I'm by far from a tea expert, but just to put my two cents worth in on some of your questions:
Aleksei wrote:1. ... the Matcha can that Teavana sells says it is Imperial grade and I was not able to find anything on grades of matcha anywhere. So, is their Matcha the best, Or are there better Matchas than this one?.
I'm reasonably sure that 'imperial grade' matcha is just a made up marketing term by Teavana. I've never run across it before in any of my shopping/reading about Japanese teas. If you want the absolute highest quality matcha you can get (and are willing to pay the premium for it), I would look for matcha that has won awards in Japan, and/or is sold for tea ceremony use. That seems to be the highest quality, as a general rule. But like all tea, one vendor or one grower will not always have the absolute 'best' tea--it really varies from year to year and crop to crop. Not to mention your own personal tastes!
Aleksei wrote:2.Teavana claims to get the top 5% of each tea crop, but I haven't been able to verify this, and if it is true, then does that mean that competitors will have a lower quality of the same kind of tea every time?
The only way I could see this being even close to true is if they meant the top 5% of big production-farm tea--and even then I would have doubts. Generally speaking, really high quality tea tends to be sourced from smaller farmers with smaller yields, not the huge plantation tea farms that Lipton/Bigelow/etc. use. And given that a lot of competitions/high grade tea rarely makes it out of their country of origin ... I would definitely be skeptical about this claim. If anything, in my (albeit limited) experience smaller, dedicated tea shops have *better* tea than Teavana--esp if you're lucky enough to find one where they make buying trips to China/Taiwan/Japan to taste/pick out their tea personally.
Aleksei wrote:3. I really like silver needle, Silver Yin Zen pearls, Huangshan Mao Feng, Earl Grey white, Black dragon pearl, Golden Jade, Dragonwell, Jasmine green pearls, jasmine Oolong, Thousand mountain Jasmine black tea, Six summits oolong, zingiber ginger coconut Roobios, My morning Mate, Dokudami Umami herbal, Phoenix Mountain Dang Cong that Teavana has ... instead, I would invite people to comment on the quality of the teas i mentioned in comparison to other vender's teas of the same kind; of course if they are available elsewhere.
All the teas you mentioned can be found elsewhere, though not necessarily under the same names. (And the blends, like ginger coconut Rooibus, may not be exactly the same.)
Honestly, the best way to develop your palate and learn the difference between teas, is to find a tea shop (or a well-stocked fellow tea lover!) who is willing to do tea tastings. That way you can sit down with three-four different oolongs, brewed by someone who knows what they're doing, and taste them side by side--then you can really start noticing the subtle differences, and learn what quality tea tastes like. Same applies for greens, white tea, Taiwanese, etc .... My local tea shop does this; I knew *nothing* about good/bad tea until I wandered in there and found myself tasting one tea after another!
Aleksei wrote:4. Also, tetsubin or yixing or Tokoname?
Given your current status as a poor college student, I would go with 'cheap'.
I don't own a tetsubin, but everything I've read on this board seems to indicate that they're a) way overpriced at Teavana and b) not really suited to brewing anything other than maybe black tea, because they stay too hot. You don't want to stew your green or oolong tea--that's a surefire way to make good tea taste horrible.
Yixing and tokoname both have their strengths, but unless you're willing to dedicate certain ware for certain teas, I'd really recommend an all-purpose porcelain pot or gaiwan instead. (I guess I'd make a horrible Teavana salesperson!)
Aleksei wrote:5. what about actually using Celadon for tea, is it just like porcelain in terms of function?
To the best of my knowledge, celadon ware doesn't affect the taste of your tea--it's a non-porous glaze. It just looks pretty. (which is probably why I am constantly tempted to buy more...
Aleksei wrote:6. The steeping instructions differ for the same type of tea, for example Gyokuro, at teavana than on other websites, which is the best? I currently use 175 degrees for 30-45 sec.
It's been my experience that most commercial tea vendor instructions have you brewing tea way too long. Of course, I think they're also assuming you're brewing western-style--a small amount of tea in a really big pot. But if you're only brewing a cup or two at a time, or doing gongfu/semi-gongfu style, the best rule of thumb I've heard is to brew for only 10 sec per 4 oz of water. And after that--research and experiment! There are lots of great threads here about brewing temps, etc for different teas ... it really is an art.
Aleksei wrote:7. Whats the best white teas? what about the blooming teas that have flowers in them? there are four available at Teavana, are there better ones in terms of quality out there, and if so, where are the best ones?
Don't know much about white teas, except that it's hard to go wrong with most silver needle. For blooming teas--again, my opinion, but it seems like blooming teas focus more on appearance over taste. For instance, I've never found a jasmine green blooming tea that was higher quality than a top-notch regular jasmine green tea. Again, though, I think this all depends on experimentation and your personal tastes. Which is probably a good rule for almost everything I've said here.