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Courtesy of Carla Kekejian
Courtesy of Carla Kekejian

Happiness is a cup of good, fresh coffee. But what if I told you there’s more to coffee than meets the eye?

Let me introduce to you Middle Eastern coffee. This strong, dark and deliciously rich drink is prepared in a unique coffee kettle and  served in an espresso-sized coffee cup. In most Middle Eastern cultures, drinking coffee is so much more than satisfying that caffeine craving; it’s an occasion through which people come together, update one another on current events and catch up on the latest gossip.

But there’s more to it. Tradition has it that after drinking the coffee, the cup is flipped and after a few minutes, the patterned coffee remains inside the cup are “read.”

The young girls of a family often make the coffee and the elders “read” them. After the cup has been turned over onto a plate for one to two minutes, the reader lifts the cup and reveals the remains. By this time, the coffee remnants have formed shapes and figures on the walls of the cup; and so fortunes of past, present and future inscribed in the cup are ready to be told.

However, an addition needs to be made to these shapes and figures. That is when the person whose cup is being “read” places their thumb inside the cup, presses at the center of the remnants and makes a wish. This minor action shows that the person has their mind and heart open to the fortune that is about to be told. In addition, the person incorporates their own aspirations within their coffee cup story.

With every symbol explanation, every character analyzation and every figure interpretation, the wise woman tells the fortune she sees amongst the coffee remnants. These are depictions passed down from generation to generation. Through this exchange of wisdom, heart and emotion, a bond is created between two distinct generations.

This entire process of coffee cup fortune-telling is one of interpretation. There is an actual word for this technique, known as tasseography. Tasseography, practiced by many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, literally means a method of fortune telling by interpreting patterns, shapes and figures in tea leaves, wine sediments and coffee grounds.

Keep in mind that there is no scientific evidence that proves the coffee cup’s ability to foresee the future. It’s simply an in-home cultural custom handed down from tradition. One’s fortune solely depends on what the reader “sees.” For instance, if the same cup is shown to two different women, the fortune will be much different because though they are looking at the same thing, what they are visualizing is divergent. Furthermore, the remnants of no two coffee cups look the same; just as no two peoples’ past, present and future are identical.

Common examples of figures seen within remnants are birds symbolizing good news, fish symbolizing money and wealth, rings symbolizing marriage and alphabetical letters symbolizing an encounter with a person whose name starts with that letter.

The remnants tell fortunes of love, hope and prosperity. They bring about past hardships and future successes. They bring people together and unify them through this occasion of drinking coffee. That’s the magic of the coffee cup, and that’s what adds to the mystery inside and beyond it.

So how does one prepare this cup of coffee? It’s quite simple, actually. The coffee can be purchased from local markets such as the Super King Market in Anaheim. Use an espresso-sized coffee cup to fill up the coffee kettle with water. Add as many cups of water as the number of coffees you plan on preparing. You might want to add an additional half cup of water to make it just right. As the water boils, use a teaspoon to add the coffee. Add as many teaspoons of coffee as the number of coffees you plan on preparing. For example, if you’re making coffee for three, be sure to pour three and a half espresso-sized cups of water and three teaspoons of coffee into the kettle. Stir the mixture and as the coffee begins to rise within the kettle, lift it away from the stove. Your coffee is now ready!

Pour the coffee into their cups and add a bit of sugar into those who like their coffee with a hint of sweetness. Remember that the coffee should be thick. Too much water can make it “watery,” and too much coffee will make it too strong. It needs to be precise to be perfect! Lastly, sit down and enjoy your cup of coffee. May the fortune it holds be ever in your favor.

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