Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reading into Tasseography

Nothing, for me, is better than a good book and a cup of tea. I am sure countless others feel the same way. Perhaps it all came from the 18th century, where afternoon tea was life, and most mainstream classics were conceived. Indeed, I've just read a book declaring Jane Austen was the most avid tea drinker.

As you might have guessed, I love tea. What you might have not known, is I also love books. So much so, I've made it my career. No, no, I don't write books. I don't have the strongest writing ability, and even weaker grammar and spelling skills. I work in the land of books, the most wondrous library! Academic mind you, which makes finding books on tea sandwiches a little tricky. And since I've been in the library, I've notice the link between books and tea even more obviously.

When I was in Nikaido, browsing the glorious shelves of tea, a black current caught my eye. Nikaido's Blackcurrant Librarian's blend went home with me that day, and the librarian in me greatly approves.

So I drink teas that reference libraries. I drink tea when reading books. Hmm, if only I could go one step further. What else that has to do with tea, and reading could I possibly do?
Oh I know, Tea Readings!

For those who don't have a crazy old great aunt/mother/elderly matron friend who offers tea readings (and those awful ribbon candy), tea reading is a very old fortune telling method that uses pictures to predict future events. And for the sticklers out there, the alphabet can appear in the leaves, so technically it is reading.
As I have read a total of 2 (two) books about tea reading, I'm going to call myself a mock expert on it all. Right.

The scientific name, even though it isn't based on science, is tasseography, and it seems to have originated in the UK. The believed origin is due to the first book of tasseography being written by a Highland Seer. There isn't a publishing date on the book, so who knows how old it is.

The actual tea reading can be very accurate, and very deep and ritualistic. Pah. I'm not into that. I wanted to do it on a lark, and keep it lighthearted and fun. For goodness sakes, we are looking at squiggly pictures in tea blobs. For all the die-hards out there, who read and scoff at my approach, go read entrails or something. I'm going to go play pictionary with my tea!

The first thing you need to do a tea reading, is to find a loose leaf tea. Cutting open a tea bag doesn't work. Most of what is in the teabags is powder, and that will float around in your cup. You would likely also ingest at least two thirds of it. You also can't have your typical tea blends. The leaves will be better quality and therefore will be bigger. If you do a reading on this, all you are going to see is pictures of leaves. Perhaps a tree. But mostly leaves -- tea leaves.
You need an in-between. Not too large, not too small. I thought I found the solution with Nikaido's Librarian blend, but even their leaves were a little too large. I shall keep my eyes open for something better. Meanwhile, it was the Blackcurrant blend that I used.

Next you have to pick the teapot. You want one that has NO STRAINER.
I laughed when I read that. I thought, well, duh.
Of course, only after I made my tea and was attempting to pour a cup did I notice a lack of tea leaves. My Alice teapot had a built in strainer. Oy.
I mean, what are the odds?
Instead of redoing everything in a new pot, I just scooped a teaspoon of leaves from the pot and dumped it into my cup. Problem solved.
I suppose if you do have a strainer, it isn't the end of the tea reading.
Next is the teacup. Go traditionally British here. You know, the wide mouth with the smaller bottom? Of course you know. It's the quintessential teacup. Do make sure the bottom isn't too petite, as it needs to have the surface area to show your destiny!

Okay, drink your tea the way you like it. Milk? Sugar? Go ahead! Makes no difference! Once you have about a teaspoon of tea left in the bottom. Stop drinking, and check a mirror for any tea leaves in your teeth.
Now, if you want to be ritualistic, turn the teacup counter-clockwise three times using only your left hand. Then turn the cup upside down onto your saucer and let the tea drain away for about 30 seconds. Then turn another three times. You should be thinking of a question as you do these actions.

If you don't want to be ritualistic, swish the tea a bit, and then turn it upside down on your saucer. Wait the same time, and poof, you're done. I didn't have a saucer with my set, so I just set it over the drain in the sink. Worked fine. I also forgot to think of a question.

And then, turning the handle towards myself, I looked inside.

Now inside the tea cup is a map. Positions mean things. The closer a picture is to the rim, the sooner it will happen. The closer a picture is to the bottom, the longer it will take. If the picture is near handle, it means it will be a personal thing. On the opposite end, the picture concerns someone you aren't really familiar with. In both cases, the middle of the two means the middle of the two descriptions. You can get even more technical, such as using the cup as a 12 month calendar or a clock, but a novice like me was fine enough for this simple guideline.

I turned over my cup, turned the handle towards myself, and saw a decent amount of tea leaves inside. There can be lots of leaves, or very little, neither of which means you drained your teacup incorrectly. It is just how the cookie crumbles. I looked into the cup, and then saw a symbol I instantly recognized. JUMPING JEHOSAPHET, IT WAS THE GRIM!

Ha ha, no. Not really. Any Harry Potter fans would recognize that scene from the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. My teacup was much tamer, though I stared at it in bewilderment for a little bit of time.

First I thought it I couldn't see any discerning pictures because the tea leaves were too big. All I could see was a blob. A blob with stilts and windows? Hmmmm. I kid you not, I flipped through the books for quite sometime looking for tiki hut meanings. Apparently the UK Seers didn't think the Tiki huts were common enough to include in their symbolism lists. And then, I thought perhaps I should turn it around. So I did, and peered at it some more. Perhaps it was my straining to turn a blob into something, anything, that a picture did finally appear: A Ship!

Can you see it? It is the front of the bow. Like a steamer ship? Okay, hold on, I'll outline it.
Okay, how about now?

See, it sort of looks like this type of ship:

And you know what? Ships mean a good trip somewhere, and that is surprisingly accurate. This May I am heading off to Disneyworld (good thing too, I was running low on a certain tea) and Disney is always a good trip. Unless you end up in 30Âșc weather and running a high fever, and you refuse to take it easy because you are on vacation. *cough* There is also a letter H in there, which is the first letter of the plane company were are starting our trip with. I thought that one next to the ship might be a flag, but the symbolism didn't make sense. It could be a weird pistol, but those aren't good signs, so I decided it wasn't. The other leaves looked like blobs, and that's okay. They just mean nothing major is going to happen otherwise

So, my thoughts? Well, maybe I mentally superimposed the symbol onto the tea blob, or maybe not. I didn't take it very seriously, but as a divination tool, I don't think it typically should be. I mean, you drink tea with your friends, and try to find symbols in each others cup. If things turn out to be true, then is it coincidence? Lucky guesses? Who knows, and that's what makes it fun to do. But most importantly, if you are going to do a reading, you might as well make the tea worth while.

My blackcurrant tea was delicious as ever, the fruitiness mingling with the earthy tea perfectly. Nothing like a good blackcurrant, and this definitely is one of the best I ever had. The fruit had a bit more of a starring role than the tea, and it also didn't curdle any milk or cream. It also had a refined taste afterward. I once had a blackcurrant that had an aftertaste similar to the taste you get from the air after taking a weed-wacker to an acre of meadow weeds. Ick. Anyone who is a fan of blackcurrant (most British people I find) will love this tea.

The Librarian's Blend Tea is available at Nikaido in Steveston B.C. which is technically in Richmond.

The books I read were:
Reading Tea Leaves /by a highland seer Or read it free online!
Tea cup reading : A quick and easy guide to tasseography /Sasha Fenton


  1. I think you will have to have a tea while on the mentioned plane!

    Is the grim a real thing to see in your tea leaves? Or is it a made up Harry Potter thing?

  2. The grim, or black dog is a ghost or demon type dog that is associated with the devil. If you saw it, it would be a sign of death. Sometime it was the thing that killed you. While not a designated symbol in tasseography, it is considered an omen.
    So if you saw it anywhere, including tea leaves, it would be bad!

    I find most things in Harry Potter based off of legend or myth. She's a good researcher, that one. :)