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Part 3: How to Perform a Tea-Leaf Reading

Now, we’re ready to get into the basics of how to read your tea leaves. You may feel a bit unsure of yourself at the beginning, but that’s okay; it’s not very difficult to begin, and you can soothe your nerves by mentally preparing yourself for the tea-leaf reading ritual. We recommend turning the entire experience into a ritual, with set steps that you follow the first time and each time thereafter. You will find the entire experience more relaxing and pleasurable this way.

When to Perform a Tea-Leaf Reading

As you practice tasseomancy for the first time, it is important to clear your mind of all outside distractions. Wait until your mind is free of other worries, and strongly consider turning off your cell phone and all other electronic devices. Some people prefer to read tea-leaves in the morning, when the leaves may give you insight into what the day will bring. However, many of us are very busy in the morning, and there is nothing wrong with performing the ritual later in the day, or even well into the evening. Focus on choosing a time when you feel peaceful and prepared to shift your entire focus to the process.

For beginners, we recommend practicing tasseomancy in the home or another strictly private place. This will help you to keep a stronger focus, you won’t feel as self-conscious, and you can avoid the potential distraction of bystanders asking about what you’re doing or offering opinions about what your tea leaves mean (this happens a lot!). Once you have some experience under your belt, you may very well enjoy performing the tea-leaf readings in public, and if you’re feeling very confident in your abilities, you can consider reading tea-leaves for others in a cafe.

How to Center Yourself

We mentioned that the best time to perform a tea-leaf reading is when you’ve cleared your mind of outside thoughts and concerns. For many, this is a tall order, and it is all too easy to begin thinking about things like drama in the workplace as you try to interpret the patterns in your teacup. If you are having difficulty centering yourself, try taking a few deep breaths, closing your eyes, and imagining yourself in a state of pure bliss. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, and consider turning on soft music or, conversely, turning off all outside noise and relaxing in complete silence.

Here is a ritual that we’ve found useful for centering prior to a tea-leaf reading:

  1. Begin preparing the tea, and check to make sure that you have all necessary materials, including a notebook to record your tea-leaf readings. Consider lighting some incense or a candle, and think about playing soft music, white noise, or reading in a state of silence. Gently close your eyes and make yourself comfortable in your chair. Plant both of your feet on the ground, and imagine that you are now one with the Earth.
  2. Take five slow, deep breaths, as deep as feels comfortable. Imagine yourself in a state of bliss, thinking the happiest and most relaxing thoughts that you can imagine. Allow your mind to drift freely, floating to the happiest places that it will take you. Enjoy the physical sensation of your deep breaths, and let the spiritual calm overtake your body.
  3. Say a gentle prayer to whomever you prefer, asking for guidance, insight, and protection.
  4. Open your eyes, adjust to your surroundings, and pour your first cup of tea

The First Cup of Tea

The first cup of tea is always a pleasurable experience, but in most settings the next cups of tea are just as good. Not so with tea-leaf reading. To perform tasseomancy properly, you should only read the tea-leaves from the first cup. The reason for this is simple – most of the tea leaves will flow out of your teapot as your pour the first cup, and by even the second cup of tea, very few tea leaves will remain.

The rule of the first cup is also useful because it helps to restrict you from discarding the reading you get from the first cup and moving onto a tea-leaf reading that is more favorable to you. If it is at all possible to read a pattern out of your tea-leaves, you should do your best to interpret the message and record it in your notebook. If you can’t make a good reading, take this as a sign that now is not the right time for a tea-leaf reading, and try again later.

If you are performing the ritual alone, restricting your reading to the first cup will not be a big deal since you will have the first cup of tea anyway. However, if you attempt to perform a tea-leaf reading with a friend, you will need to figure out a way to ensure that both of you may have the first cup of tea. Our favorite solution to this problem is to prepare two pots of tea at the same time. As an added side benefit, this also allows both you and your friend to choose a favorite type of tea without worrying about the other’s preference.

How to Perform the Tasseomancy Ritual

  1. As you drink you tea, remain conscious of how much remains in the cup. Once you’re down to a small amount, about a teaspoon of liquid, stop drinking. You will need this remaining tea to help move the leaves around during the next stage of your reading.
  2. Next, hold the cup in your off hand (left hand for right-handed people for example), close your eyes, and imagine the types of questions that you want your tea-leaf reading to answer.
  3. Now, you’re ready to turn the cup and place it onto its saucer. Slowly turn the teacup counterclockwise three times in a gentle rocking motion, then place it upside down on the saucer. Allow the tea to drain for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Once the remaining liquid has drained out of the tea cup, place it back right side up. You are now ready to read your tea leaves!

Please note that you must respect the ritual and treat it with the proper seriousness if you wish to achieve the best results. Those who treat tasseomancy with respect and enter the ritual hoping to gain great insight have greater power to will the tea-leaf patterns into being, patterns that will accurately foretell the events and emotions of the future. For those who do not take the reading of tea-leaves seriously, the patterns are less likely to mean anything at all, as the ritual tends to give back what it is given.

Getting Started

The tea-leaves are ready, and you are likely very eager to begin reading. Instead, relax for a moment and carefully examine the leaves, carefully soaking up the energy and vibes around you. Wait for as long as you need to, preferably until you achieve the right state of mind. Do not worry too much if reading the leaves is initially difficult for you – few get it perfect on the first attempt, and this is a ritual that is very simple to perform over and over again until you’ve achieved a level of mastery.

If you cannot make out any clear shapes, there are a few tricks that you can try out. First, try squinting your eyes when examining your teacup. This will emphasize the contrast between the color of the leaves and the cup. If you’re still having difficulty, try looking into the cup from different angles. Just like in life, a different perspective can make all the difference.

Okay, now you’re ready to start. Again, center yourself with deep breaths and clear your mind. It’s important that you get an deep, accurate sense of your emotions, because this will help you to notice changes in your state of being as you read the tea-leaves. Take careful note of exactly how you feel as you begin. Whether you are nervous, overjoyed, or somewhat fearful, it’s important to know where you’re starting from.

As you gaze into your teacup, resist the urge to immediately try to read and interpret the shapes. Look at the entire cup, identifying groups of leaves and broad patterns. Pay attention to which parts of the teacup catch your eye, which groups of leaves feel most important, and anything else that you notice. Keep close taps on your thoughts and emotions now that you are looking into your cup, but do not allow yourself to be overly swayed.

The Three Sections of Your Teacup

When practicing tasseomancy, we divide the teacup’s bowl into three sections. Using the handle as a guide, these sections reveal the timing of each pattern. You should read the tea-leaves clockwise, beginning with the area to the immediate left of the handle. The tea-leaf patterns near the handle represent emotions and events at or near the time of the reading. To the left of the handle, you will find patterns that represent the past, and to the right you will find patterns that represent the present and future.

Using the handle as your guide, it’s time to delve deeper into the sections of the cup. As mentioned above, there are three sections:

  1. The rim and upper third of the cup, which represent the present and immediate future.
  2. The middle of the cup, which represents anywhere from a few days to a few weeks into the future.
  3. The base and lower third of the cup, which represent anywhere from a few weeks to a month into the future.

If there is more than one pattern in your teacup, you may wonder where to begin. We typically follow this rule – examine the shapes that you see from largest to smallest. The presence of multiple patterns generally means that the questioner is in the middle of a particularly important phase in life, and so the insight gained from the reading will be especially insightful.

Ask Simple Questions

As you perform your tea-leaf reading, make sure that you are asking simple, straightforward questions and avoiding multi-choice inquiries. For example, if you ask a question such as “Is it best for me to write today, or would it be better if I took a trip to the beach with my boyfriend?”, you will have great difficulty in interpreting the meaning of the shapes in your cup. The patterns could refer to whether or not you should write, whether or not you should make a trip to the beach, or details about your relationship with your boyfriend. A simpler question, such as “Should I go to the beach?”, is preferable here.

Begin by examining the section of the cup nearest the handle and continue searching if you do not find any applicable patterns. Be careful about your interpretations, as patterns near the handle can have many meanings, and you don’t want to limit yourself to narrow insights. Take note of everything that you see, and it’s possible that you will find new and deeper meanings to patterns that you previously shrugged off.

The Meaning of Liquid in the Teacup

In most tea-leaf readings, the remaining teaspoon of liquid that we leave in the teacup will drain onto the saucer. However, there are times when the cup does not fully drain because the tea is trapped in the leaves. Traditionally, tea-leaf readers interpret this to mean that the questioner has suffering and sorrow in his or her life at the time of the reading. If there is extra tea in your teacup, make sure to carefully examine the upper third of the cup for clues about your present and immediate future. Do not fear, the presence of extra fluid does not mean that you’re doomed or about to suffer a great tragedy. Sometimes, the cause can be as simple as a bad day at work or a particularly difficult fight with a loved one.

How to Read the Tea Leaves

Now that we have covered all of the basics, here are the simple steps that you need to take to read your tea-leaves:

  1. Once the teacup has been prepared, pick it up and hold it in your hands. The reading will be done with the teacup held in your hands and turned, which is done in a way that does not disturb the pattern of the leaves. Relax for a moment and gather your thoughts  and emotions.
  2. Look into the cup, observing everything that you see without focusing too intently on any individual pattern. Make a note of how the leaves are distributed through the teacup.
  3. Examine the individual patterns in the cup, moving from largest to smallest. Rather than read each pattern separately, attempt to find links and ties between the patterns, and pay careful attention to how the tea-leaves interact with one another.

Keep Track of What You Observe

As you enter the exciting ritual of tasseomancy, we strongly recommend keeping a notebook with careful recordings of the tea-leaf readings that you perform. Though it doesn’t matter what kind of notebook that you use, it’s important to keep the notebook separate from other functions of your daily life, so do not treat it as a general diary! As you record your tea-leaf readings, write down the patterns that you find, your interpretations, and how the reading made you feel.

Once you’ve begun recording your experiences, it is particularly rewarded to revisit your notebook to see if the predictions came true. You can also gauge your ability as a tea-leaf reader, since you may return to past readings with entirely new insights gained from more practice. You may also wish to add to your notes weeks after the fact, so leave space the first time around!

Next Chapters

Part 4: Occasions to Perform a Tea-Leaf Reading
Part 5: Common Tea-Leaf Symbols and Meaning

Or, if you’d like, you can return to previous installments of this series.

Part 1: The History of Tea and Tea Leaf Reading
Part 2: How to Prepare for a Tea Leaf Reading

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