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
“If you want to improve your understanding, drink coffee.”
-Sydney Smith, 1771-1845
Reading Coffee Grounds
The most well-known coffee divination technique is the reading of
coffee grounds. The method is virtually identical to tea leaf
divination, and both are known collectively by the term Tasseography.
To read coffee grounds, you will of course need to prepare your coffee
in such a way that there are grounds to read. If you are at a coffee
house, the residue from a cappuccino will work nicely as well-just make
sure that the cup is not so tall that you can’t see clearly all the way
to the bottom.
Ask yourself the following question: “What do I need to know about my present situation?”
What do you now see in the
cup? The grounds will arrange themselves in random patterns.
Interpreting the patterns is a little like a Rorschach test or laying
on your back reading cloud formations. What you see and what it means
to you will be very individual-two people reading the same cup can come
up with very different interpretations, and both can be equally true.
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. If the first thing that comes to mind has nothing to do with
the coffee, jot it down anyway. For example, the first thing that
enters your thoughts might be the dry-cleaning you need to pick up that
afternoon. Write it down, all the while continuing to stare at your cup
as if you were lying face up on your lawn staring at the clouds above.
As much as possible, don’t even look at the paper you are writing
upon-keep your eyes on the grounds in your cup. It doesn’t matter if
your writing is illegible-it will be legible enough to you when you go
back to it, if only enough so as to jar your memory to recall what your
thoughts were at that moment.
writing for at least ten minutes. This will be long 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 dry-cleaning let it. Observe the thought,
jot it down, and let it pass, moving onward to whatever comes next as
you continue to stare at the cup.
When you do readings
yourself, you needn’t feel you need to read every cluster of grounds in
your cup (remember-you can also read the remains of foam at the bottom
of your cappuccino cup instead of grounds). If you are drinking Turkish
coffee, there are so many grounds this would take you forever!
Interpret only what speaks to you. In fact, some of what may come to
mind as you do the reading might not seem to have anything to do with
what is in the cup at all. There is no right or wrong here. Each of
your interpretations are “correct.” You really do have all the answers
within you. Most of the time we just don’t want to hear the real
The Cafe Nation book
contains more in-depth instructions on traditional & modern coffee
divination methods, coffee history & folklore, and more. Get a free
online reading using the Cafe Nation system — our contemporary coffee
divination technique. Just concentrate on your question and click here.
Sandra Mizumoto Posey 2000. Do not reprint without permission of the author.