coffee


coffee
  , coffee, tea
   Samuel Pepys recorded his first cup of tea on 25 September 1660, and also reported that the apothecary told his wife it would be 'good for her, for her cold and defluxions' (28 June 1667). The first known reference to reading coffee or tea grounds for a glimpse of the future appears 60 years later, but if it is to be taken literally, it indicates that this was not a brand-new idea:
   Advice is hereby given, that there is lately arrived in this City, the Famous Mrs. Cherry, the only Gentlewoman truly Learned in that Occult Science of Tossing of Coffee Grounds; who has ... for some time past, practiced, to the General Satisfaction of her Female Visitants ... (Dublin Weekly Journal (11 June 1726), 4, quoted in Opie and Tatem, 1989).
   Several other 18th century writers mention the custom, in terms of familiarity, and as a predominantly female pastime: 'true-love-knots lurked in the bottom of the teacup', as Oliver Goldsmith commented (Vicar of Wakefield (1766), chapter 10). Tea-leaf reading became commonplace in the 19th and 20th centuries and books devoted to the art were published, each putting forward a relatively simple but structured approach to reading the signs.
   A different tea omen predicts a stranger on the way if a tea-leaf or stalk is found floating on the surface of the tea. This was reported from the mid-19th century right through to the 1980s, in a relatively stable form. Another sign of a stranger coming was to accidentally leave the teapot lid open, which was again reported from the 1850s until the 1980s and is probably not dead yet. A few other items of tea-lore have surfaced over the years: 'To put milk into one's tea before sugar, is to "cross" the love of the party so doing', as an item of north of England folklore (N&Q 4s:2 (1868), 553), which is confirmed by a later correspondent (4s:10 (1872), 495). Two people should avoid pouring from the same pot, for varying reasons but usually concerned with pregnancy, for example: 'one of them will have ginger-headed twins within a year' (FolkLore 51 (1940), 117). Bubbles on the tea denoted money, or kisses.
   See also *spoons.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 390-3.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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