Jorianne, the coffee psychic, drops a little bit of half-and-half into Marc Silvia’s cup. She stares at it intently, moving the cup from side to side. “Do you ever dress like a woman?” she asks. “And what are you doing with your hair?”

Silvia, an actor, looks surprised. Sure, he’s been known to dress up for a part, and the hair, well, he’s growing it out for a new role. But how did the coffee psychic know that?

“I use the coffee like it’s a crystal ball,” she tells him.

Every Tuesday, Jorianne does coffee readings at Caffe Classico on Madison at LaSalle. She doesn’t read the coffee grounds; she reads the actual coffee–the steam that rises from it, the film that slides across it, and the images that appear as she drips the half-and-half into it.

That’s the important part–the half-and-half. Someone has put skim milk in front of her. A big mistake. She can’t use it. “I need to be able to see the images,” she explains. A container of half-and-half is quickly found. “I get some of the weirdest stuff in here,” she says, looking into someone’s cup. “Who’s incontinent around you? Have you ever been struck by lightning? Who do you know who’s having brain surgery?” She tells one person her children will pet an alligator.

“Is anyone around you pregnant?” she asks Silvia. “I see sperm on top of the coffee.”

Her sessions, which last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, are part foretelling and part advice. “You must visualize what you want and go for it,” she says. “Listen to what your body is telling you. Whatever you send out will come back to you, so make it positive.”

Jorianne doesn’t like to tell too much about her private life. She was raised Catholic, a religion that frowns on psychics, but Jorianne says she thinks her readings complement the spirituality of the church. “We’re all spirits, after all,” she says.

Actually, Jorianne isn’t her real name. That she reserves for PTA meetings and other mundane matters. She was born and raised on the south side of Chicago in a house she says was haunted. Divorced and the mother of three daughters, she now lives just over the border in Schererville, Indiana.

Just how does one become a coffee psychic? “Well, I used to drink about 30 cups of coffee a day,” she says, and suddenly you notice that she does talk a little faster than the people around her. Must take a long time for that much caffeine to get out of the system.

After seeing a Latino woman do a reading with coffee, Jorianne decided it was time to put her addiction to work. The woman gave her one lesson in reading the swirls, steam, and film inside the cup. Jorianne was hooked.

“I started reading my own coffee every day until I was confident enough to do readings for other people,” she says. Now it’s her full-time business.

“I really believe that we all have an inner voice that we can learn to listen to,” Jorianne says. “We need to learn to hear the messages that are coming to us.”

Jorianne will be doing her coffee readings this weekend as part of the 13th annual Belmont Avenue Street Fair. She’ll be at a booth at Belmont and Wilton from noon to 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday. A five-minute reading costs $10; half the proceeds will go to benefit Children’s Memorial Hospital.

For more information on the fair, call 773-868-3010. –Vicki Quade

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Nathan Mandell.