The Perils of Incorrectly Having Tea!

Guest post by Alissa, of Lettered Madness

Having been called away this week for pressing family matters, my lovely daughter kindly stepped in for me, sharing some tea superstitions that she dug up—perfect for October when we begin fashioning costumes and picking up our favorite Halloween candy!

Tea ⁠— warm, comforting, calming. Or is it?

That’s right, tea has a dark side too. Or course, if you’ve been following this blog you already know that tea is tied to colonization, political undercutting, and more.

But I’m talking about something else, something a little more . . . supernatural.

After all, this is the month of Halloween, a holiday rife with superstition! And speaking of superstition, did you know that how you brew your tea might bring you ill luck? 


In Twinings’ blog on tea superstitions, they tell us about some old English beliefs such as:

  • weak tea predicted an argument with a friend, whereas
  • tea that was too strong meant a new friend would be heading your way.

They also mention some English fishermen tea superstitions.

  • For example, “they would never empty a pot of tea fully when they were out at sea, because this represented them ‘pouring away’ all the fish they were hoping to catch.”
  • Not only that, but their families back home “wouldn’t empty their teapots on the day the fisherman set sail for fear of causing the boat to sink.”

Another superstition they mention is that when brewing a pot of tea, if you leave the lid off, you just might have a menacing visitor knocking at your door! The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland has a different version of this particular sign. A stranger, or at least a visitor, will come when a stalk or leaf floats in your tea.

Some of the other superstitions that The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland mention are much more pleasant. For example, if you scatter leaves across the road in front of the house, evil spirits will be kept away.


But you better not stir your tea with a knife! And speaking of stirring your tea, The Daily Edge tells us that the Irish believe it was unlucky to stir your tea or coffee counterclockwise. 


Other superstitions warn you about danger or upcoming conflict. The Historic UK writes that in Dorset “it is common knowledge that a slow-boiling kettle is bewitched and may contain a toad!” Another tea superstition they mention is that if two women pour from the same teapot, they will end up arguing. So you might want to have two or more pots the next time you meet a friend for afternoon tea!

The UK and Ireland aren’t the only ones to have tea superstitions. In Russia, if you accidentally spill your tea during breakfast, it means you will soon have good luck, according to Enjoy Russia.

But these are all European superstitions, what about Asian tea superstitions?

The USC Digital Folklore Archives inform us that the person a tea spout points at will have bad luck, and thus you need to be mindful of where the spout is pointing when you set the teapot down. This is, unfortunately the only superstition I found during my research. (See my previous guest blog about the Japanese tea superstition chabashira —when a tea stalk floats upright in your tea it is a sign of good luck.)


These are just some of the superstitions involving tea that I have come across. What tea superstitions do you know of?

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