People have been drinking tea for thousands of years and they’ve been reading tea leaves for just as long. Traditionally, tea leaf reading was done in the morning, to give you an idea of your day – a throwback version of your Co—Star push notification. But in this age of uncertainty, interest has returned to the intuitive arts.
To find out more, we spoke to tea sommelier, horticulturalist, community herbalist and tea leaf reader, Amy Taylor who’s been practicing Tasseomancy for over 30 years and teaching about tea for 12. In fact, she’s so knowledgeable she’s writing a book on the subject. Reading from The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy and Mystic Tea Room in Hamilton, Ontario, she helps people see their way forward one cup at a time.
DAVIDsTEA: How did you get into tea leaf reading?
Amy Taylor: It started in a Chinese restaurant in Toronto in the late 80s. I was having dinner with my family, I was 18 at the time, and I’d already begun exploring different forms of divination. That night, I poured tea for everybody but before I poured the tea, I looked into their cups.
I didn’t really know what tea leaf reading was at that point, but the experience piqued something in me, so I did some research and found out that it’s called Tasseomancy or Tasseography. I found it really interesting, but the history of tea was the other thing that fascinated me. So, I got into both and it took me down a rabbit hole for the past 30+ years!
Does tea leaf reading involve intuition?
Yes, I believe that all forms of divination involve intuitive ability. The difficult part is whether a person is comfortable trusting their intuition to guide them or not. In my case, I learned through years of practice. But I also learned something that confirmed my ability . . . I’m adopted and about 12 years ago, I reconnected with my biological mum who’s a huge part of my life now. I found out that I had a great-grandmother in the UK who also did tea leaf readings. So it’s in my lineage, but it wasn’t passed down in the traditional sense, so I had to relearn to trust and use my gift.
How did you learn the art of Tasseomancy?
You can find out quite a lot through books, but I’m a hands-on learner. I spoke with a few psychics that had tea reading as part of their repertoire and got some pointers. One of them, ironically, told me that my grandmother should’ve taught me. But of course, at that point, I didn’t realize that it was in my lineage. Then I took off to California for a couple of years and started to hone my intuitive skills. I came back to Toronto in the early 90s and by 1994-95 I started to read on a professional level.
You offer two different types of readings: the Tasseomancy and Lenormand Tea Cards method. Can you tell us about the difference between the two?
Lenormand cards are newer than the Art of Tasseomancy. Reading tea leaves can be traced back to the late 16th Century, but Lenormand cards were only created in the mid 19th Century. Lenormand card reading has a connection to tea leaf reading as the cards have been connected to coffee grind reading. A lot of the symbols you’ll see in the Lenormand deck are similar to the symbolism you find in the teacup. If you look at Tasseography cups (pre-marked cups), they’ll have a similar symbology that you’d see in the deck as well. It’s all sort of connected.
I use the cards as part of my practice because once I’ve tossed the contents of the teacup into the saucer for a reading, and I turn the cup over to see what’s left behind, the spread in the cup is very static. The leaves don’t move after the initial tossing. I speak to what is there and can answer some questions if it’s in the cup. But, if a client has questions that they specifically want answered, that’s where the cards come into play. We can reshuffle a deck of cards, but we can’t reshuffle a teacup!
Do you use a specific type of tea for readings?
I’ve used a lot of different teas. I started with a monk’s blend, a traditional black tea with grenadine and vanilla. But some leaves are very large, and I wanted a tea that would create smaller shapes among the white space in the cup.
There’s also the brewing, if a black tea steeps for 20 minutes – you’re ruining the flavour profile of the tea. For the last 10+ years, I’ve used a Rooibos. The leaves are small, they don’t change shape in the water, and they give a very comprehensive spread in the cup.
Beyond your job, how does tea fit in your day-to-day life?
It’s a constant for me – I’m drinking a cup of Earl Grey right now! Tea is part of my daily ritual, it’s part of my spirituality, it’s so ingrained in my life, I can’t imagine it any other way. I’m also a THAC Certified Tea Sommelier Professional, which has allowed me to feel more confident when discussing and teaching tea, as I’m nearly always discussing tea at some point in my day.
What’s one of your earliest memories of tea?
My mum was an interior
designer and she would take me to Chinatown in Toronto and we’d go to all these
cool shops and pickup wares. In the 70s the whole look was bold colours with
Chinese accents and a lot of these places were in Kensington Market and Spadina
she’d take me along and I just loved the experience. Some of the stores
are still there, so I can visit and have my nostalgic moment.
It was at a Chinese restaurant that I first experienced Chinese tea. Those white porcelain teapots that are always on your table and the tiny Gong Fu cups – I was 7 or 8 years old at the time and I was like, “These are the perfect size for my hands, these are meant for me!” It’s also where I tasted my first Chinese tea, a Jasmine Green.
You suggest clients only return every six months to a year, why?
I want clients to put space between their readings to allow for things to develop, grow and change as needed. With other forms of readings, like astrological charts, they give you information for two to five years. Tea leaf readings were originally done first thing in the morning to give you an idea of what your day was going to be like – they were never meant to be long-term. Most tea leaf readings are shorter term, like at max, a year to a year and a half.
For the most part, my readings are a touchpoint. Are you on track or do you need to adjust? I think that’s a healthier way to look at things because nothing is written in stone. People can take the information given in the readings and move forward or do nothing. It’s totally up to them.
Can you share some memorable experiences from your readings?
I recently sat with someone who’d been doing a lot for a family member. But they no longer needed, so this person was able to focus on their own life, which was a first for them. I was able to give them a feeling of, “I did all I can, I can own that, and I can move forward,” which was cool. Other cool stuff are things like clients coming back and saying, “You’re right! I changed my job” or “You’re right, I’m having a girl!”
Some of the more difficult things are when people come to you with major relationship, family or health issues. That’s an opportunity to help walk them through how they want to deal with it.
My role isn’t to tell people what to do or to fix their problems. My job is to tell people what they should focus on, so they can fix the situation themselves. I’m just here to help people move forward.
Want to learn how to read tea leaves yourself? Amy offers a number of intensive workshops throughout the year. Find out more at: taotat.ca