Reading the grinds in Arabian coffee

Reading the grinds in Arabian coffee
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If you have never had your coffee grounds read, you are missing out on understanding your potential future. The art of reading coffee grounds in the Middle East traces back to thousands of years of practice, fortune tellers and seers

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania covering Chicago City Hall (1976-1992)

Ray Hanania
covering Chicago
City Hall

When I was younger, my mother and aunts used to read my coffee grounds/grinds. It was fascinating and fun. The predictions from the readings alway seemed to come true.

The grinds are what’s left at the bottom of a small porcelain cup of Arabian or Turkish coffee. Patterns in the grinds form that create potents of things to come, good, bad and otherwise. Reading the grinds is called Tasseography and it actually traces to medieval Europe.

Once you drink your coffee (finjan kahwah — cup of coffee), you use one hand to shake the remains in the porcelain cup in a circular motion three to five times, depending on who is reading the cup.

The cup is then turned over and placed upside down in the porcelain saucer, usually with a lip on the edge of the saucer, off center, to keep the upsidedown cup at an angle. Sometimes, the person’s whose fortune is being told, puts the cup upsidedown “flat” in the center of the saucer.

Coffee grind readings

Coffee grind readings:

The two fortunes most sought are about love and money. Traditionally, if you wanted either, you would put a ring or piece of jewelry on the bottom of the cup if you wanted advice or portents on love. If it was money or advice on the future about money and wealth, you would place a coin on the bottom of the porcelain cup.

Readers of these coffee grounds/grinds base their observations on years of readings and watching and learning from others. The grinds move by the draining of the last remnants of coffee and can form interesting patterns, large and small. Sometimes they are symbols, like forming a heart. Sometimes, you may even see a face in the cup that you recognize or think you recognize.

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Many times, the symbols are small and the readers looks at a pattern of images and impressions. Sometimes, the images and symbols are large.

Coffee grind readings: A winged horse means power, and aspiring to great heights of achievement and accomplishment

Coffee grind readings: A winged horse means power, and aspiring to great heights of achievement and accomplishment

The location of the symbols also play an important part in the interpretation of what may or may not happen. The handle is viewed as the “home,” meaning that symbols located in the cup close to the handle of the porcelain cup mean they are things that could happen close to your home or involve your home or home life. The higher up in the cup that a symbol is found, the more important it is.

Readers divide the cup into several sections in a three dimensional pattern, five sections looking into the cup (one near the handle and the remainder divided into four equal sections) and three sections (top, middle and bottom) looking from the side.

Some use porcelain cups in which Zodiac symbols are imprinted around the saucer and inside the cup itself to guide the interpretation based on what can be seen and what is hidden.

Finjan Kahwah (Cup of Arabian Coffee)

Finjan Kahwah (Cup of Arabian Coffee)

Whether it is something you believe in or engage in purely for cultural fun, having your fortune read after enjoying a nice cup of Arabian or Turkish coffee can be interesting. Many people swear by it. Others brush it off as superstition and old wives tales.

Regardless, having your coffee grinds read is a part of the Arabian culture and a part of the Middle Eastern meal, socializing and after dinner banter.

If you are interested, you can find a lot of website dedicated to understanding the reading of coffee grounds/grinds.

Here are a few that are very good:

Mario Baker’s blog site

The Turkish Cultural Foundation

Tasseography defined

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Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and for, and

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is

Email him at:

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com
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