Attending a private tea leaf reading with Annie O’Reilly is an exercise in bliss. No incense burning or crones here. O’Reilly smashes all preconceptions by being young, gentle, warm, welcoming and practical. She invites us into her parlour, a warm room with a wooden table set with comfy chairs and a selection of SpiritualiTEA’s herbal tisane’s. Baking smells waft in and O’Reilly informs us that we’ll be having warm chocolate and raspberry cake over a cuppa and the reading.
O’Reilly starts proceedings by explaining her background and tassology, that is, the art of tea leaf reading. O'Reilly comes from a well established line of tea leaf readers, including her mother and great-grandmother. Although her grandmother was a talented tea leaf reader too, as a devout Catholic she disavowed it for religious reasons.
O’Reilly discovered that she had the knack when she was little and started reading properly at the tender age of 11. “I used to sit outside the kitchen door and occasionally under the table and listen to my mother read,” she says. “As a kid, she told me I wasn’t allowed to read them, although she had started reading them when she was seven – that’s when she did her first professional tea leaf reading. She wanted me to be a doctor or one of those things, but I wanted to be a tea leaf reader. So I learned in secret and practiced. My girlfriends would come over on Fridays and we’d drink tea in my bedroom and I'd read for them.”
Tassology is one of the oldest forms of divination – people have been reading futures in cup dregs for as long as there have been vessels from which to drink. In some cultures, Greek for instance, it became more common to read coffee grounds and in others tea. As much as O’Reilly emphasises the positivity of the art, she also takes it seriously. For instance, she actually did her masters about the subject.
O’Reilly denies that any psychic ability is required to read tea leaves. The theory is that the person whose leaves are being read imbues the cup and leaves with their energy as they sip away and that the energy in turn is transmitted to the cup's dregs. For this reason, it's important that the person being read doesn't let anyone else touch their cup until all liquid is drained away – otherwise, the lees in the cup will reflect multiple cup bearers and give an inaccurate reading. The cup is then inverted on a saucer so that the remainder of the tea drains out. Then, it’s a matter of interpreting the images as you find them in the cup.
Roughly speaking, a tea cup represents a calendar year – the handle points towards the reader and marks 12 months, the next quadrant marks three months, the next six months, followed by nine months. Anything in the base of the cup represents something happening beyond that period of time.
Some images are more readily recognisable than others, like the well-formed heart and duckling below.
The heart promises new love for singles or true love for those shacked up, while the duckling foreshadows the birth of a baby boy.
O'Reilly has accurately foretold of many happy occurrences, including her own wedding and baby. Our cup is more than favourable. O’Reilly sees portent of glee, good health (although, there is a warning to be careful about hips and ankles) and, best of all, the welcome addition of a scruffy puppy to our clan in about three months. Maybe it's foretold, maybe it's going to be a self-fulfilling prophesy – who knows? Either way, even for the sceptical, Tea with Annie is a delight – expect laughs, warmth, kindness, good company and great tea. We'll report back about the puppy.
O’Reilly runs workshops and conducts readings for business, parties and privately as well as running events and appearing at pop-ups and festivals and the Porcelain Tea Parlour.
You can find O’Reilly next when she runs tea leaf reading workshops this weekend at the Melbourne Tea Festival.