This was heard in a morning radio show (WDVE) interview with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner, Art Rooney II. Mr. Rooney was talking about the wide receiver, Antonio Brown, and what will happen to him in the future. This is a nice conflation of “reading the tea leaves” (predicting on little bits of information) and “reading between the lines” (perceiving an obscure or unexpressed meaning). Both idioms pertain to perceiving or predicting, and both contain the word “reading”. “Lines” and “leaves” are also similar sounding words. This is similar to my prior posted malaphor, “read between the tea leaves” :
A shout out to Mike Ameel for hearing this one and sending it in.