We human beings are a highly superstitious bunch. All throughout our time on this planet we have been captivated by the irrational and supernatural, from fortune telling, to lucky amulets, to spirits, to provide us with even the slightest glimpse of what the future might hold for us. Unsurprisingly then, there are and have been quite a number of superstitions surrounding tea, after all it is a beverage that is consumed all over the world, and has been for a long time. Below are a number of (mainly British) superstitions that at some point, to greater or lesser degree, were believed by people to bring either good or bad luck.
First let’s look at some stories surrounding the tea leaves themselves. Accidentally dropping loose-leaf tea was believed to bring good fortune, and scattering the leaves in front of your house was said to ward off evil spirits. Discarding your used tea leaves in a fire was similarly thought to bring good luck and also helped you to stave off poverty. And then there is the concept of Tasseography, or reading tea leaves. Some fortune tellers claim(ed) to be able to tell a person’s fortune by analyzing the tea leaves left in a cup of tea after drinking it. The thought is that the patterns and shapes of the sediment that is left in the cup might be interpreted symbolically, for instance the shape of a heart representing love, or the shape of a snake warning for deceit.
When it comes to the brewing and pouring of a cup of tea there are also a number of superstitions. Brewing water without the tea leaves in it was considered a bad omen, and if the tea is stronger than usual it meant that you were likely to meet a new friend, but brewing a pot that was weaker would signify that you might be losing a friend. As for the pouring, it was said that if two women would pour from the same pot, one of them would get pregnant and have a baby within a year. If a man and a woman take turns pouring from the same pot they would have a baby together. If the pouring caused bubbles to float to the top it might mean that either romance (if the bubbles were on the edge) or some money (if the bubbles were in the middle) was coming your way. The more bubbles, the more romance or money.
Cultures all over the world have their own superstitions, whether they are generally believed and performed or not. At their worst they might add a little OCD to one’s life, but at their best they add a bit of ritual, a bit of familiarity to one’s tea drinking culture, and most importantly simply a bit of fun.