How to read tea cups

‘Preliminaries
The cup should be slowly drained and held by the bottom. It is then placed upside down in the saucer and given three circular turns from left to right, the person who wishes to have her fortune told, repeating the while, one phrase with each turn:-

‘Best by day, best by night
Best by fire or candlelight’

So went a booklet published in 1932 on how to read tea cups. The booklet was published by Australian tea company Bushells.

The book gives lengthy directions on what your tea leaves might mean

The book gives lengthy directions on what your tea leaves might mean. Click on the image to see the entire book.

Australians historically drank a great deal of tea. Between 1877 and 1905, more than 950 brands of tea were trademarked. All tea at this stage was imported – it wasn’t until the 1980s that Australia was growing its own tea in any great quantities.

Many of the tea brands played on their exotic roots, their names and packaging referring to Ceylon, India, China and even Japan.

'Ready Money Foster' traded in tea, and the Victorian company's trade mark was designed to make the most of its exotic origins

'Ready Money Foster' traded in tea, and the Victorian company's trade mark was designed to make the most of its exotic origins

However, it was also at this time that Australian sentiment was very much anti-Chinese. In 1901 the ‘White Australia Policy’ was enacted, and large numbers of Asians were deported. The more successful tea brands such as Billy Tea, Bushells and other like them traded on the Australian pioneering icons such as swagmen, kangaroos and emus.

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