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Coffee Reading

The Art of Tasseography


Also known as tasseography or fai, coffee reading is a form of fortune telling that originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago. It is still wildly popular in Turkey, where it is commonly seen in cafes and homes, and still practiced in other areas of the Middle East and beyond.

Tasseography also includes reading tea leaves, which is very similar, but which uses small tea leaves instead of finely ground coffee.

How Coffee Reading Works

There are many variations on coffee readings, but there are some basic principles which are common. The overall process often takes about an hour, depending on the depth of the reading. Here are the main steps for having a coffee reading:
  1. First, the reader (the person predicting the fortune*) will begin to prepare the coffee by heating the water to a boil and preparing the coffee beans (which should be Turkish ground coffee with a texture akin to flour).
  2. Then, the querent (the person having his / her fortune read*) will bring a wish or question to mind. This wish or question will inform the overall reading.
  3. The reader will continue to prepare the coffee, making a wish on behalf of the querent as he / she adds the coffee to the boiling water. (Typically, the coffee is boiled in an ibrik.)
  4. When the water has returned to a boil, the reader will spoon the froth from the top of the ibrik into a small coffee cup (such as a demitasse) and then fill it to the top with coffee.
  5. The querent should then drink the coffee slowly and leisurely, meditating on the wish or question they generated in step two and trying to let the grounds settle between sips to avoid drinking them. When the querent finishes the coffee, there should be grounds left in the cup, but very little liquid.
  6. After drinking the coffee, the querent will place the saucer firmly on top of the cup (upside-down, so its top surface is on the cup's lip), give the cup and saucer a little shake and then flip both of them over, so the cup is resting upside-down on the saucer.**
  7. The coffee grounds should be allowed to drain well. This may take about ten minutes, but it varies with how wet / dry the grounds were after drinking.
  8. After the coffee has drained, the cup is flipped back over and the reader begins to read the coffee. The reader usually starts with the inner rim of the cup at the point closest to the handle, then works around the cup clockwise until he / she returns to the handle. The reader will observe the symbols in the cup, the locations of the symbols and the colors of the coffee grounds and cup. Some readers also note the saucer.
  9. After the readers has read the coffee in the cup, he / she will often as the querent to "open the heart". This means that the reader should place the tip of his / her right thumb on the lowest point in the coffee cup, then twist it clockwise slightly. This will leave a mark, which the reader will use to interpret the querent's inner feelings and thoughts.
* It is usually advised that you not perform your own coffee readings.
** Romanian coffee reading traditions do not use saucers. Instead, they have the querent swirl the coffee grounds around in the cup, covering much of the cups's inner surface.

For more information, read up on tasseography symbols.

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