Symbols in Your Tea Leaves and Their Meaning – The Basic Guide to Tasseography AKA Tea Leaf Reading

reading tea leaves meaning symbols guide beginner

What Does Reading Tea Leaves Mean?

Oh tea, the magickal liquid that can make your troubles go away. 

If you’re in Britain, you’ll know this to be the truth very well. When someone’s had a bad day or something has gone wrong, the first thing that’ll be suggested is: “Shall I make a cuppa tea?”

Without a fail. 

The warm, caffeinated liquid although not strictly magickal and with no real powers, does provide comfort and warmth, which psychologically makes us feel a bit better and a little more at home. 

Reading tea leaves however is a whole other story. 

It always makes me think of fortune tellers in cartoons (not sure why!), but it always fascinated me. 

Reading tea leaves is one of the divination tools to get more in tune with the higher realms, energies and spirits around us, and how they can guide our future. Essentially, tea leaves are there to predict certain things in our near and distant future. 

Depending on how the tea leaves align in your cup, the shape and alignment of the tea leaves left at the bottom of your teacup, can symbolise certain things about your future. 

Reading Tea Leaves Guide 

To start reading tea leaves, you have to ensure that you have the right tea cup. It can’t be a long mug, and must be a tea cup due to its shape at the bottom. 

You’ll also want to ensure that the tea cup is a light colour – like white, cream, yellow for example. This will allow you to see the tea leaves a lot better and you’ll be able to make out the shapes easier. 

Try to avoid tea cups that have a lot of patterns on the inside as well, it can make reading confusing to the eyes as you try to spot the difference between the leaves and the pattern. 

You want to ensure that the tea cup has a saucer too – they normally come with a saucer, but if you end up buying a teacup at a thrift shop that’s missing a saucer, that could be a slight issue! 

You need a saucer. 

The tea you use, is also important – I don’t need to tell you that of course, you can’t use a tea bag. That’s a given… 

You should always use loose leaf tea, like oolong or gunpowder. Essentially it needs to be a tea that’s got long leaves as they will leave a nice pattern / design that’s easy to read and interpret. 

reading tea leaves meaning symbols guide beginner

You can read tea leaves for yourself or a friend, family member, whoever! Maybe you’re thinking of starting a business and want to get so good that you eventually charge for your service and read tea leaves to others – great! 

Whoever the reading is for, that person should be the one drinking the brewed tea. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to reading tea leaves: 

  1. Once the tea has brewed/steeped, clear your mind, take deep breaths and relax. If you have a question you’d like answering, ask it now. Set the intention for this ritual and sip your tea while thinking about it. Enjoy the tea of course, and stop when there is about a teaspoon of tea left. 
  2. Here’s the fun part – swirl the cup three times counterclockwise with your non-dominant hand. Flip the cup over onto a saucer, turn it clockwise three times and/or tap the bottom of the cup three times. Don’t worry about doing this part right or wrong, do whatever feels right to you. 
  3. Time to flip the cup back over and reveal the magick! What can you see? Start clockwise with the handle pointing towards you / the reader. The cup has 3 different sections that make your reading a bit more specific: 
    1. a. The bottom of the cup represents the distant future (i.e. one month or more)
    2. b. The middle section represents a week or more
    3. c. The top outer rim is said to be the immediate future (so within the next couple of days)

reading tea leaves meaning symbols guide beginner

Tasseography – Tea Leaf Reading Symbols and Meaning

Tasseography is just a fancy word for tea leaf reading, and can also include coffee grounds reading. It’s an old method of fortune telling, just like crystal ball readings or tarot. 

Depending on how you do your tasseography, how you swirl your cup and how the tea leaves align, the different shapes and symbols that you can read, will have different meanings about your present and future. 

Maybe you can see an animal, a letter, number or an object, like scissors. Whatever you see, and depending on the place within the cup where you see this element, can mean different things. 

Here’s a guide of symbols you might be able to spot, and their meanings: 


Depending on the animal you see, it can mean different things. For example, a dog means a good friend, birds are a sign of good luck, a butterfly symbolises success and growth, while a fish usually represents good news or good luck. 

Here’s a whole guide on animals: 

  • Birds: Good news
  • Butterfly: Fickleness of friends
  • Cat: Gossip, deceit; cat-head, female false friend
  • Dog: Good, true friend; at bottom, friend needs help
  • Duck: Money, and false gossip about money
  • Eagle: Success by soaring over obstacles
  • Fish: Increase of wealth or increase in family
  • Fly: Domestic annoyances require your attention
  • Goat: Beware stubborn people; they may be enemies
  • Horse: Galloping, good news; head only, a lover
  • Insect: Minor problems require immediate attention
  • Lion: An influential friend in a position of authority
  • Mouse: Someone is stealing from you
  • Octopus: Danger
  • Ostrich: Travel abroad
  • Owl: Gossip nearby; a wise person will protect you
  • Parrot: Foreign journey; people talk about you
  • Pig: Greed and carelessness
  • Rabbit: Bravery to overcome a fear of disaster
  • Raven: Bad news; love disaster; death for the aged
  • Sheep: Good fortune; a friend does your bidding
  • Snake: An enemy, and wisdom to discern who it is
  • Spider: Good luck, a reward for industrious work
  • Squirrel: Save up now for future times of want
  • Tortoise: Criticism, usually beneficial
  • Turtle: Slow progress; a sluggard is near to you
  • Wasp: Your romantic problems are due to a rival
  • Wolf: Cunning and jealousy
  • Zebra: Adventures overseas


If you can see an object in your tea leaves, like a car, it symbolises abundance and wealth on its way to you. A compass means business travel, while a hammer means overcoming challenges. 

Here’s a whole list of meanings of different objects: 

  • Acorn: At top, slow growth; at bottom, good health
  • Airplane: Long journey; a rise in social position
  • Anchor: At top, stability and rest; at bottom, safety
  • Apple: Achievement; if bitten into, temptation
  • Arrow: Point down, bad news; up, good news
  • Axe: Difficulties; if at top, overcoming of difficulties
  • Baby: Fretting and small worries
  • Bag: A trap; if open, escape, from a trap
  • Ball: Variable fortune, as ball bounces up and down
  • Balloon: A celebration or party soon
  • Basket: A treat, award, compliment, recognition
  • Bell:Announcement; the nearer the top, the better
  • Boat: A visit from a friend, protection, inheritance
  • Book: If open, good news; if closed, hidden secrets
  • Bottle: Drunkenness, temptations offered
  • Broom: A new home; a thorough house-cleaning
  • Bush: A secret friend or secret opportunities
  • Candle: Ask for and receive help from others
  • Chain: Engagement, wedding; sequence of events
  • Chair: A guest is coming
  • Circle: Success, completion; with dots, a baby
  • Clock: Better health if medical help is sought soon
  • Clouds: Trouble; with dots (rain), many problems
  • Coin: Money count the coins to tell how much
  • Cross: Death, a funeral, suffering, sacrifice
  • Cup: Reward of merit; overturned, justified criticism
  • Dagger: Danger from self or others; beware injury
  • Dish: Trouble at home; matters require cleaning up
  • Door: Opportunities arise through an odd event
  • Egg: If unbroken, success; if broken, failure
  • Envelope: Good news; with dots, news of money
  • Eye: Look sharp; be cautious; you be psychic
  • Face: A change is coming, it may be a setback
  • Fan: Flirtation, but it comes to nothing in the end
  • Feather: Insincerity, undependability, lack of focus
  • Fence: Limitations, minor setbacks, easily mended
  • Finger: Extra emphasis on whatever it points to
  • Fire: At top, achievement; at bottom, danger, haste
  • Flag: Danger if you compromise your integrity
  • Flower: Compliments, tokens of love and esteem
  • Forked Line: You must soon make a decision
  • Fruit: Prosperity, a successful outcome to labour
  • Gate: Opportunity, future success beckons
  • Glass, Water: Integrity and temperance
  • Glass, Cocktail: Dissatisfaction with life
  • Grapes: Good health, fertility, happiness; inebriation
  • Gun: Anger, discord, strife; danger where it points
  • Hammer: Hard work is needed; avoid complainers
  • Hand: Open, a friendly helper; closed, an argument
  • Hat: Improvement, a new role or a new job
  • Hawk: Suspicion and jealousy; watch with care
  • Heart: Love, pleasure, romance, a thrilling meeting
  • Horseshoe: Good luck, a winning bet, good fortune
  • Hourglass: You must decide something soon
  • House: Security and safety; parents
  • Jewels: Gifts will be offered to you
  • Kettle: Minor illness; don’t worry; friends will help
  • Key: Success, prosperity, understanding
  • Kite: Ascent in social position by the help of friends
  • Knife: A broken friendship; a justified fear
  • Ladder: Job promotion, a rise in life, advancement
  • Lamp: At top, a feast; at side, secrets revealed
  • Leaf: Change in health: up, better; down, worse
  • Letter: News; If cross near, death, if coins, a gift
  • Lines: If straight, progress; if wavy, uncertain path
  • Lock: Obstacles too strong to overcome
  • Man: Near handle, a visitor; elsewhere, a pen-pal
  • Moon: A change in plans
  • Mountain: Great goals beset by difficulties
  • Mushroom: At top, country life; at bottom, growth
  • Nail: Injustice, unfairness, unrighteous punishment
  • Necklace: Whole, admirers; broken, losing a lover
  • Nest: Save your money; take care of your home
  • Needle: Recognition, admiration
  • Oak Tree: Strength, health, long life; betterment
  • Palm Tree: Success, honour
  • Palm Leaf: Victory, martyrdom
  • Parasol: A new lover
  • Pin: A new job awaits
  • Pine Tree: High achievement
  • Pipe: Reconciliation of a friendship
  • Pistol: Danger is near
  • Plough: A struggle ahead; hard going
  • Purse: At top, profit; at bottom, loss
  • Question Mark: Be cautious; future unsettled
  • Rainbow: The most difficult time is now over
  • Rake: Watch details lest you stumble
  • Rider: Good news from afar, especially in finances
  • Ring: At top, marriage; at bottom, betrothal
  • Ring, Broken: Divorce or broken engagement
  • Rose: Popularity, romance
  • Scales: Balanced, justice; unbalanced, injustice
  • Scissors: Quarrels, possibly separation
  • Shell: Good news from over the sea
  • Ship: At top, a journey; at bottom, a safe journey
  • Shoe: Hard work leads to a change for the better
  • Sickle: Illness, sorrow, and pain
  • Spoon: Generosity
  • Stairs: Orderly progress leads to eventual success
  • Star: Health, happiness, hope; absolute success
  • Sun: Joy, success, power, children, well-being
  • Sword: Small quarrels turn into serious arguments
  • Table: A social gathering at which you’ll find favour
  • Teardrops: Sorrow and tears
  • Tent: Travel for which you are not well prepared
  • Thimble: Changes at home; a need for mending
  • Tower: Disappointment and possible ruin
  • Triangle: Something unexpected will happen
  • Umbrella: Trouble, but you will be protected
  • Vase: A friend needs your help
  • Violin: A self-centered person
  • Volcano: Harmful and emotional words may erupt
  • Wagon: A wedding will ensue
  • Wheel: If whole, good fortune; if broken, loss
  • Wings: Messages from Heaven

reading tea leaves meaning symbols guide beginner


If you see a letter, this is usually the initial/first letter of someone you know. Could be someone you like, dislike, love or have lost. Along with other images or objects you see in your tea leaves, you can piece together a story or reveal certain truths. 


If you see any numbers, they’re indicative of time. It could be a date, time of the day, hour or a magickal number, like 1, 3 or 7. Together with the other objects, letters or animals you see, the story starts to reveal itself and you’ll be able to decipher the fortune in your tea. 

Remember: the tea leaves might not look EXACTLY like a cat, or a cloud. As long as that’s what it looks like to you, if there’s a close resemblance or that’s what you see, just go with that. 

Asking a Question

If you have a specific question you’d want answering, you can have it in mind throughout the tea reading ritual. 

If there’s a particular issue or perhaps you’re looking for an answer to something that’s happening in your life or is about to happen, like a new job or if you’re thinking about applying for a new job and wondering if it’s a good idea. 

You can have an intention or question set before you do tea leaf reading, it’s entirely up to you. 

You can just go into it blind and see what the tea leaves reveal to you. 

Tea Cup

I’ve put together a list of some pretty magickal looking teacups with saucers, to help you get started – check out my list of teacups + teas right here (you’ll be supporting independent businesses if you make a purchase)

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