BY MEGHEDI MELODY NAZARIAN
If you’re Armenian, chances are you’ve had your coffee cup read at least once. It was likely by an older lady at a house gathering of women sitting around a table full of fruits and sweets, demitasse cups flipped upside down while waiting for the coffee to dry and form into shapes that will foretell their futures. This is a scene familiar to many Armenian women, including Ani Carla Kalafian, a 30-year-old Armenian-American living in Glendale, who is keeping the art of coffee cup reading alive today.
Ani was born in Los Angeles, but moved to San Francisco Bay Area with her parents and two sisters when she was 7. She remembers being a little girl with a big imagination. In between playing with her sisters and pets, Ani would watch her mom and aunts reading each other’s coffee cups at family gatherings. It was this collective of women that inspired her work today. Ani has a full-time job in Communications and Development at the Armenian American Museum in Glendale, but does cup readings on the side, both at events around LA and privately. She sees herself as a messenger and the cup is like a mirror that she holds up in front of her client. Anything can come up about the past, the present, and the future. “Coffee reading is a creative and traditional art. It’s a great hobby that brings people together,” Ani says. “I want to break the taboo reading coffee outside of the home. I’m comfortable enough to do it.” She also wants to encourage other Armenian women to do the same. “I want more Armenian women to continue the tradition that our grandmothers left for us.” Ani believes that every single person on this planet has the talent and that everybody is intuitive. “The matter of practice is very important in coffee reading,” Ani says. “Just like anything else, you have to practice and keep at it. The practice gives the confidence in being comfortable with expressing what you’re seeing rather than having reservations about it.”
Ani started reading coffee cups for her mom and her friends around 8 years old after she, and they, realized she had a natural talent for it. Her great grandmother was a healer in Iran and her grandfather read palms for his community, so some of her gift is inherited. In San Francisco, Ani grew up around many non-Armenians and when they would get together, Ani would read their coffee cups. She still loves being able to share the Armenian culture with non-Armenians through the experience of reading coffee cups. When Ani moved to Armenia in 2014 to do Birthright Armenia, the readings got more and more frequent. Soon, neighbors, and friends, and friend’s of friends were lining up to have Ani read their cups — and their fate. Their fascination and the word about her readings spread like wildfire. “Being in Armenia definitely activated more of an intuitive energy in me,” Ani says. What was supposed to be four months in the Motherland turned into two years of her working in the non-profit sector, as well as at the American University of Armenia. She eventually moved to LA in 2016 with the love of her life and now-husband Sarkis Rshdouni, whom she met while living in Armenia. Fatefully enough, Sarkis can also read coffee cups and sometimes helps his wife when she gets busy at her events. Sarkis grew up in Aleppo, Syria and watched his grandmother read coffee for her circle. You know what they say: the couple that reads coffee cups together, stays together!
The tradition of coffee cup reading is believed to have started in the 16th century when coffee made its way to the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. The cultivation and distribution of coffee started in Ethiopia and moved from Yemen to the Arab trade and then to the Ottoman Empire. Armenians then popularized coffee in Europe. Not much about the tradition of coffee cup reading has changed today, except that each reader brings their own personality to the experience. “I bring a very healing perspective to the readings,” Ani says. “I’m also very knowledgeable about a lot of symbols and modalities of healing. I give my clients homework. I want them to dig deep on their own and become more in tune with themselves.” Another unique touch that Ani adds that many modern readers don’t is that she also reads the plate before she moves on to the cup. When the entire reading — which usually lasts around 15 minutes — is done, Ani asks the person to hold the cup, think of an intention or a wish, and mark the bottom of the cup with their finger. The most rewarding experience for Ani is that reading coffee cups empowers her. “I can be a good guide for people who are looking for the next modality of healing for them. If I can help someone on their journey, why wouldn’t I share my gift?”
Ani reads coffee cups one Sunday a month at Urartu Coffee in Glendale. She’s available for events like bridal showers and birthdays, and also does one-on-one readings privately. Follow her on Instagram @ani.vibes and direct message her for additional information.