Reading Tea & Coffee


It  begins with land and memory. Every herb harvested for tea or bean gathered for coffee comes from somewhere. Some are chosen with care and others in collected in mass. While you can do tasseography with any tea, I like to work with Madame Zuzus teas as they are high quality, personally chosen and harvested with care. For coffee I prefer Armenian, Greek, or Turkish coffees. You can work with anything you choose. It will not effect the reading. 

The most important part of tasseography is creating a relationship with the tea or coffee itself.  Every morning I get up and make myself coffee. I then slide back into bed and make "to do" lists or check email. I take this time to fully wake myself up and prepare for the day ahead. In the afternoon and evening I like to brew tea. Sometimes I brew regular tea and sometimes Romani tea. This is my daily ritual and makes me feel grounded despite the piles of work I may have to do. Think about your personal relationship to beverages. How do they make you feel? Do you have your own personal ritual with these beverages? Does tasting a certain tea or coffee bring back memories? For instance Cafe Bustelo reminds me of my days in Bedstuy listening to NPR and jazz as I finished my projects for college and tried my hand at black and white photography. Armenian coffee takes me back to Astoria and mornings with with Armenian neighbor Kristen, who brewed up the best tasting cup as we talked of faraway lands. The taste of chicory coffee is distinctly New Orleans and walking through the French Quarter to Cafe du Monde. Think about the history of the land you are getting you tea or coffee from. History reminds us that chicory and coffee have somewhat of a mysterious beginning. Some say it began when Napoleon initiated the 'Continental Blockade' in 1808 and divested France of its coffee. Once the block was lifted the French believing in it's health benefits continued to use it. Although it was here in the US due to French influence, it was considered an additive until the Civil War where coffee deliveries were often blocked. It became a substitute or mixed to keep rations from dwindling. When the war ended so did the need for chicory, except in New Orleans. It became a staple, and undeniable taste that makes it unique to the Crescent City. 

Crema Earl Grey takes me back to painting divination tables and creating prosperity spells at my former home in Queens. It also makes me think of land and how recipes are formed from the land itself.  The history of Earl grey goes back to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834. In the early 1800’s he was given a sample of tea by a Chinese diplomat. It was a blend of tea from China flavoured with rind of bergamot The water at Howick had a high lime content and the tea masked the taste of the water. Grey served it to friends that visited and eventually gave the recipe to George Charlton in 1830. That recipe has been used ever since. 

Think about these things as you brew and hold the cup in your hands. When you take the first sip savor it. Notice the flavors in the tea. There is a romance in tea and coffee. It's something that over time we have created relationships with and to think that there are messages hidden at the bottom of the cup is quite a magical experience within itself. 


Before we go further lets go into the history of tasseography itself. The root of the word is derived from the French tasse and Arabic tassa , meaning cup and the Greek suffix graph and mancy meaning writing and knowledge. Tasseography  was thought to have been brought over from China when Europeans were introduced to tea in the 17th century and it's origins have been credited to Asia, Greece, and the Middle East. It became popular in the Victorian era.  Interest in the occult was becoming widely popular as was self analysis brought on by the work of Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer. This interest brought on an "acceptance" of certain cultural practices that were normally shunned. The Roma who were often banished from towns and cities were now part of the social circle making house calls for divination for a fee. Many immigrants found work in fortune telling as they were not allowed to work regular jobs. For the Roma, it was hard no matter where they went. The church attacked fortune tellers and tried to force deportations. Often the Roma were sold as slaves or faced racism and persecution in Western Europe. An example of this was Napoleon transporting hundreds of Roma men to Louisiana right before he sold the territory to the US. By the end of the 19th century many were immigrating to the US as they felt their lives would be better there.   During the 1920s tea rooms were formed and allowed for immigrants to make a living telling fortunes, this however made some people angry and laws were introduced to ban payments for fortune telling services. "Gypsy Tea Rooms" were created to find loopholes around the laws. Often the fortune tellers would not charge for the reading but one would come free with a tweet-five cent tea purchase. It has been noted that Chicago’s Gypsy Tea Room on 22 West Monroe where the Majestic Theater is may have been the city’s first tea room. The Persian Tea Room on 16 West Jackson, and the Garden of Zanzibar Tea Room on 54 West Randolph Street created a little while later also did quite well. The Queen of Heart Tea Room on N Dearborn offered palmistry, tasseography, cartomancy and numerology as well as a selection of teas to choose from. During this time pottery used for divination was formed. Teacups with symbols painted into them helped aid in the fortune telling. Bottom of the Cup 327 Chartres St. in the French Quarter, New Orleans  was established in 1929 and still stands to this day being one of America's oldest tea rooms still in business. 

Tasseography takes a different kind of concentration. While the symbols you see are important, it's also important to take notes of what you're being told. This will often come in as a thought bubble or something that pops into your head. These are often the most important messages.

How to Read the Leaves

*Something to keep in mind: When drinking the tea try to focus on something specific you'd like the answer to. If you have no questions just think about your life in general. 

There are a few ways to make the tea. One is to put a pinch of the leaves into the cup, add hot water and drink the tea with the loose leaves. I use a tea strainer and then add a few pinches of the leaves to the cup when there is one sip left. Leave that liquid in the cup and add the leaves. For Armenian coffee, you take a tsp of the coffee and some sugar and add to cold water in the pot. Stir the mixture and set on low to medium heat until the coffee begins to simmer and the foam rises, lower the heat, and let it settle then do this two more times. Pour into a cup. 

Once you have finished drinking your beverage take your left hand and swirl the cup counter clockwise three times and put the saucer or a small plate over the cup. Flip the cup over and put it right side up. Look at the way the tea leaves form. At first you may not notice anything but as you look further you will start to see shapes appear. Turn the cup around to see all angles. Squint your eyes if you need to to get a better grasp of images forming.

There seems to be a resurgence in tasseography as a divination art in the past few years. This may be with the rising interest in both the occult and tea in general.  Tasseography is the perfect method of gaining insight  by sipping (putting your essence into the the process of drinking) thinking about what you'd like to know and then looking at what the cup and you essence (saliva) are telling you. In Romani culture saliva is very sacred. It contains your life force and can be used both to bless and curse.

Starting with the cup handle (current month) and going left to right you can see how each part of the cup represents a month in the future. Now look inside the cup. The bottom of the cup is Current. then it goes up to beginning of month, mid month, and end of month or future.


Crosses: Dramatic changes and choices to make.

Straight or Curved Broken Lines: Projects to be started creativity.

Curved Wavy Lines: Use caution. Need better direction or control.

Separate dots: Money or possessions. The position in the cup indicates amount and time frame. For example in the image there are 5 dots in the 5th month position. This could be an indication that a raise is coming or change of work for the better but also that you will be incorporating more. It could be redoing the home or buying a car etc.

Circles: Energy influencing events, completion of cycles and projects.

Groups: This could be a group of circles, curved lines, symbols etc. Look at the grouping. You will probably have to squint as the lines can be faint.

Cluster: Usually a cluster of the same symbol such as a circle along with another set of symbolism. It represents emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger etc.

Remember: At first it is going to be hard to see the symbols and make the connection to what they are. I remember my first time doing it I felt so overwhelmed and like a failure because I couldn't automatically make the connection. I felt blocked or like I was making it up. The important part is to notice patterns. If you see shapes like stars, hearts , horseshoes, animals etc track down a symbolism dictionary or look online to see the hidden meanings. You can also look at dream dictionaries for symbolism. Often there is a crossover. 

Below is a list of teas you can purchase from Madame Zuzus and their magical properties. If you'd like to hear me speak about Tasseography, you can find my interview on "I'm Spiritual Dammit" with Jenniffer Weigel on WGN here

Recipe for Romani Tea via Jessica Reidy. We differ in our opinions of reading for yourself. I feel it's okay and have done it many times for myself. The main thing is to be detached and don't project your own feelings into the reading.

Forgotten History: Roma Slavery in Romania

The secret history of Earl Grey tea by

The Hidden World of Tenement Fortune Tellers in 19th Century Manhattan



Rooibos purifies, rejuvenates, and brings magic into ones life, it also brings peace and is wonderful for dream work. Associated with Venus, Vanilla brings about calm peaceful energy with a loving vibration. Use for questions on love, lust, healing, luck, life path, and mental clarity questions.


Back tea is the traditional tea for tasseography. This tea gives the strength and agility to push through hard times. If you are looking for clarity or navigation on tough decisions, this is a good choice.


Removes negativity and brings in sweetness and happiness. Excellent for connecting with the divine feminine and moon magic. Also good for when you need to speak your mind without being harsh. Good for any magical concerns you may have in your line of questioning.


The oolong helps in meditation and concentration while the blue pea flower creates a sense of inner and outer beauty, love, loyalty, marital balance, harmony, and peace. It is also excellent for overcoming addictions, obsessive behaviors, and fears. 


Black tea is associated with Mars and male energy while the rose is Venus and provides female energy to balance it out. Together this is the perfect tea for anima/animus questions as well as inquiries on love, romance and partnerships. 


Harvested on the 88th night of spring this tea brings luck and good fortune to all that taste it. 


Clementine along with Apple, Rosehip , hibiscus, and 3 types of cinnamon make the perfect combination for self love and healing. 


 Black tea is good for prosperity, attracting money, good health, strength, and endurance. Grapes are wonderful for abundance work and ice wine is excellent for relieving the blues and freezing out negativity. Work with this tea for business questions as well as health questions. 


 Made from five rare orchid scented oolongs this tea is wonderful for reflection, meditation, inner wisdom, and fantastic for concentration and the mysteries of life. When combined with the rare orchid it attracts romance, love and deep relationships and friendships. For inquiries this would be good for discovering hidden blocks that keep you from your goals. 


 Removes negativity and brings in sweetness and happiness. Excellent for connecting with the divine feminine and moon magic. Also good for when you need to speak your mind without being harsh. (With this tea you would be reading the blossom more so than the leaves.)


 Promotes spiritual growth, the champagne of teas, it brings luxury to one's life. Go to this if you have questions about how to bring a higher frequency into your life. 


 The blueberry provides protection while the black tea gives the strength and agility to push through hard times. Work with this tea in times of uncertainty. 


 The Nettle dispels negativity and fear, stops gossip, envy, and jealousy. Excellent in an emergency to help with clarity. Lemon is a natural cleanser used for purification and clearing blockages.


 The motherbush is the bush that creates all the other bushes, it is the original and one rarely touches this bush. This tea is excellent for working with the energy of the divine mother Goddess. It represents new beginnings, clarity, cleansing, meditation, connection to the earth and history,  purification and protection. An excellent tea for working with your ancestral spirits as well.


 A gorgeous blend. The honeybush is used for purification and rejuvenation as well as weight loss. Cantaloupe aids with balance and success, honeydew for love, pineapple for hospitality and blessings, Seville orange to regulate the flow of energy, and blood orange for warmth, safety, and protection.


 The Dragonwell green tea brings passion and energy as well as a boost of magic while the biodynamic spearmint brings, healing love and protection. The biodynamic peppermint increases vibrational frequencies while purifying the body and mind. The lavender promotes healing of the mind, sleep, and depression. If you're looking to tap into some Brion Gysin energy  Moroccan Mint tea was his favorite. 


Brings warmth, compassion, and understanding. Good for questions on healing old rifts or disagreements. 


Promotes transformation. It has been compared to the “Ugly Duckling” fairytale wherein at first glance it looks like, stems, stalks, and twigs but transforms into a golden flavorful potion with a hint of citrus. It is one of the finest teas in Japan. Yuzu pushes out negativity and attracts healing and prosperity.


Brings strength and stability. A great tea to drink if you have just closed a chapter of your life as the black teabrings closure. The cacao improves mental weakness and stimulates happy thoughts. Excellent for releasing the past. The chai allows for new awareness and opening of the heart.


Energy, energy and more energy. Oh and some healing too but energy! Rapid growth and big steps in the right direction. Focus!


Healing and progress are the name of the game when you drink this tea.


The lemon purifies and renews while the currants bring a higher vibrational frequency and passion, hibiscus brings love and warmth, blueberries for protection and feeling safe, raisins for pushing out the old and bringing in the new, and cherry for a bit of sweetness and attraction.


Love, passion, and sexual energy.


Energy and luxury. Oak bring vitality and long life as well as inner power, centering the mind and avoiding distractions. It inspires leadership, prosperity, bravery, strength of character and also grounds and balances.


Rooibos purifies, rejuvenates, and brings magic into ones life, it also brings peace and is wonderful for dream work. Peaches are wishing fruits and are thought of to bring wishes into fruition. It is also wonderful for exorcising negative thought patterns and energy, longevity, bringing in loving vibes, and fertility. 


This tea is wonderful for removing and expelling negative energies around you. 


Love healing and success are all things chamomile brings in. It also dispels negativity, breaks, blocks, creates peace and harmony within the mind and body. Washing hands in chamomile infusion brings luck in gambling and money attraction. When sipped daily it brings long lasting feelings of pure love. Anhui wild lime promotes calmness, tranquility and helps to strengthen love while purifying the mind of negative thought and actions.  Lemon peel removes unwanted negativity and blockages.


This tea promotes youthful energy and passion. It is great for educing progress. Rice is used for money, sex, fertility, and protection.


Luxury, healing, energizing. Promotes clarity of the mind as well. The blood orange helps with divination, luck, money, love, and prosperity.


Jasmine is wonderful for attracting spiritual love, soul mates and higher vibrations. Drinking Jasmine allows the mind to accept wealth and money without doubt. Helps creativity and new ideas. Excellent for prophetic dreaming. (With this tea you would be reading the blossom more so than the leaves.)


Black tea dispels negativity and allows for prosperity to begin while the bergamot is great for prosperity., money workings, removing obstacles and blocks, success, and protection from illness.


Biodynamic spearmint is for wishing magic, health, healing, love, and to dispel bad dreams while biodynamic peppermint increases higher vibrational frequencies, aids in changing ones life for the better and purification. 


Promotes spiritual growth and understanding, connects one with the land. Excellent for working with spirit guides. 


The oolong helps in meditation and concentration while the magnolia blossom creates a sense of inner and outer beauty, love, loyalty, marital balance, harmony, and peace. It is also excellent for overcoming addictions, obsessive behaviors, and fears.


This tea allows you to feel the richness in life and connect with the earth. It heals negative thought patterns as well as energizes the body and mind. The caramel promotes love, happiness, love, sweetness, riches and self worth while the vanilla promotes playfulness, lust, energy, and passion. 


A love spell in a cup. 





Obscura Day Tour - William S. Burroughs' NYC


Taft Hotel – 152 W 51st St

Now the Michelangelo Hotel. Reportedly Burroughs had a room there and met a man named Jack Anderson who he decided to have romantic relations with.  They left the door open and a hotel employee caught them in bed together while he was checking the doors. Ten minutes later Burroughs was told by hotel management that he had to pack up and leave and would be refunded for the remaining time. Burroughs became enamored with Jack andmoved to the boarding house Jack was staying at.


55 Jane St – Boarding House


Burroughs moves in to become closer to Jack. Jack was bisexual and enjoyed bringing men and women back to his room for sexual encounters. Burroughs became so distraught that he cut off the end of his left little finger with poultry shears and brought it to his analyst, Dr Wiggers. Dr. Wiggers committed him to Bellvue (462 1st Avenue). He then was transferredto the Payne Whitley Clinic (525 E 68th St.)

Burroughs wrote about this incident later in a sketch called “The Finger” it is included in the 1988 Interzone collection.  During this time he also experiments with automatic writing. He was sent back to St Louis after his time in the hospital where he and Jack kept in touch. Jack visited him there and they immediately got into a car accident whichshows up in “Driving Lesson” in Interzone as well as glimpses of the relationship in The Wild Boys and Port of Saints.


69 Bedford Street


Lucien Carr and Dave Kammerer had just moved from Chicago to NY. Burroughs followed along soon after and moved to Bedford St. Kammerer lived at 48 Morton Street which was just a block or so away and was intrigued by Carr. Carr was not homosexual but enjoyed the attention and allowed Kammerer to follow him. Here Burroughs met a man who worked for the New Yorker who introduced him to Truman Capote. Burroughs was not impressed. Around this time is where Burroughs met Ginsburg through Carr. 


Chumley's – 86 Bedford St


Chumley's was one of the homes to the Beats. You could often find William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, or Jack Kerouac there. Burroughs and Kammerer would have drinks and dinner there. It was founded in 1922 by Leland Stanford Chumley and used as a speakeasy modified from an abandoned cobbler shop. The rumor is that the term “86'd” started here to describe being thrown out of the bar since one would land under the bar’s address 86. Hence “86'd.” It is more likely, though, that the term came from Article 86 of the NYC Liquor code which details reasons why a person may be thrown out or removed from a bar. Edna St. Vincent Millay was known to stop in for a drink as well as were EE Cummings, Eugene O'Neill, John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser, and others. The bar closed after a chimney collapsed and has had trouble re-opening ever since. This is mostly due to neighbors protesting. The bar is fully renovated and contains the book covers of those who visited. 


White Horse Tavern - 567 Hudson Street


The original White Horse Tavern was constructed in the 1880's.  Much of it has been preserved to stay true to its roots. Jack Kerouac lived upstairs and would come down for drinks or food. Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Dylan Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson, Jane Jacobs, and Norman Mailer where some of the many that stopped by in our their travels. There is a rumor one can still see the words “Jack go home” carved into one of the bathroom walls. This is also the infamous tavern where Dylan Thomas drank too heavily one night, stumbled back to the Chelsea and died a few days later of pneumonia with pressure on the brain. Diet and lack of self care may have been a part of his demise. There is a plaque honoring him within the tavern at his favorite booth. Burroughs came here for drinks while visiting Kerouac. 


Minetta Tavern - 113 MacDougal Street


Minetta tavern is named after a small stream that once flowed through Union Square to the Hudson River. As time passed and the city created streets, the path the stream once took was renamed the Minetta Triangle. The tavern opened in 1937 and has many of the original fixtures giving it a “tavern of the time” feeling. It was the base for the original “Reader's Digest” and a favorite of E. E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and Eugene O'Neill. Many of the Beats including William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Joe Gould would come to dine and drink but are barely mentioned in the roster of writers who dined there.


421 West 118th Street


This was Kerouac's apartment he shared with his girlfriend but it became a sort of artist gathering space. Burroughs at this time was living on Riverside Drive at the end of 108th st. He spent a lot of time working communally and socializing at Jack's place. 


360 Riverside Drive, west end of West 108th Street


August 14, 1944, Burroughs awoke to knocking at his door. It was Lucien Carr who immediately handed him a blood stained pack of Lucky Strikes and told him how Kammerer had tried to come onto him on the grass below Riverside Drive and west 115th st. They were both drunk and a fight ensued. Kammerer was taller and bigger than Carr. Carr took out a knife and stabbed him. He then ripped his shirt into strips, tied rocks to his arms and legs and pushed his body into the Hudson. Burroughs advised Carr to turn himself in and destroyed the cigarettes. They then took a trip to Kerouac's to tell him the story. Kerouac and Carr went back to the park and disposed of the knife in a sewer drain. 

Carr turned himself in 2 days later but without a body and Carr being so awkward the chief didn't believe him. He locked him in the cell and waited for the coastguard to alert them of the body. Carr then took the police to where he killed Kammerer and buried his glasses. Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as material witnesses. Burroughs' father posted bail and Kerouac with no one to post bail stayed in jail as his family would not bail him out. His girlfriend's parents agreed to post bail if he married their daughter. He did. 

Carr was sentenced to up to twenty years for first degree manslaughter but only served two. He worked at United Press until his retirement. 

Burroughs and Kerouac later wrote And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,  based on the experience. 


419 West 115th Street


Joan Vollmer lived in this apartment. Joan was married at the time and had her daughter Julie living with her. She had met Ginsberg and they had become friendly. He ended up moving in along with Hal Chase reforming "the libertine circle" which had been first formed at Kerouac's. Kerouac came back from Michigan and moved in and Edie, his wife followed shortly after. Burroughs had an apartment near 59th and Broadway at Columbus Circle. He started hanging out at the apartment and he and Joan became a couple shortly after. He moved in sharing the bedroom with Joan. Joan's husband returned home from Germany a few weeks later disgusted. He filed for divorce soon after. 


204 East 7th Street


Burroughs stayed here after a few arrests for narcotics and the death of Joan. He killed Joan accidentally in a drunken game of William Tell. His brothers went to Mexico City and bribed the authorities to release him. He was released after just 13 days. This was his first time back to NY in 6 years. He stayed there a short time before moving to Tangier. 


Chelsea Hotel - 222 W 23rd St


Burroughs took up residence there. There is a strange video of Andy Warhol having dinner with Andy Warhol from this time where they talk of chicken fried steak. You can hear Nico talking from the other room. Rumor has it that parts of Naked Lunch were drafted here. Burroughs and Gysin also came to the Chelsea to market the “Dream Machine” The “Dream Machine” consisted ofa spinning paper cylinder with slitted sides and a light bulb inside. It was made to create a psychedelic experience for the viewer without the use of drugs. Unfortunately it did not make them rich. They also created much of the work for “The Third Mind” while here. Rumor had it that if Stanley Bard felt you would become Somebody he would let you live in the hotel for free or at least a discounted price. Hotel Chelsea is now closed and being remodeled to include a retail space and restaurant. Lord knows that can't end well. 


210 Centre Street


Burroughs lived here very briefly in which he did readings for friends events. He moved to London after.


452 Broadway


This was right around the corner from his old apartment. He worked at City College as a creative writing teacher. Ginsberg got him the job. 


77 Franklin


Burroughs lived on the third floor of this building mid seventies. He stayed there briefly before giving it to Malcolm McNeill who he had brought over from London. He and malcolm were working on various projects together. 


The Bunker - 222 Bowery


Burroughs hated teaching and only lasted a semester. At this time he moved into “The Bunker,” described as a windowless locker. Burroughs lived here and worked with James Grauerholz who was his assistant and agent,. James would book him speaking engagements. He also became a columnist for Crawdaddy Magazine interviewing people like Jimmy Page for the magazine. He lived there entertaining friends and working until 1981 when he moved to Lawrence Kansas. His room has been kept the way it was since he departed by John Giorno a friend of Burroughs. Gothamist posted images inside the Bunker taken by a photographer allowed to photograph the space.