Even though tea has been called a miracle plant, doing everything from helping you lose weight to fighting cancer, it still seems so random that people actually read tea leaves in order to predict future events. You might as well try to "read" a toilet bowl or a piece of gum. Where in the world did the practice come from? Tasseography, as it is sometimes called, is an ancient Chinese practice that spread to Europe with nomadic gypsies in the mid-1800s. And while most people don't take the art of tea-leaf reading too seriously anymore, it is nonetheless a fascinating hobby.

For all you pop culture enthusiasts out there, references to tea-leaf reading can be found in everything from books (Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes), to TV shows (admittedly, mostly on soap operas or X-Files knockoffs), to really bad movies (anything on USA Network).

Sure, it's possible to have your tea leaves read online, but it's so much cooler to know how to do it yourself. It's a GREAT way to completely freak out your friends and mess them up for life. Read on to find out if it's your cup of tea.


OK, we’ll assume that since you’re reading this article, boredom plays a definable role in your life. For a successful tea-leaf reading, all you’ll need is a melodramatic demeanor, a few kitchen supplies, and a gullible friend that looks equally bored. What you need:

  • Loose tea, any flavor. “Loose” tea does not refer to its sexual proclivities; rather, it means that you’re using actual tea leaves that float loose in your cup instead of using a tea bag. We recommend that you use a Chinese tea or one with a minimum of fine-grained dust. If you like your subject (the one whose future you are going to read), let him choose a favorite flavor. If not, use the nastiest flavor you can find.

  • A white or pastel teacup with a wide brim. It needs to be white, or you won’t be able to read the dark leaves at the bottom, and it should have a wide brim so that the leaves have a greater area to stick to at the bottom of the cup. If you’re at work, a Styrofoam cup will do, but we’ll have to tell your boss that you’re slacking (…as if she doesn’t already know).

  • A wide saucer.

  • A teaspoon.
Now you’re ready to make some tea.

  1. Place a teapot full of water on the stove. Oh, and make sure the stove is on.

  2. Place the dry tea leaves on a saucer. Have your friend stir them around while the water is boiling. Murmur something unintelligible during this stage for drama’s sake.

  3. Ask your friend to throw some leaves into the pot (the amount doesn’t matter).

  4. Brew the tea without a strainer, making sure that the leaves are loose within the pot.

  5. After the tea starts steaming, have your friend pour some into the cup.

  6. Let it cool. Sit around, relax, work on your résumé, play poker, whatever.