Jody Victor’s Fun with Tasseography

The Art of Tasseography

Tasseography is the ancient art of interpreting patterns made by tealeaves in a teacup. Even though tasseography is usually associated with gypsy fortunetellers, the tradition evolved a long time ago from Asia, the Middle East and Ancient Greece. “Tasse” or “tass” is an Arab root meaning small cup or goblet. Modern tasseography is associated with the Scottish, Irish and the cultures of Eastern Europe. The significance of this cross -cultural and historical tradition is related to the primal human desire for understanding the self. Tasseography is not an application of magic or mystical activities, but rather a tool for tapping into the subconscious by applying meditation to pattern recognition and symbolism. The significance of symbolism in psychological study has theoretical foundations from Plato through Karl Jung. The process of tasseography stimulates the imagination to create individualized interpretations and solutions. Tealeaf reading is a fun and creative way to listen to your own self.

Start with a white or light colored teacup and make a cup of tea with any leaf tea. If you do not have loose -leaf tea you can open a tea bag and use the tea that way. Once your tea is cool enough, begin sipping. Leaves may be floating so do your best to avoid consuming too many. If you are right -handed use your left hand to hold the cup. If you are left -handed use your right hand. If you are ambidextrous, reach for your cup, stop, and then use the other hand. This procedure of drinking from the other hand coordinates left and right brain activity to stimulate problem solving. Using the opposite hand also tends to make you slow down to focus and organize your thoughts. Not that you have slowed down and are quiet and relaxed identify an issue foremost in your mind. It’s that one thought that keeps stubbornly returning to your attention no matter how much you meditate on relaxing your mind to block out all thoughts.

Leave a small amount of tea (about a teaspoon) at the bottom of your cup. Now give it three good swirls. The tealeaves will disperse around the interior of the cup. Gently dump out the remaining liquid into a saucer and wait three breaths before turning your cup back over.

Tealeaf reading is a highly personal process. Abstract pattern recognition taps into our subconscious with the most relevant reading produced by the individual who drank, meditated and swirled the tea. In a way it is similar to the Rorschach (ink blot) Test. We are most likely to recognize symbols that have a connection to the matter at hand. Therefore you are the most qualified to read your own tealeaves.

If your cup has a handle, begin there and read clockwise. If your cup has no handle, begin reading from 12 o’clock. Make a note of the first symbol you see. It is the symbol related to the issue that was foremost in your mind while you were drinking and meditating. Mentally divide the cup into three sections: rim, middle and base. The rim area is above the tea level when you first poured your cup of tea. The base is the level of tea left before you dumped it out. The middle section is the area between the two (rim and base). Note where the first symbol you saw is located and if it is next to another symbol. Note whether you see bubbles, twigs, or droplets in your cup. Work quietly and take your time. Leaves on the bottom of the cup (base) foretell the distant future. The sides (middle) foretell the not too distant future. Leaves on the rim area tell the present. The pictures and symbols that you see very clearly are more significant than those that are unclear.

Here are some interpretations of the pictures you see (many more can be found on tea websites):

Anchor – success in business

Aircraft – journey/travel

Bird – good news or message

Bouquet – romance

Circle – trust and love

Castle – open horizons

Diamond – surprise windfall

Dog – good and faithful friends

Elephant – be patient

Eagle – power and strength

Fire – passion

Fish – good fortune

Gate – beware of opportunities around you

Globe – long distance travel

Hand – if open, destiny / if closed, argument

Hat – a change in roles

Ivy – not a good time to be independent, trust friends

Insect – distractions

Jewels – material success

Knife – caution against sharp words

Kettle – a special visitor is coming

Ladder – promotion

Lines – advancement, long life

Mountain – a difficult, but possible, goal

Mouth – listen carefully

Necklace – complete: personal relationship stability / broken: instability

Octopus – warning

Palm tree – wealth

Pig – greedy or jealous person

Question mark – reconsider your plans

Rake – at a crossroad and destiny is determined by hard work

Rainbow – good luck to come

Spoon – you will be comforted by someone’s generosity

Stair – your position will improve

Tree – family unity

Turtle – lasting success through patience

Urn – be aware of distinction between material and spiritual success

Vase – a secret being kept from you

Volcano – obstruction in your life

Wheel – events outside your life will change your direction

Wolf – you will be challenged or betrayed

Jody Victor Talks About Teas Grown in America

Americans have not only been drinking tea for a long time but have actually grown it on our own soil.

Longing for exotic luxuries Queen Elizabeth of England founded the East India Company in 1600 in order to import fine woven cloths, spices, herbs and other riches from the East. The East India Company held exclusive rights to the English-Oriental trade until 1833. In the beginning of this enterprise the tea shipments were meager and subject to tariffs so enterprising merchants/pirates ignored the imposed monopoly and illegally imported tea themselves. These illegal shipments increased the supply of tea on mainland England and stimulated its sale by offering the forbidden tea at a lower price. Thus tea was no longer served exclusively to English high society but also to regular English subjects and by the middle of the eighteenth century tea had replaced ale as England’s national drink.

As tea drinking blossomed in England so it also blossomed in the English colonies. By the turn of the eighteenth century tea was publicly available in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The colonial tea trade was exclusively with England. King George III placed higher tariffs on tea imported to the American colonies as a way to pay for the expenses of the French and Indian War. The higher tea taxes caused the colonists to take action. On December 16, 1773, a band of sixty outraged colonists, dressed as Mohawk Indians, gathered at Griffin’s Wharf and boarded the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, and tossed 342 crates (45 tons) of tea into Boston Harbor. Known as the Boston Tea Party this act of resistance ignited a series of events prompting the colonists’ fight for independence.

Commercial tea cultivation in America had been attempted since 1744, when tea seeds were sent to the Trust Garden in Savannah, South Carolina. The first recorded successful cultivation of the tea plant is recorded as growing on Skidaway Island near Savannah in 1772. As luck would have it, South Carolina has a small pocket of land suitable for tea plants, which need sandy soil bathed in heat, humidity and rain. Junius Smith, a horticultural pioneer, succeeded in growing tea commercially on his Golden Grove Plantation in Greenville, South Carolina, from 1848 until his death in 1853. Dr. Alexis Forster oversaw the next short-lived attempt in Georgetown, South Carolina, from 1874 until his death in 1879.

In 1884, almost ten years after Forster’s endeavor began the federal government became interested in the tea experiments down south. America’s fast clipper ships and its ability to settle debts in gold had made it the world’s largest importer of tea. Commissioner of Agriculture, William G. Le Duc wanted to find out if America could profit by producing its own tea. He planted an experimental farm outside Summerville, South Carolina. Four years later the government gave up the project. They concluded that the area’s climate was too unstable to sustain the tea crop.

Fortunately the dream of a prosperous tea plantation on home soil still lived in the imagination of a wealthy and scientific philanthropist named Dr. Charles Shepard. In 1888 he established the Pinehurst Tea Plantation not far from the government farm in Summerville. Dr. Shepard faced two challenges. The first was labor problems. It was estimated that it cost about eight times as much to pick one pound of tea in South Carolina than it did in Asia. Dr. Shepard solved this problem by opening a school and making tea-picking a part of the curriculum, essentially ensuring a force of child labor while providing them with an education they might not otherwise have obtained.

The second challenge was the need to produce the highest quality tea. The labor expense of hand-picking needed to be offset by the production of the freshest, top quality tea. The best teas grown abroad at that time were rarely shipped outside their country of origin because the journey took a great toll on the delicate premium leaves. Dr. Shepard was confident that South Carolina would fill the void. In an interview in an 1898 issue of Cosmopolitan, he assured that “in this field the American grower need fear no competition from the Orient. Such teas demand a high price; but if no better can be otherwise obtained, there will be no scarcity of buyers.” His persistence proved fruitful when he won the tea-drinking public’s attention at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair where his oolong tea took first prize. At that same World’s Fair, Richard Blechynden, a tea vendor, dropped ice into his hot cups of tea to boost sales in the summer heat. The result was the first iced tea, which has become a tradition of supper tables in the American South.

Dr. Shepard’s plantation thrived until his death in 1915, after which it remained unattended until 1960, when Thomas J. Lipton bought the property. Lipton rescued the remaining plants and used them to open a research facility on Wadmalaw Island. Mack Fleming, a horticultural researcher at Trident Technical College, was hired as manager of the operation and is credited with a more modern solution to the labor problem. He invented a mechanical harvester, which was a hybrid of a cotton picker and a tobacco reaper. It did the work of 500 pickers. Still, Lipton concluded, as the federal government had almost 150 years earlier, that the unstable climate and high cost of labor in South Carolina made tea production unfeasible.

Finally in 1987, Fleming with his tea horticulturist skills and William B. Hall, an expert, third generation tea taster purchased the farm from Lipton and established the 127-acre Charleston Tea Plantation. The Charleston Tea Plantation proclaimed that their tea was grown, withered, cured, manufactured, prepared, and packaged in America and was the freshest available to American consumers, containing no pesticides or fungicides. It was inspected by the FDA and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and provided jobs for American workers. Along with being designated the Hospitality Beverage of South Carolina, the Charleston Tea Plantation’s American Classic Tea also earned the badge of an official White House tea in 1987.

An article in the September 13, 2000, Wall Street Journal titled, “US Tea Grower Is In Hot Water”, suggested that in spite of fourteen years of continued business the Charleston Tea Plantation was having trouble in the marketplace. The article quoted Fleming’s regret concerning their company’s inadequate advertising budget- “Call it entrepreneurial stupidity” and Hall was quoted as saying- “We’re just trying to hold our heads above water.” Eventually due to their differences of opinion and the financial stress, Fleming and Hall decided to sell the tea farm. In 2003 the Charleston Tea Plantation was auctioned off to R. C. Bigelow for $1.28 million. Bigelow stated that they wanted to “preserve a piece of American history”. They spent the next few years restoring the plantation and in January of 2006 the Charleston Tea Plantation was re-opened to the public.

Jody Victor Talks About the Benefits of Green Tea

Recent studies have shown that teas, especially green tea, have benefits beyond their wonderful flavors and aromas.

The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times. References to tea in Chinese literature go back approximately 5,000 years. Ancient folklore place the beginning of brewing tea as a beverage at 2737 BC, when a camellia blossom drifted into a cup of boiled drinking water belonging to Emperor Shen Nung. At various times throughout history, China’s national drink has been designated as the state currency and at times used as cash. The elevation of tea drinking to an art form began in the eighth century, with the publication of Lu Yu’s “The Classic Art of Tea”. His work contained several practical tips for manufacturing tea, many of which are still in use today.

Even with the vast variety of choices, tea lovers today are surprised to learn that all tea comes from the same source: the Camilla Sinensis bush. And while there are hundreds of varieties of teas most fall into four basic categories based on their processing. The four categories are green, black, oolong, and scented. Only green tea is steamed, which prevents the leaves’ compounds from being oxidized by fermentation. Steaming causes no loss or weakening of the medicinal qualities of the leaves. Black teas are made from fermented leaves and oolong teas are partially fermented. Scented teas are made by mixing various flowers and petals with green (non-fermented) or oolong (partially fermented) teas.

Tea leaves consist of 75-80% water. The remaining components, catechin, caffeine, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, help form the variety of flavors. The primary medicinal value of green tea lies in the fact that it is rich in catechin polyphenols. Catechins are powerful, water-soluble antioxidants. Tea contains four main catechins: EC, ECG, EGC and EGCG. Researchers believe that catechins are effective medicinally because they easily stick to proteins, blocking bacteria from adhering to cell walls and disrupting their ability to destroy them. This blocking mechanism provides extensive health benefits by protecting the body from cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, infections and impaired immune function.

EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is the most powerful of green tea’s catechins. As an antioxidant it is 25-100 times more potent than vitamins C and E. One cup of green tea provides 10-40 mg of polyphenols and has antioxidant effects greater than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots, or strawberries. EGCG detoxifies by connecting with poisonous substances and harmful heavy metals (lead, chrome, mercury, etc.) and dissolving them. EGCG is also effective in lowering LDL cholesterol by connecting with it and absorbing and blocking it. This prevents the narrowing of blood vessels and inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots (thrombosis), which is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke.

One cup of green tea contains about 15-30 mg of caffeine, depending on the age of the leaves at picking time. Young buds contain higher amounts of caffeine than mature buds. Caffeine provides health benefits as a stimulant and as a detoxifying diuretic. It also activates blood circulation. When caffeine is taken together with exercise, body fat is metabolized as an energy source rather than depleting glycogen stores. If caffeine is not desired there are processed decaffeinated teas available. Decaffeinated tea undergoes one of two processes. The first uses a solvent (ethyl acetate) and retains only 30% of the polyphenols. The second is a natural process using only water and carbon dioxide, called effervescence. It retains 95% of the healthy polyphenols. Dr. Andrew Weil, noted doctor and nutritionist, has a simple home solution for decaffeinating tea without losing the valuable nutrients. He suggests steeping the tea for 45 seconds in hot water and then pouring off the liquid. Next, add more hot water and steep as usual. Up to 80% of the caffeine is released in the first diffusion, with very little flavor and aroma being lost.

There are about 20 different types of amino acids in tea. More than 60% of these amino acids consist of theanine, which is unique to green tea because the steaming process does not eliminate it. Theanine counteracts caffeine and lessens its effect as a stimulant. L-theanine is a healthy amino acid found only in tea plants and certain mushrooms. In addition, green tea contains many helpful vitamins: A (promotes good vision), B1 (metabolizes sugars), B2 (builds red blood cells), B3 (releases energy from foods), C (antiviral/antibacterial), E (prevents heart disease), and F (prevents tooth decay).

In recent years more than 500 studies have been conducted worldwide to research the potential health benefits of green tea. With the myriad of benefits being discovered one “Ancient Chinese Proverb” can easily be called a “Modern Chinese Proverb” as well:

“Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.”

Jody Victor Gives the History of Tea in America

In 1772, tea tax was causing problems in Great Britain’s colonies in America. While other taxes on goods bound for America had been repealed, the three pence per pound of tea remained firm.

It was in place to offset the bankrupt British East India Company. Over a five-year period, the colonies paid duty on almost 2 million pounds of tea. Enraged by the tea tax and other shipping restrictions, The Sons of Liberty attempted to block the shipments of tea from arriving in Philadelphia and New York. On December 16, 1773, The Sons of Liberty let two ships sail into Boston Harbor. Disguised as Native American Indians, they emptied 342 large chests of tea into the harbor. This later came to be known as the Boston Tea Party. These actions by the colonists led the Parliament to pass a series of laws known as the “Intolerable Acts”. They limited the political freedom of the citizens and ultimately led to the Revolutionary War. In many ways, tea helped provide a cause for American independence.

Although the first tea was discovered in China, several other areas of the world now contribute to the overall tea harvest. The first tea used in England originated in China, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that tea growing spread to Formosa and that indigenous tea was discovered in Assam. In 1839, the first Indian tea was sold in London. The first tea in Africa was planted in the Cape in 1687, but did not progress until the latter part of the 19th century. The 20th century has seen the spread of tea in Africa, notably in Kenya.

The history of tea dates back almost 5,000 years and tea itself now has more than 3,000 different variations. The most widely consumed beverage in the world has both a historical and cultural importance that cannot be rivaled.