Greek Fortune-Telling Coffee


I have a Greek friend whose family still practices lots of older Greek folk traditions. One of these is Greek coffee cup fortune telling, practiced specifically by his grandma. She has her subject drink a cup of Greek coffee, which leaves lots of residue in the cup after it’s drunk. Then, she flips the mug on its side, spins it three times clockwise, and then lets it dry on the side of a plate for a little. She would pick out certain shapes or patterns from the way the coffee residue stained the cup and use them to draw conclusions about her subject’s life. They’re usually scarily accurate, and predict specific things like falling in love, losing a loved one, or making successful decisions at work.


My friend witnesses this often at family gatherings. It doesn’t take long to perform and his grandma is an expert. He, however, does not really believe in the fortune telling, most likely because it doesn’t always pan out. He remembers one time where she told an uncle that she saw a rat for him, which meant that someone near him would die soon. The uncle was shocked, but my friend acknowledges that she could’ve been messing with him since he’s one of the only non-Greeks in the family (married in). Nothing bad ever happened to the uncle. My friend’s mother, on the other hand, does believe in the fortune telling along with some other traditional Greek superstitions. His grandma has taught his mother a few things about the process in hopes that one day she might be able to do it herself.


The tradition is common to some others from around the world, like Chinese tea leaf readings. These types  I read online that that’s where it might have originated from. The coffee cup readings stem from a belief that there’s something in your being that becomes translated into the way you drink your cup of coffee that can reveal your fortune. I think the original purpose of the tradition was to provide hope in times of crisis and to have a way to be prepared for the possibly unpredictable future. Now, however, the tradition seems outdated and not that many Greek people believe in it. This could be a trait of the large Greek diaspora that lives outside of the homeland. It could also be a symptom of the times – science has progressed so far and we have so much faith in it that it seems impossible that something could tell our fortunes through just coffee grounds. The tradition functions as mere entertainment for the most part, now, and as a way to bond Greek families.