Bertena Varney of Bowling Green grew up watching her grandmother read tea leaves.

“It’s a lost art,” Varney said. “A lot of people just don’t do it anymore.”

About a year ago, she learned how to read tea leaves herself and recently opened a shop, Serendipity Life Path and Meditation Center, where she offers tea leaves readings, meditation and life coaching.

On Friday afternoon, she brought her skill of reading tea leaves to Tea Squares, where she comes a few times each month to offer readings.

Reading tea leaves is not about telling the future or knowing winning lottery numbers, Varney said. Instead, it’s about reading a person’s energy and the energy that’s coming their way soon, she said. It can help people think carefully about their desires and opportunities before making a decision.

“We move so fast. We don’t ever look at what we want to do anymore,” Varney said.

The practice of reading tea leaves is not new. It began thousands of years ago in the Orient, Varney said.

“It’s always been something women have done,” she said.  

It was common for ancient women to read tea leaves to find out if their husbands would come home from war or whether they should let their daughters marry, Varney said.

“(Women) tend to shoulder a lot of the worry for our family,” she said.

Though a few men come to Varney for readings, the majority of her clients are women, who tend to be more open to talking about their lives than men, who often internalize their thoughts, Varney said.

Usually, people pick an area of their life to ask about when getting their tea leaves read, such as love, money or their career, she said. Once they have determined a question, they drink their tea until only a few drops are left. Then, they swirl the cup three times and turn it over, allowing the remaining tea to drop into a saucer. Varney then takes the cup and begins looking for symbols to indicate what’s in store for them.

“I see the symbols, but it’s up to you to interpret it based on your life experience,” she said. For instance, she may see certain letters or an indication of a figure such as a mentor or angel, but only the client knows what or who the symbol is referring to.

The largest clump of tea leaves is the most dominant answer, either a yes or no, Varney said. The leaves scattered outside the main clump are smaller details on the path to the answer. Even the tea leaves stuck to the spoon have meaning, by showing the person’s inner and outer qualities.

Kala Carby-Borders of Bowling Green got her first tea leaves reading from Varney at Tea Squares on Friday.

“It just seemed like a good idea,” Carby-Borders said. “I kind of had a feeling that I needed a different insight. I like alternative ways of looking at everything.”

During her reading, she particularly looked for guidance about her job as a massage therapist.

“(The tea leaves) told me I’m doing the right thing. I need to just slow down my mind and keep going,” Carby-Borders said.

Varney accurately pinpointed several of Carby-Borders’ personality traits while looking at the tea leaves on her spoon.

“It surprised me how much she knew about me,” Carby-Borders said.

She found the reading helpful and plans to have it done again sometime, she said.

Customers have really shown an interest in tea leaves readings, according to Theresa Shea, owner of Tea Squares.

“I think everybody in the back of their minds kind of wants to know,” she said.

Reading tea leaves can help someone map out a moment or a whole year, Shea said. It’s a fun and interactive activity, which adds to the environment of the shop, she said.

“Sometimes people think of tea shops as being stuffy, but we’re really laid back,” Shea said. “There’s nothing fussy about tea.”

— Varney will next be at Tea Squares to read tea leaves from noon to 2 p.m. Monday and from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 26. She is also teaching a class about how to read tea leaves at the shop at 3 p.m. Oct. 26. The class costs $15 and a reading ranges from $5 to $15. To sign up for a reading or the class, call Varney at 859-437-0082 or email

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