Tea know-how

We had a kettle, we let it leak;
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week …
The bottom is out of the universe.
Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936) Natural Theology

If you’d like to try tea leaf reading for yourself, there are a few simple rules and traditions to follow. First select a good leaf tea that has plenty of variation of colour and leaf. Some loose teas have flowers and spices in them, and these are fine for tea leaf reading as well. Start with a black tea, as the lighter coloured green or white teas take a little bit of practice.

A good leaf tea with variety of colour

The best teapots for tea leaf reading have an open spout with no mesh or small holes where the spout is attached to the pot. This allows the tea leaves to travel up the spout and into your cup.

However teapots these days are often not made this way, so we adapt by digging out about a teaspoonful of wet leaves and putting them in your cup.

Unlike coffee, which floats, tea leaves sink to the bottom of the pot to release their taste and aroma. So let the leaves sink before you pour the tea, or put them into your cup.

The best tea cups for reading are white or light coloured inside, so that you can see the leaves clearly. Bowl-shaped cups, rounded at the bottom, are the best for reading, so the tea leaves can swish around and not get stuck in grooves.

A good leaf tea with variety of colour

You also need the saucer to read the leaves, as the cup is upturned and turned around three times in order to get the pictures to appear. When you have drunk the tea almost to the bottom, swirl it gently to let the leaves stick to the sides of the cup. Now upturn the cup and turn it anti-clockwise three times before turning over to see the pictures. I always tap three times on the upturned cup as it seems polite to knock, and it was how I was taugh

A few important tips:
• Always use fresh, cold water to make tea
• Take your warmed teapot to the kettle to add the just-boiled water
• Don’t over boil or you will lose the flavour-giving oxygen
• Use a tea scoop, or teaspoon to put the tea into the pot. (Tea shouldn’t be picked up with your fingers as it easily absorbs tastes like garlic or onion!)
• One scoop for each person and one for the pot is the old rule for making tea
• Use good quality tea that has a good variety of colour and leaf size. You should be able to see the golden tips and some longer leaves for the best readings.