reading. Don’t worry that the tea leaves may get milky. It doesn’t matter who pours the tea for the reading but it is a nice gesture to have another pour your tea for you and you in turn pour theirs.

If you prefer coffee, simply brew your favorite variety of coffee and add a pinch or two of dry coffee grounds to the coffee so that there will be enough grounds to read. If you add the grounds before drinking, then let the cup sit for a few minutes so that the grounds sink to the bottom. Otherwise add the grounds to the remaining coffee dregs after you have drunk your cup of coffee. You will find that different varieties of coffee, such as Turkish or Greek coffee, are more suitable for coffee reading.

Starting the Reading

Now the best part; ask your sitter to sit and relax while they sip their cup of tea or coffee. This is a great time to enjoy time with friends, daydream and contemplate life. Part of the ritual of this form of divination is to sit down and enjoy the tea and the company of your fellow drinkers before you get started. This is not as frivolous as it sounds as it allows you to quiet your mind and also gather your thoughts. Of course having some delicious snacks also relaxes you and puts you in the right zone. I personally love the English scones with jam and clotted cream and the petit four sandwiches.

So back to reading…I find that it is difficult to read your own cup, as with any form of divination, it is always difficult to read your own fortune objectively. My guide also explained that he is on the journey with me and my lessons are also his, so it is difficult for him to advise me. We are meant to be social creatures and to seek the advice of others and their guides.

Before I start, I always protect the dining/tea drinking area with white light, and ask that a bubble of white light surround us and protect us so that only energies in the highest of goodness will be in our aura. This protects me and my sitter from any negative energies hanging around. If you are religious you can as for the protection of God or Jesus or the Angels just ask for protection that suits you.

Now instruct your sitter to sip their tea, while they quietly think about a subject that they have a question about. It could be a very specific issue, or it could be concerning a general area in their life such as romance or finances. I always find it more accurate to have either a specific question or at least a general area to hone in on. You can always have another cup and ask a different question later. As they sip their tea, ask them to dwell on this matter. You can in turn ask your spirit guide to talk to their spirit guide to help by discussing these issues. I always ask not to be given any bad news or news of accidents that we can do nothing to avoid. I ask only to be shown difficulties that can be overcome or avoided.

Before you even start the reading, there may already be some early signs to interpret that come from traditional interpretation:

  • “Bubbles on the surface of your tea or coffee means that you are about to receive money”. Blowing on the top doesn’t count!

  • “If any tea leaves of coffee grounds are floating on the surface, then visitors are imminent. The number of leaves shows how many days away they are.” Of course in this day and age, we are always receiving visitors, so I take this as a large event or gathering.

  • “If two teaspoons are accidently placed on a saucer, then you can expect news of twins soon”. Again to me this meaning is a bit dated, so I usually read it as meaning double luck or expect double of something good. Of course placing them after you have read this doesn’t count either.

When your sitter has almost finished their tea and there is just a small amount of liquid i​n the bottom of the cup, you are ready to begin. Ask them to take their cup and hold it in their left hand, (or if they are left handed then their right hand) and swirl the tea leaves around three times in a counter clockwise direction. Make sure they swirl the remaining tea around the whole of the cup. As they do this ask them to ask the Divine Source for direction to their question in the highest of goodness.I always ask that the guidance shall be in the highest of goodness,

Therefore the messages they receive will help them on their path and not prevent them from something they need.

Then, ask them to turn their cup over on the saucer and let the liquid drain away. This should leave tea leaves scattered around the sides and the bottom of the cup. Also the leaves in the saucer are sometimes read.

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Reading the Leaves

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The process described here seems not just about fortune-telling, but about connecting with something deeper within ourselves retro bowl and the universe. It's a beautiful blend of tradition, intuition, and spiritual connection.


As readers, we engage in communication with our spiritual mentor, who may be our primary mentor or a dedicated guide for this specific reason. doodle baseball

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