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Laguna Beach Party Guests Take a Spot of the Supernatural With Their Tea

Times Staff Writer

When the British invented fancy tea parties in the 1800s, they never dreamed it would come to this:

Last Sunday, in a sun-splashed Laguna Beach backyard, 30 people gathered for a “psychic tea” party.

In addition to the traditional cucumber sandwiches and pastries, the New Age sip fest featured a Pakistani-born mystic peering into the future via steaming cups of tea filled with floating tractors, chickens and other odd objects.

Residents who were drawn to Laguna Beach because of its bohemian spirit have grumbled for years that the pricey enclave was in danger of losing its soul. The city’s summer art festivals have gone mainstream. A five-star resort is flourishing not far from where Timothy Leary preached his hallucinogenic philosophy.

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But here and there, the freak flag still flies.

Psychic tea organizers Diana Spears and Servet Hasan tested their format in Joshua Tree last month before bringing it to Laguna Beach, where they hope it will grow into the paranormal world’s answer to Tupperware home parties.

Guests paid $50 to attend the three-hour event at the home of artist Carolyn Reynolds. The crowd was almost entirely female, perhaps because men are waiting for the advent of psychic beer-foam readings.

As a fountain gurgled on the patio and a guitarist strummed in the shade, Spears and Hasan, who met at a book festival in May, went to work.

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Swirling, tilting and staring into teacups, Hasan, 47, a transplant from Pakistan who said that tea-leaf reading was a 500-year tradition in her family, discovered strange omens in the Darjeeling and English breakfast teas that were served.

In one person’s cup she saw crossbones, which purportedly signaled a need for protection. In another, she spotted tea leaves shaped like a rose, symbolizing romance.

Winged creatures seemed to be the most common teacup inhabitants. Hasan, who lives in Lake Forest, also encountered a woodpecker, chicken and tea-leaf bat.

Meanwhile, Spears, 40, a Scottish import who specializes in clairvoyant readings for humans and pets, offered psychic insights to the guests.

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Wearing a silver cross pendant and a chiffon tunic, the Laguna Beach resident jotted down names and birthdays on a clipboard, then turned on her psychic radar for glimpses into the past and future.

Most of the guests, who came from as far as La Jolla and Santa Clarita, were true believers. “The tea reading told me I’d been married three times,” said Chris Arnold of Costa Mesa. “How could she know that?”

Sitting near a patch of flowers, interior designer Andrew Joseph, one of the few men in the crowd, couldn’t quite get the hang of the afternoon tea ritual, this being his first party.

“I just burned my tongue,” he said after one sip.

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But he was thrilled when Hasan interpreted his tea leaves to say he would meet a new romantic partner that day. Two days later, the prophecy had yet to materialize, he said.

“The thing about clairvoyance is it’s never 100% or we’d be doing the lottery and lying on the beach somewhere,” said Spears, who runs a meditation class at the Marriott in Dana Point and says she can help people achieve goals by firing their “spirit guides” and recruiting new ones.

As the party guests waited to play Rorschach with their tea, they chatted under umbrellas and admired the paintings on display in the yard and indoors.

Gem Murphy talked about her childhood home in South Africa, which had an old diamond mine in the backyard. Jami Vincent recounted Spears’ prediction that she would give birth to a daughter, although she conceded her husband’s vasectomy might be an obstacle.

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Elsewhere, guests bought raffle tickets for such items as a chakra repair kit, a “nonsurgical face-lift” and a copy of Hasan’s book, “How to Read Any Man’s Mind.”

By the end of the afternoon, Spears said she had fielded requests for two future tea parties. But competition might be brewing in the psychic beverage business.

Two women at Sunday’s party said they recently attended a psychic Turkish coffee event in Laguna Niguel.


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