Shadhika Shadhika


"The bitter coffee opened up the space to talk about bitter experiences in our work and the challenges that we all faced."

Coffee Cup Reading

By Shraddha Mahilkar, Program Officer in India

May 23, 2019

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Reconference in Kathmandu was an event not be missed this year. #recon2019 was organized by CREA, a feminist human rights organization based in New Delhi, and included 500 participants from 50 countries. #recon2019 aimed to rethink, reimagine, and reshape conversations around feminism, sexuality, disability, abortion, and other related topics.

The conference was not only stimulating and thought-provoking but also creative and fun. On the first day, one session really stood out called “Coffee Cup Reading”.

We started by each taking a cup of coffee. The bitter coffee opened up the space to talk about bitter experiences in our work and the challenges that we all faced. We learned the art of Tasseomancy (also known as Tasseography or Tassology) as a divination or “fortune-telling” method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments. It works like an oracle, where the reader ‘sees’ and interprets the symbols and receives insights from the energy left in the cup.

Complete strangers drank cups of coffee to start discussions around sexuality. The facilitator Lara Aharonian was from Armenia, and she talked about how she has adopted the local tradition (Coffee Cup Reading – Feminist way of reading) to get women talking about issues they could never broach openly. It all starts with making a pot of coffee where the facilitator mixes finely ground Arabica coffee – letting it boil and then pouring it into small cups. Once the grind settles at the bottom of the cup, she asks the participants to try the coffee but to leave some at the bottom, stirring and putting a small saucer on top to turn it over. Finally, the reader flips the cup over, gives the reading, and describes the energy left by the grounds.

I always thought that coffee can be helpful in making new friends but I never thought that it can be a powerful tool to open a dialogue between strangers on rather difficult topics. Yes! Between strangers, from across the world, sitting together and sharing personal issues, family discussions, self-doubts, and tales of violence that they faced. I find it an even more brilliant idea in a country like India, where rituals are such an important part of our culture, and it made me wonder what rituals from my home could be used to start similar dialogues in the community.

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