The Mystical Powers Turkish Coffee Is Sometimes Believed To Have

When you think of fortune-telling, what image comes to mind? Palm reading? A crystal ball? If you're from the part of the world that enjoys Turkish coffee, your first image might well be a coffee cup.

In case you've never tasted Turkey's eponymous beverage, it is a rich and intense experience: Finely ground coffee beans are heated with water (and, usually, sugar) over high heat until bubbly (per Outlook India). The dark, murky liquid is then poured, grounds and all, into a cup and drunk while still hot. The grounds are left at the bottom, which becomes the starting point for the fortune-telling experience. Formally, it's known as the art of tasseography, and it's a way of predicting the future based on reading tea leaves, coffee grounds, or other sediments found at the bottom of a person's cup after they've finished their drink.  There are lots of great things you can do with leftover coffee grounds – even making ice cream. But fortune-telling? 

There is a strong coffee and café culture in the areas where Turkish coffee is normally drunk; the oldest café in the world is found in Turkey.  So it's no surprise that people might find themselves lingering over their finished coffee cups, staring at the grounds, and speculating over the possible interpretations and symbols hidden in their remnants. Just as people looking at the sky wonder about the shapes they see in the clouds and stars, people looking into their cups see mysterious things there, too.

Your whole life in a cup

Coffee and tea company J.L. Hufford provides a detailed overview and guide to tasseography for those new to the practice, and there are a few basics worth noting about reading signs in a cup. First of all, the process is a holistic one, focusing on the patterns and impressions that the cup gives as a whole — don't just look for isolated symbols. The cup areas can be divided differently, but a common approach is to divide it into 5 different zones: Love, Wealth, Home, Present, and Future; symbols appearing in those different regions are interpreted accordingly. Don't read your own cup — it should always be up to another person to interpret the signs. In general, it's best to drink from a white cup so that the grounds can be more visible and easier to interpret. Before starting the reading,  you should first invert your cup onto its saucer — and make a wish before you do so. The reader will flip the cup back over after a few minutes; this allows more settling of the grounds for interpretation.  At the end of your cup reading your fortune teller will let you know whether your wish will come true or not. 

While cup reading is a long-standing practice, it's a pretty light-hearted one that most people do without taking it too seriously. Consider it just another great reason to spend more time with your coffee.