I snagged the list of questions from another post:
How long have you been drinking tea?
Well, when I was about 5 one of the neighbors gave me a glass of unsweetened iced tea, which I loved. I also spent the next hour running laps around the outside of her house.
When I was about 10, I was offered iced tea and happily accepted, remembering I'd liked it that one time years before. Sadly, it was sweetened. I hated it.
In high school I did a study abroad program in Ireland. Tea and potatoes at every meal. I took a liking to my host family's brew, and had a hard time finding something similar when I got home. The closest I found was loose leaf Twinings Irish Breakfast, which I brewed very strong. That habit lasted several years. It also stood my friends hair on end every time they were foolish enough to accept a cup -- these were people who mostly knew Lipton.
Then there was an enormous gap. A few years ago I had a decent green tea at an Asian restaurant, and decided I had to find some more of whatever it was I liked about that. With nothing to go on but "green tea", I stumbled upon my local teashop, Teasource, and went in and asked for help. They mainly have Chinese for green teas, so I started on those, and found several favorites. They have Tuesday tastings, where for a few dollars you get samples of five different teas. I went to enough of those that I wound up sampling about 120 different teas.
That helped a lot. I found my palate refines quickly to subtle differences in delicate teas, but the more bold, robust teas often overwhelm my palate. To be fair, the Tuesday tastings are often not under optimal conditions; a tea I didn't like in tasting I might try later by ordering a pot and basically performing a gong fu session, with very different results.
I abused their gyokuro, such as it is, for quite some time using my own bizarre brewing method. I quite like the sweet grassy flavor I got, but I don't doubt any gyokuro fan would think both the leaf and the method horrific. Months of this, however, made me finely attuned to subtle differences and shot my skills with Chinese greens and oolongs up sharply.
Somewhere around then I stumbled across TeaChat at about the time I was wanting to try matcha. I noticed that Chip seemed to be respected as an expert on Japanese greens, and I ran across a remark by him that O-Cha's Kaoru Organic is a good value for the quality received. So I place an O-Cha order for that and for their Kagoshima Sencha Sae Midori, after careful study of the sencha descriptions. I've been drinking both frequently ever since.
What was your first Tea?
That unsweetened iced black in early childhood.
What is your favorite Tea currently?
I have to pick only one? O-Cha's Sae Midori is my default morning tea, though I switch it up with other O-Cha offerings and a recent return to abusing Teasource's gyokuro for a while. I'm currently on a hunt for the perfect fukamushi pot, or at least the perfect O-Cha Sae Midori pot.
I have yet to try higher-end matcha, but I love the Kaoru Organic, which I refer to as 'liquid crack'. I tried a couple of cheaper ones, but they just didn't do it for me to the same level.
Teasource carries a single-estate black from Nepal called Himalayan Shila Black, which is utterly sublime combined with flaky pastry. These are the three I currently drink regularly.
What is your next purchase?
Oi. Shincha, probably, if I can sort out what to get. I want some asamushi. I recently got some Long Jin since it had been a while.
Where is your favorite spot to brew up?
I generally assemble everything for a session except the kettle on a tray. Where the tray and the marble slab the kettle sits on wind up depends on the moment. The morning session happens with the tray on my bed and the kettle on the table next to it, or out on my balcony. A gong fu session generally happens on an inherited coffee table that is the perfect height and layout for brewing while kneeling on the floor.