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Reading Tea Leaves

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"Impending doom" or "a cute boy". Is there a difference?

Ronald Weasley: Right. What can you see in mine?
Harry Potter: A load of soggy brown stuff.

Tasseomancy (alternatively known as tasseography or tassology) is a form of divination that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments.

The method involves the quarant (the person getting their fortune told) being provided with a cup of a particular drink (Tea, Coffee and Wine being the most common forms). They are asked to drink from a specific cup, leaving a small amount for the leaves and/or pulp to gather. The leaves/pulp then form a variety of shapes, from animals to inanimate objects, even mythical creatures and specific people. These shapes hold symbolic significance, their presence spelling things ranging from good fortune to omens of doom.

Related to other methods of fortune-telling like Crystal Ball reading and Tarot Cards.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ash Landers from Black Butler is briefly seen enjoying a cup of tea with Tanaka, remarking how the stems standing upright means good fortune.

  • In one of Professor Trelawney's Divination classes in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, she has her class read each other's fortunes through tea leaves. Trelawney reads Harry's cup and sees a falcon (a deadly enemy), a club (an attack), a skull (danger) and the Grim, a spectral dog considered an omen of death. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, reading tea leaves is part of the Divination exam, where Harry fails completely and tells his examiner that she'll meet "a round, dark, soggy stranger".
  • Miss Spink and Miss Forcible in Coraline (both the book and its animated adaptation) read Coraline's fortune when she comes to visit them. Miss Spink thinks that she is in terrible danger (seeing a "very peculiar hand"), while Miss Forcible thinks there is a "tall, handsome beast" in her future (seeing a giraffe).
  • In one Mrs Pepperpot story, Mrs. Pepperpot reads her tea leaves and accidentally reads her husband's. According to her, tea leaves in the shape of a heart means a new loved one will arrive, a cross means she'll need a doctor, and a clear drop means tears.
  • In Wicked, Nanny goes to Old Yackle to get medicine that will supposedly stop Melena's unborn baby from being born green like her sister (the pills actually lead Nessarose to be born armless). When there, Yackle reads Nanny using leaves and herbs, but it's noted her vision is poor and Nanny doesn't buy her fortune-telling.
  • Occasionally mentioned in the Witches subseries of Discworld. Generally speaking the witches don't believe tea leaves predict anything except how strong the tea is, but it's something people expect of witches and staring at some sort of random pattern gets your mind in the right place. And, the Disc being what it is, just occasionally (as in Maskerade) it works.
  • In Don Callander's fantasy series that begins with Pyromancer, tasseomancy is the province of acquamancers, wizards who have an affinity with water. It's said that the water is the actual medium of the prophecy and the tea leaves just give it something visible to work with.
  • the secret lives of Princesses:Princess Claire Voyant reads tea leaves, among other things. Usually incorrectly.
  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel Choose Your Enemies, Cain compares an Eldar Farseer (a precognitive alien leader) to a tanna-leaf reader. Amberley claims in a footnote that the only thing reliably predicted by the bottom of a tea bowl is the imminent acquisition of money from someone gullible.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: Mrs. Davis considers tea leaves to be an effective method of telling the future. In "Mrs. Davis Reads Tea Leaves", Mrs. Davis predicts that Mr. Boynton propose to Miss Brooks. The pair would settle down at honeymoon cottage, and the two would be surrounded by children. Unfortunately, Mrs. Davis misinterprets the tea leaves. Mr. Boynton isn't proposing marriage, but proposing starting a summer camp with Miss Brooks and boarding anywhere from five to fifty kids!
  • With the lack of worshippers in America keeping them strong and prosperous, what remains of the Slavic Gods in American Gods have resorted to doing odd jobs to get by. Czernobog (being recognized as a God of Death) keeps himself strong killing cows at a meat processing factory, while the Zorya Sisters do fortune-telling. Zorya Vechernyaya in particular practices tasseomancy using Turkish coffee as her medium, insisting on reading Shadow and Mr. Wednesday's fortunes when she agrees to let them into their house. Shadow's fortune is implied to be so horrible that even she can't properly lie about it.
    Shadow: Thought you were supposed to read tea-leaves.
    Zorya Vechernyaya: Tea is disgusting. [Zorya Utrennyaya glimpses Shadow's fortune. Shows it to Vechernyaya.]
    Shadow: So what does it say?
    Zorya Vechernyaya: will have long life and a happy one with many children.
    Shadow: That bad, huh? Any good news?
    Zorya Vechernyaya: Your mother die of cancer?
    Shadow: Yeah.
    Zorya Vechernyaya: You no die of cancer.
  • Friends: "The One with the Tea Leaves" sees Phoebe doing readings for the girls. Monica gets a ladder indicating either a promotion or a violent death, which causes mild panic as she's Head Chef and can't get promoted. Phoebe's own leaves tell her she's about to meet the man of her dreams but the next guy she meets turns out to be a creep. As for Rachel...
    Phoebe: I see a circle. Which can either mean you’re having a baby or you’re gonna make a scientific discovery!
    Rachel: (pats her heavily pregnant stomach) Well, I have been spending a lot of time in the lab.
  • Parodied in The Mighty Boosh. Naboo is having tea with Bob Fossil, when he suddenly declares that Vince and Howard are in trouble. When asked why, he states that he read it in the tea leaves. The tea leaves are arranged in the shape of letters spelling out "Howard and Vince are in Trouble". On the drive, they spell out directions for where to go.
  • CSI: NY: In the season 5 episode, "Grounds for Deception," Stella, who is part Greek, realizes that the overturned cup at a scene means the missing man had been reading coffee grounds for someone. The fact that he was not alone helps point them in the right direction in the case they're working on. As the episode ends, she reads grounds for Mac in his office, telling him he has something golden that belongs to a beautiful woman. He pulls the badge she had angrily turned in earlier out of his pocket and gives it back to her.

    Video Games 
  • In Deadly Premonition, Francis York Morgan sees omens in his morning coffee, looking for images in the foam after he adds cream. On his first morning in Greenvale, he sees the letters F and K in his coffee, which turns out to be completely accurate. F.K. are the initials of The Man Behind the Man in the case York's investigating.
    York: Did you see that, Zach?! Clear as a crisp spring morning! "F K"... in the coffee! I knew I could count on it. It never fails.
  • Nanny Noah reads Nigel's tea leaves in The Lost Crown : A Ghost-Hunting Adventure.

     Western Animation 
  • The Owl House: In "Keeping Up A-Fear-Ances", Luz claims she was up all night studying a way to rebuild the portal door, reading every book on magic she could find. She even tried reading tea leaves, and holds up an empty mug, where the leaves rearrange themselves into the shape of a person shrugging to show her lack of progress.


Video Example(s):


Luz Noceda

Luz tried this method to learn more about the portal. When she turns the cup to show Eda, it forms an outline of herself shrugging to show her lack of progress.

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