“Hey, I just heard that people read coffee grounds to tell fortunes. True?” Acker Winters stopped me after I delivered a tray of Armenian coffee to the Newton Minnow Political Discourse Club, a group of retired people who gather at the coffee shop on Monday mornings to complain about the cable news programs they watched over the weekend.
“Good question, Acker. When I was a kid, I heard about some of the older generation who had the gift of reading cups. And my grandmother–my mother’s mother–would study the grounds. I’m not sure that she had the gift.”
“What do you mean by ‘the gift’? And how do you read the grounds? I thought people only read tea leaves and Tarot cards.”
“I don’t know about Tarot cards or tea leaves, Acker, but I can tell you a little about reading the grounds in a coffee cup. First you drink a demitasse cup of coffee. When you finish, you place the saucer on top of the cup and then—this is important—make sure you turn the cup over away from your heart. When the cup is cool enough to handle, you study what remains in the cup because there’s that sludge of fine-ground coffee and water. If you look long enough, symbols and signs come through the dregs—sort of like Jungian archetypes or Rorschach drawings.
“Now my grandmother may or may not have had the supernatural gift of reading the cups, but she would study the grounds. When I would visit from school—and realize that I went to a boarding high school before heading away from home for college and university—we would drink Armenian coffee and then she would read my cup. Always the story was the same. She would say, ‘You are going on a trip,’ which was true because I would return to school. And then she would talk about my dating life. ‘Two women are in your life. One has golden hair and the other has dark hair like an Armenian. Watch out for the golden-haired one. She will cause trouble. Dark hair is better for you.’ She was very serious and I would laugh and return to school.”
“So did her fortune-telling come true?”
“Maybe, Acker. To quote Fats Waller, ‘One never knows, do one?’”