Those of you who live in Turkey will know that brunch is almost an institution. Lazy Sunday mornings that stretch into endless afternoons where you eat too much, gossip a lot, and just enjoy yourself. Then comes fal, or coffee fortune telling. The following is a short extract from my essay, “Your Fortune in a Coffee Cup – Fal”.
“…after everyone has eaten enough and drunk their last glass of tea, it’s time for coffee. Coffee is drunk according to personal taste, so while I like mine orta şekerli, with medium sugar, others like theirs sade, black or even very sweet, called şekerli. Deciding how you like your coffee is the easy part, because fal isn’t as simple as swirling the leftover coffee grounds around and describing what you see. There’s a strict procedure that must be followed if your future is to be revealed.
When the coffee is finished, you have to place the saucer upside down on top of the cup, and make a wish. Then, carefully hold the cup in the air with one or both hands and solemnly turn it anti-clockwise three times. Next turn the cup and saucer back over, so the cup is upside down on the saucer, and leave it to cool. Some women like to tap the bottom of the cup while others place their wedding ring on the cup, because they believe doing so cools the coffee down faster. It’s also believed that placing a ring on the cup ensures revelations about your love life. Similarly, placing a coin on the cup not only cools it faster but is thought to dispel bad omens. When the coffee cup is cool enough, someone other than the person who drank the coffee starts reading the shapes made by the left over the coffee grounds.
For fortune-telling, the coffee cup is read in two horizontal halves because it speaks of both the past and the future. The shapes in the lower half talk of the past, while those in the top half speak of the future. The shapes that feature on the right side are usually understood positively, while the shapes on the left side are understood as signs of bad events, enemies, illnesses, troubles, and so on. According to another belief, the coffee cup can tell the past but it can only tell forty days into the future. There are a whole series of shapes and signs with particular meanings but in general they speak of travel, money, gifts, friendship, love, weddings and marriage…”
You can get the full story of fal in my collection of essays called Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City (Second Edition 2015).
There are many different ways to interpret the signs of coffee fortune telling but the detailed guide offered by Turkey’s most famous coffee maker, Mehmet Effendi Kahveci, is a good place to start. If you want to learn more about the age old art of reading coffee grounds you can buy yourself a copy of The Secret Art of Coffee Reading and start making your fortune happen.