Reading tea leaves is part of the rich history of tea, the second most popular beverage on the planet. This has meant looking at the shapes the leaves have made in the bottom of a teacup once the liquid has been consumed and trying to relate those to what some events might be in the future. There was a hilarious scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Professor Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson) is trying to instruct the class in this ancient method of attempting to foretell the future. Her success rate was rather meager.
I tend to approach reading tea leaves from a far more practical perspective. Before steeping, the leaves tell of the process they endured once plucked from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis). After steeping, they reveal their true nature more fully.
Here are tales from a few green teas I’ve tried:
White Monkey Green Tea — The dry leaves tell of gentle hands with a quick snap plucking those leaves from their mother bush, ending their days of growth under golden sun and starry skies and shimmering bright green in the morning mists and chilly twilights. Their curling shapes tell of a drying that was done with utmost care yet with their true leafness still evident. The wet leaves, clearly revealing their origins as tender tips now that they have imparted their essence into the water, foretell of taste delights awaiting.
Gunpowder Green Tea — Dark green pellets of dried leaves tell of skilled fingers rolling rolling rolling until that shape is achieved. These fingers have a memory, knowing the feel of the leaf, knowing which way to turn and twist as they seek that shape. The wet leaves, unfurled by water’s insistence and gentle pulling, reveal their mostly unbroken shapes when the steeping is done and the gentle journey the leaves took from bush to cup. They also foretell of their planty flavor awaiting your first sip.
Japanese Sencha — Tiny bright green pieces speak of ancient traditions and the grand part in life these leaves play. Their thirst is quickly quenched and swells them to their former size when first from bush they were plucked. One sip, and you will feel the silk of the kimono and the close comfort of the obi sash, hear the gentle rustle of the breeze through the cherry tree branches, and inhale the clean fragrance of that air cleansed by passage over snow-covered peaks.
The tales that tea leaves tell! Next time, we’ll see the stirrings of oolongs.
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