SOME turn to astrology prediction and others read tarot cards to seek clues to what this year will have in store. I visited Esther, a popular tea leaf reader, mainly because I had never seen anyone read tea leaves and to chat about her profession. She was not in a caravan and did not wear gypsy clothes. Esther, a visiting tea reader from the South Coast, was in Howick to “read” for her clients. She looked like a sweet, elderly woman who could have been anyone’s granny. We had a cup of tea and exchanged pleasantries. When she said: “When you are nearly done, let me know”, I thought I might get a second cup. But as I took my last sip, I noticed the tea leaves floating at the bottom. I was instructed to make a circle with the cup three times and then tip the contents on the saucer. What remains in the cup is “read” by the tea reader. Esther (who prefers not to reveal her surname) said she inherited the “gift” from her family. Her mother and grandmother were able to read tea leaves. She said she had a natural flair for understanding the patterns and symbols in the tea leaves. “When I was young, I saw my mother had finished with a client, and I picked up the cup and started reading it. My mother scolded me and said that what was in the cup was private and not for anyone else’s eyes. But she knew then that I had inherited the gift.” Esther looked at the inside of the cup and looked at me and said: “Two children here, a boy and a girl. Which one is the eldest?” After chatting about my son, she said: “Your daughter will be a great artist. She is very clever, very talented.” The hour flew past as she looked at lumps of leaves and saw things that to me were just blobs on the surface of a teacup. Esther said the priest at her church didn’t approve of her doing readings, so she stopped for many years. But when her husband died, she felt it was time to do it again. “I like to help people. They come to me looking for answers and if I can help them make a decision or lead them in the right direction then I am happy.” Esther said she sometimes gets spiritual guidance, but she mainly relies on her intuition and what she sees in the cup. “I have had people come to me for years and they have saved my readings. One woman is going to write a book on me, based on the advice I have given her over the years. I am a private person — I don’t want to have publicity and I don’t advertise.” Her advice ranges from health issues to safety. She advised me to have my car serviced and to check the tyres. “Your car has an oil leak!” It does. I am sure that she noticed that I don’t wear a wedding ring, so I took the impending news of an upcoming romance with a man in uniform with a bag of salt. My new beau may have a tattoo or a scar on his shoulder … hmmm. Esther told me that she uses common loose tea leaves from the shop and she cannot use rooibos as the consistency of the tea leaves is too sticky. She said that she is tempted to stop reading as she gets tired quickly these days. A knock at the door told me my time was up and an eager client was waiting. She then smiled sweetly and said: “You must read the notes and remember what I said.” I have a feeling that her words will be tickling my thoughts for a few weeks to come.