Romani Tea is the same as Russian Tea, and is traditionally served with sugar, lemon, fruit, or jam. According to Hancock, many Russian and Eastern European Romani dishes are the same as the region’s because the Roma in the East have been settled for so long, whereas Roma in Western Europe were nomadic for longer, so the cuisine is more insular and includes a wide selection of game and foraged vegetables, herbs, and berries. At tea time, my grandmother and I like to read each other’s tea leaves, but this is somewhat unusual among Roma. While the women in her family were traditionally dancers and fortune tellers, for Roma, fortune telling (drabaripé) is just commonsense advice (or Samaritan therapy) for gadjé and is not usually taken seriously within the community. Obviously Roma are not innately born with psychic powers; rather, it’s a trade that was born out of poverty and discrimination and practiced in desperate times. However, Roma do believe in healing magic or rituals, called advising, and practice that within the community. Advisors must be able to speak Rromanes, but because our family lost the language in the Holocaust, we’ve mish-mashed elements of drabaripé and advising: we practice tea leaf reading, palm reading, and card reading alongside meditation and energy healing to treat each other (and sometimes clients) holistically. This is an example of how it’s difficult to make generalizations about Roma — we’re all different, and each family will have its own unique kind of Romani culture (just like everyone else in the world). These “tealeaf afternoons” as my grandmother and I came to call them, are a lovely way to unwind with a loved one and speak frankly about what’s going on in each other’s lives.
You will need a teapot, two round shallow-bottom teacups (preferably white or a light solid color inside), two saucers, and two spoons. If you want to read the leaves, find a teapot without a sieve, or you can just spoon some tea leaves from the pot back into the tea once you’ve filled your cup.
If you are reading the leaves:
When you prepare your tea, silently ask a question that you’d like the leaves to answer. Treat the preparation like a moving meditation with long, slow, and deep regular breaths and one-pointed focus. Add a spoonful of the tea leaves from the teapot to your cup if they were sifted out. I think it’s easier to read without the jam, but either way will work.
Drink as usual, but drink mindfully and with reverence, meditating on your query. Continue to breathe deeply and regularly to maintain your focus. When you are down to the last mouthful or so, swirl the dregs around three times, and then drink the rest of the tea by straining the tea with your lips by closing them over the rim.
Then, place your cup face-down in the saucer, letting the last drops drain from the cup.
Switch cups with your partner. Hold your partner’s cup right-side up in the palms of your hand. Concentrate on your breath in order to empty your mind. My grandmother explained it to me this way when I was a child: “You breathe deeply and learn to quiet your mind so that you can listen when the universe speaks to you.” Defocus your eyes and turn the cup clockwise to help you piece the shapes together. Try to look through the leaves to the images underneath and open yourself to their suggestion. It’s ok to ask each other questions if you’re not sure what the symbols mean — they might strike a chord with your partner. You can tell each other your questions if you like, but only if you can honestly tell your partner your true question. Think of the symbols you see as archetypes that speak to the unconscious and help the seeker understand their query in a deeper way. Never read your own tea leaves, because your hopes and fears obstruct an honest interpretation. Most importantly, relax, enjoy yourself, and remember that the future isn’t written in stone. Kushti Baxt! Good luck!
Bring the water to a boil in a pot or kettle.
Scald the teapot by pouring a little bit of the boiled water in, swishing it around, and pouring it out again.
Make sure to wash the lemon and orange thoroughly and remove any wax coating from the skin.
Spoon the tea leaves, a few orange slices, and jam into the teapot and fill the teapot with boiled water and stir.
Allow the leaves to steep for 3-4 minutes before stirring again and serving with a lemon wedge.
Add sugar, lemon, or more orange to your cup as desired.