Thyme for Tea

China and Ruby's Tea Room: Ruby Reads the Tea Leaves


Every now and then, Ruby surprises customers in the tea room by stopping by their tables to read their tea leaves. If you've never tried this interesting and ancient form of divinition (also alled tasseomancy), Ruby will be glad to show you how to do perform this ancient ritual.

  1. Brew your favorite loose tea (a tea that you especially enjoy, or that has a particular history or lore that appeals to you). Brew it in the cup (a white, non-figured cup—not a straight-sided mug—is best). Quietly, meditatively, drink it down to the last sip, considering your question and asking for guidance.

  2. Holding the all-but-empty cup in your left hand, swirl it three times clockwise, so that the leaves swirl up the sides of the cup. Invert the cup into the saucer and let the last sip run out. Let allyour thoughts empty out of your mind, and observe the images that have been formed by the tea leaves.

  3. What are you looking for? It's like seeing figures and shapes in the clouds, or in shadows, or in the trees. As you look at the leaves, you'll see shapes. Are they geometric (circles, squares, triangles?), natural shapes, animals, astrological signs? Here's where your intuition comes into play, as you let the leaves tell you what they are.

  4. What do these figures and shapes mean? You'll find books that list symbols and their interpretations, but most experienced readers will tell you that the tea leaves are like an ink blot test: they mean what they mean to you. But there are some general kinds of interpretations that you might consider:

    • Numbers: One stands for independence; two is opportunity; three, travel; four, security; five, love; six, health; seven, friendship; eight, change; nine, luck.
    • Straight lines: strong motivation, action
    • Wavy lines: uncertainty, change
    • Dotted lines: a discontinuous situation, or a journey
    • Triangle: blessings
    • Square: stability, or challenge
    • Circle: good fortune
    • Letters: may represent the initials of significant people

    Some readers find meaning in the way the leaves are distributed. Images grouped together suggest that they are related or have a common foundation. Symbols close to the rim lie in the near future, those toward the bottom are farther away. Something in the very bottom of the cup may represent the deep unconscious.

If this is interesting to you, or if you want to do readings for others, you'll find books with lists of symbols and their possible interpretations, such as Tea Leaf Reading, by William Hewitt. Butalways trust your intuition. What your tea leaves mean is their personal message to you, and your inner sense of what is right and true can help you discover their meaning.