It’s fall and as the Big Machine of consumerism churns out the Latte of Pumpkin Spice popularity, I too fall in line of the sigh-able coffee moments. The momentary pause we associate with coffee is one of the many things I love about it and I’m not the only one who thinks that way.
Gertrude Stein is quoted as saying,
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”
Poets are lovely when it comes to coffee, the way they can consolidate feelings and pinpoint the heart of the matter.
T.S. Eliot has perhaps the most famous of coffee quotes from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.”
Nikki Giovanni, one of my favorite poets uses coffee this way in A Poem For My Librarian, Mrs. Long (You never know what troubled little girl needs a book):
There was always the radio which brought us
Songs from wlac in nashville and what we would now call
Easy listening or smooth jazz but when I listened
Late at night with my portable (that I was so proud of)
Tucked under my pillow
I heard nat king cole and matt dennis, june christy and ella fitzgerald
And sometimes sarah vaughan sing black coffee
Which I now drink
It was just called music
I’m not great with poetry. As a fiction writer, poetry and I have a difficult relationship. I mean, I know when something moves me. I have favorite poets and poems, but I skirt the edges of deep poet-y things. Ironically, it’s often the marrow of poetry that punches me in the gut and rearranges my soul. For example, one of such line came from the poet Elan Mudrow in a poem called Last First Day Back: “Coffee appears in an array of costumes.”
You might have guessed, quite rightly, that I prefer my coffee to wear the cappuccino costume.
All this poetry has my mind drifting this way and that; like the falling leaves outside my window. The natural thought progression then, goes in the direction of reading leaves.
They read tea leaves back in the day and when coffee came on the scene, did those same ‘they’ start to read coffee grounds I wonder? A quick search of the inter-webs, low and behold, there it is. Tasseography.
What is Tasseography?
It’s the fortunetelling of tea leaves, coffee grounds or wine sediment. It began in Ancient China, and then was brought from China to the west along the Silk Trade Routes.
Coffee tasseography is apparently best done with Turkish Coffee because there are more grounds left in the bottom of a cup of Turkish coffee. It would also seem it’s not wise to read your own coffee grounds. Good for us, there appears to be professional coffee readers. (Yes, it’s a thing.) It happens that as the popularity of coffee traveled north from Yemen and Ethiopia to Turkey, Greece and areas beyond; a new trade was created. Those who could tell a persons future based on their left over coffee grounds. This trade remains popular in Greece and Turkey, one thought on this is that their coffee continues to be strong enough that it leaves enough of a residue to read after consumption.
Exactly how does this lore of fortune telling of coffee grounds work? Well, first a small cup of coffee is poured for you. Then it’s more of a reflective moment that a person should take while drinking. One is supposed to “drink the coffee with intent, meaning to think about their questions as they drink. In some countries the person will be required to drink the coffee in a certain number of sips, usually 1,3, or 5.”
After your coffee is gone, you cover the cup with a saucer, turn it over so the cup is upside down on the saucer and let it dry. The patterns that form are your personal fortune. The cup itself has different quadrants that offer information. The bottom part of the cup represents people, situations, or ideas from your past. The middle part on the sides of the cup represents the present, and the top indicates the future. So it becomes important where the symbols that arise are actually found on the cup itself. Different placement = different meanings.
What do the symbols mean? Lucky for us we live in a day and age when we can find step by step instructions online. I liked this set of instructions best: Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling
Does this mean I’m going to be developing a side hustle reading my friends cappuccino foam after it’s dried? I suppose I could look into that. But for now, I’m more content to attempt to read the leaves I watch falling outside my window.