A Sip of Magic: The Ancient Art of Coffee Readings

Look again … your coffee cup holds more than you think.


Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Have you ever looked up at the sky and gazed at the clouds passing by, trying to find images hidden amidst the tufts of white? For centuries, people have been doing the same with coffee: searching for symbols concealed in the coffee grounds gathered at the bottom of their cup. Like the use of tarot cards, pendulums, or ouija boards, coffee reading is a route to another realm—a way to answer burning questions about the future.

The art of coffee cup reading spans hundreds of years and is embedded deeply within Greek, Serbian, and Turkish cultures.

The art of coffee cup reading spans hundreds of years, with its origins rooted in the ancient Chinese practice of reading tea leaves. Eventually, the practice made its way around the globe, embedding itself deeply within a number of cultures. For traditional coffee readings, very finely ground coffee is brewed in a cezve: a small, long-handled pot usually made of brass, copper, silver, or gold. The coffee is then presented, unstrained, in a small cup to the person whose fortune is being read. The person is then asked to drink the coffee until all that remains are the residual grounds: a display of Rorschach-like symbols ready for the coffee reader to interpret. Different images bring different messages; for example, a ring could suggest new love or marriage, while a raven or crow may bring bad news.

By day, Chantal Teufenkjian works both as a writer and as the head of Chantillerie, an online macaron shop based in Los Angeles. By night, she practices tarot and coffee reading—magical remnants passed down to her by her ancestors. First-generation Greek and Armenian-American, Chantal describes coffee reading as “an art—one that requires you to see with colorful intuition,” and reminisces on her childhood home being perpetually alive with coffee gatherings, jittery voices, and cigarette smoke.

Chantal credits her knowledge of coffee reading to her grandmother: “Yaya always read my cup with a furrowed brow, a deep sigh, and a knowing, curious glare. … As years went by, our readings became Sunday traditions, as she patiently taught me to decode and define shapes created by the coffee grounds; to understand the significance of dark versus light patterns, and to always put instinct first.”

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In traditional coffee readings, very finely ground coffee is brewed in a cezve: a small, long-handled pot usually made of brass, copper, silver, or gold.

“Yaya taught me that the cup is a map of every aspect of our lives, and the placements of the symbols reflect the future associated with them,” Chantal continues. “Most importantly, she taught me that the heart of a coffee cup reading is in the ceremony of its creation. Every step must be curated with intention—from wiping the cups, to stirring coffee clockwise using measured breath, to pouring the coffee in even, succinct pours.”

I was lucky enough to have my fortune told by Chantal, who gazed at my emptied espresso cup with all-knowing eyes. After several moments of staring into the coffee grounds, Chantal began her reading, recounting things from my past that I’d never told her about and speaking aloud answers I’d been long yearning to hear. It was as if she knew exactly what I was thinking—as if she was reading my mind.

In my cup, she saw music and creativity; community and love. She also described that I had the energy of a panther hovering around me, guiding and protecting me. She warned that soon, I’d have to let some things go: a job that I’d outgrown and relationships that were no longer bringing out the best in me. She assured me that though they’d be difficult, these experiences would ultimately bring me closer to my most authentic self.

By the end of our session, I was in awe. I felt seen and rejuvenated, more assured of what I wanted in life and where I was headed. Many moons later, her predictions proved to be eerily true. But how did she see all of this? How did she know exactly what to say? Was it just a stroke of luck, or was it truly magic? Whatever it was, it granted me the wisdom that I had been seeking, and that was enough for me.

Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, getting a coffee reading is truly an incredible experience. Though her grandmother passed away 13 years ago, Chantal still does readings for herself every Sunday, drawing on her Yaya’s energy for guidance. Chantal’s practice is a reminder of the meditative and ritualistic aspect of coffee: a reflection of the bridge that coffee creates over space and time.

Next time you’re drinking a cup, close your eyes as you take each sip … let the warmth of it transport you to another realm. Who knows? Your daily coffee ritual might hold the answers you’ve been seeking all along.

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Emily Joy Meneses is a writer, musician, and cat mom based in Los Angeles. You can regularly find her at Echo Park Lake, drinking a cortado and journaling about astrology, art, Animal Crossing, and her dreams. Explore her poetry, short stories, and music on her website.

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