While growing up, I fascinated by watching my mother’s friends, relatives and neighbours turn their coffee cups upside down at the end of a meal or afternoon ‘tea’, and then a member of the gathering would start reading them. At that point, us children were sent out of the room. It seemed coffee cup readings were a right of passage, and I was curious and determined to be able to master the art- much before I developed my abilities as a professional psychic.
|1- Preparing Coffee: one heaped tea spoon, to every cup measure of water |
What was equally fascinating is the prolific, at times poetic, language readers used and the attention they commanded from the listeners. Aunty Lahza, Aunty Laila, and my aunt Fatima were always welcomed at any morning or afternoon coffee gathering when they seemed to hold court- as a royal would.
I observed people’s faces as the coffee reader unravelled a story that day leaving them, happy, pensive, relieved; however, always- listening with intent, and immense focus. Eavesdropping, I would hear: “your life and his are like rail tracks that run close, side by side, yet shall never meet”.., or “in the midst of the darkness, a light will suddenly shine, giving you the answers to your conundrum”. No wonder cup readers were refereed to as ‘soothsayers’ in early ‘coffee literature’ in Europe.
|2- Stir in a wish, then boil twice!|
Other times, the reading seemed like a coded message: “ after three signals your wish will be granted”, or “watch out for a white rat”. “Keep a white snake at bay, but be careful of a dark one”, “there’s a camel, a peacock, a star and a cross in the distance”. The listeners would often nod in agreement!
Mostly, what those talented readers picked up was incredibly detailed and accurate. My aunt, for example, left no doubt in my mind as to whom she was talking about at the time, when describing a person appearing in my cup as someone who had green eyes! Friends, and relatives admitted the intrigue, claimed that it is not to be taken seriously; and yet where ever there was a gathering or coffee served, at the end someone would ask who can read cup; and one by one, they would start turning their coffee cups over anticipating their turn.
|3- Scoop froth into cup, then pour coffee|
The origins of coffee cup readings stem from the ancient Chinese art of tealeaves reading practised for centuries; originally by monks who ceremonially drank tea in bell shaped cups. Before that, it is thoughts that monks used to read patterns formed on the internal part of bells in temples, so the handle-less teacup was a logical progression.
This was later adapted to coffee grounds reading by the Arabs, who first discovered coffee beans around 600 AD and managed to keep coffee as a secret, having a monopoly on cultivating and drinking coffee for several hundred years. Coffee made its way and became known or used as a beverage in Western Europe and the Americas, only in the late 18th century.
|4- Sip at leasure|
Both tealeaves and coffee cup readings are known as Tasseography, or tasseomancy (kafemandeia in Greek). When I first moved to London, I met several women from different countries and cultural backgrounds who had the ability to read the future in a cup. The art was very much alive and practiced by these various seers from Greece, Persia, Russia, Armenia and Yugoslavia.
No matter what symbols the coffee grounds depicted to each of them, the interpretation was very similar and accurate. The one who stood out is the famed Maureen Treanor, who I met when I first started my spiritual journey as a student in Merryn Jose class.
The late Maureen Treanor was Merryn’s mother (see www.merrynjose.com), and came from a line of Irish Mystics and seers. One day, while I was visiting Merryn on Kings Road for afternoon tea, Maureen offered to read my tealeaves. I could only see, literally, three leaves at the bottom of the cup, but Maureen unravelled an epic, that unfolded over many years since. As she focused on the cup, she described in detail where I lived, in a flat, on which floor, with whom, my talents, what is to happen- all from three or four leaves that were left in the cup.
|5- Cover cup with saucer, thumb on top, then shake and flip over|
I knew then, there was more to staring at leaves or coffee grounds in a cup. I went to study the reliable encyclopaedia that is “The Dictionary of Symbols”, by J.E. Cirlot, to better understand how symbols became to be, in each culture. I kept my own notes as to what formation or symbols appeared repeatedly in coffee cups, and what psychic insights they triggered. As with any method of divination, it’s fifty percent knowledge, and fifty percent intuition.
Coffee Readings- what are they?
Coffee Readings are psychic readings done by using a cup of coffee as though it's a crystal ball. Ground Turkish coffee is mostly used when cup readings are done. The residue is left at the bottom of the cup after the coffee is drunk, when the cup is then covered with a saucer, shaken, and turned over (up side down) into the saucer, and left to dry.
|6- Leave to drain on saucer|
The patterns formed on the inside of the cup trigger psychic insight; and are interpreted according to what they mean to the seer. Once you allow the information to flow intuitively, and with little training you can soon be well on your way to reading your own cup.
|7- Drain excess over tissue paper, before you start scrying|
There are others who read filter coffee, and instant coffee too - much like crystal ball, or water cup scrying. (In fact, you can pretty much read anything- cloud formation, carpet patterns, or rabbit bones- as they do in Africa).
It is important to mention here, for the reading to be meaningful, or indeed accurate; you are to sip or drink the coffee while relaxing, sort of in a contemplative mode. My experience showed me that the intention or the emotional and mental condition of the drinker affects how, and what symbols the coffee grains shape- your vibes at the time.
If a coffee cup that is drunk in a hurry, without the intention of having it read, or while not in a relaxed state, it can’t be read. The grains do not appear to form any meaningful patterns- merely chaotic brown dots or mud in a cup! This is probably true for any form of divination, if you focus or intention is not present, the medium used will not provide a useful insight into the future.
How to read a Turkish Coffee Cup
You will of course need to prepare your coffee in such a way that there are grounds to read. Use grounded, powdery soft Turkish or Greek Coffee (the only difference between the two is the type of coffee beans and degree of roasting, the former is a darker roast, the latter a blonde, or lighter roast). Cafeterier, or percolators coffee is too course to form legible patterns. By the way, the residue from a cappuccino or espresso will work just as well.
|8- Write down impressions you receive, starting from cup handle, scrying clockwise|
· Enjoy your coffee while relaxing, and ask yourself: "What do I need to know about my present situation?" or “ What will be the important changes in my life in the near future?”
· Now, take out a piece of paper and pen, and in a stream-of-consciousness style, begin jotting down your thoughts as you casually meditate on the shapes you see there. Above all, don't edit yourself.
· Write what pops into your mind. If the first thing has nothing to do with the coffee, jot it down anyway. For example, if laundry is the first thing that pops into your mind - whatever it may be, write it down; however, continue to stare at your cup as if you were lying face up on your lawn (if you are fortunate enough to have one) staring at the clouds above.
· Try not to read what you are writing; rather keep you eyes on the grounds in your cup. It does not matter if your writing is illegible at this point.
· Observe the thought, jot it down, and let it pass, moving onward to whatever comes next as you continue to stare at the cup.
· Continue writing for at least ten minutes-enough for you to enter the first stages of a meditative state, both by the exercise of looking at one thing and by the rhythmic pattern of your free association and the motion of your hand upon the paper. If your mind keeps wandering back to your laundry- let it.
· You don’t need to read every cluster of grounds or patterns in your cup. Interpret only what speaks to you.
· There is no right or wrong here. Each of your interpretations is "correct." You really do have all the answers within you. Trust yourself.
· Write the date down, and go back to your notes in few days, you will begin to notice happenings taking place and understand what each symbol or pattern mean according to your own dictionary.
· Symbols convey messages; focus on the message rather than the symbol. With practice, you will develop your own dictionary. (A camel would probably mean nothing to a Russian reader who would probably see a bear!)
The Origins of Coffee Cup readings in Europe: “I must have my Coffee!”
The long kept secret of coffee by the Arabs has probably helped make the history of coffee and coffee readings into the stuff of legends and lore.
|9- Scry clockwise, finishing back at the cup handle|
Initially, Arabs brewed coffee from green, un-roasted beans making a tea-like beverage. By the late 13th century, Arabians roasted and ground coffee before brewing it. Ironically, it is said Arabian men usually brewed coffee, which was drunk by Arabian women to alleviate menstrual discomforts.
From Yemen, where coffee was cultivated, using coffee beans spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and later via the Ottoman Empire to Turkey. The world's first coffee shop, Kiva Han, opened in Constantinople in 1475.
|10- In some traditions, coffee residue from saucer is drained & read|
When the Turks were forced to break off their siege of Vienna in 1683, they left behind them 500 sacks of coffee. An enterprising Polish businessman used it to open the city's first coffee house. Coffee quickly became the choice of Europe’s Middle Class and Coffeehouses sprung up all over. It became the drink over which all matters—important and mundane—were discussed. Barista, was coined as the coffee bartender who makes coffee specialty drinks as his or her profession.
‘The great coffee wave’ created a number of ancillary trades. "Cup-women" entered the scene - anyone in search of wisdom would come to consult one of these women with a small bag of roasted beans. The art of reading coffee cups appeared in various literature of the time. "We have a sort of Mother Witch . . which are the Coffee and Tea Throwers to tell People's fortunes”- From Round About Our Coal-Fire, 1731.
|11- Seal with thumbprint wish at the bottom of cup!|
Coffee cup fortune telling became very popular - and notorious -, with official notifications to ban the activity. The first such fortune-tellers started their trade in Paris, and subsequently set up business in Germany. So much so, that in 1713, Johann Sevastian Bach composed his Kaffee-Kantate.
Partly an ode to coffee and partly a stab at the movement in Germany to prevent women from drinking coffee (it was thought to make them sterile), the cantata includes the aria, "Ah! How sweet coffee taste! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! I must have my coffee." In 1742 a pamphlet appeared in Leipzig entitled “The prophetess of the coffee cup with observations by G.G.B.”, and a decade later in Hungary "The Oraculum- Geomaticum or the art and wisdom on seeing Fate in coffee and all other infusions".
Coffee… The Stuff Of Legends
Botanical evidence indicates that Coffea Arabica originated on the plateaus of central Ethiopia, several thousand feet above sea level. The word "qahwa" goes back some 1000 years BC in mud tablets, which means coffee in Arabic, where wild coffee berries were part of staple food for tribesmen.
One of the oldest coffee discovery legends tells of a young goatherd called Kaldi in Ethiopia in around 650 AD, who went looking for his herd and noticed that after eating a certain kind of berry, they were particularly lively. He tasted the berries and his sleepy eyes opened. Acuba, a learned man from town saw how Kaldi and his goats were lively, tried the berries and took them back to town where he mixed the berries with drinks at his monastery.
|12- Improvise - read Cappuccino & Espresso cups too!|
When the Monks first tried it, they were disappointed by the bitter flavour of coffee beans that they threw it in the fire. Soon, a delicious aroma was wafting around. The monks used the roasted fruits to create a brew, which they saw as a gift from God because it helped them to stay awake half the night. Coffee then spread to other towns and monasteries, Acuba became a rich man. No one knows what happen to Kaldi!
Another legend relates how the Archangel Gabriel brought a dish of the dark elixir to the prophet Mohammed, who lay dying. Thanks to the ‘divine power’ it gave him, he unsaddled 40 knights and went on to create the greatest Islamic empire ever seen.
|Sahar Coffee Cup Reading at Amoul Deli in Little Venice- London UK|
During the Islamic expansion (circa 11th–16th century), coffee found its way across the Red Sea to Turkey, Spain and North Africa. By the thirteenth century, coffee’s medicinal and religious usages became well known from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to Egypt, Persia and Syria.
The invigorating effects of this new “wine of Islam” enraptured the Persians because real wine was strictly forbidden to Muslims, Turkish people claimed coffee to be an aphrodisiac and husbands kept their wives well supplied; if the husband refused, it was a legitimate cause for a wife to divorce! The first coffee houses were opened in Damascus and Aleppo in 1530 and 1532.