My changes have been less changing between certain kinds of tea and more a changing of how I appreciate tea.
I first started appreciating tea when I was studying Buddhism abroad in India. We had tea time built into our schedule, and I came to appreciate tea not as much for the flavor as much for the time and space made for it. And the best tasting tea was chai made by tailors - black tea, milk, and spices.
Coming back to the states, I decided that I wanted to continue to pursue drinking tea, though at the time I did not realize that it was not really the tea itself that I had enjoyed most. As it was close by, I went to Tao of Tea and got a mug-sized yixing tea pot (the internets said I had to have one!) and devoted it to tieguanyin. I had another mug sized pot to brew everything else in. I brewed Western style and was not looking for anything particular in my tea, and I rarely ‘just drank tea.’ Something else was often going on at the same time, so as long as the tea was pleasant, I was happy.
Then, I discovered from the internets that I was doing it all wrong
. I needed to buy some really good tea, and I had to brew it gongfu style, else I wouldn't know what I was missing. So I treated myself to an order of tea from teamasters, along with a gaiwan. I began ‘just drinking tea,’ and was aware of a lot more while drinking, but I still wanted the ideal brew to be rather pleasant – no bitterness, astringency, ect. In fact, I thought that I an “ideal” tea would have no bitterness or astringency whatsoever.
But then, the internets told me I was wrong again – tea was naturally bitter and astringent, and I should enjoy it as such. So I tried my first Puerh, and found that by simply changing my expectations to allow bitter and astringent flavors to be pleasant, that I enjoyed them very much. This realization in hand, I began to brew many of my teas (in particular reds) in a sort of chazhou style – tiny pot, stuffed with leaves, flash brews.
Around this time, I began practicing qigong, and I started to notice the energy in tea with a much higher state of awareness. I can remember one later session, where I got immersed in the qi of a tea, and after a long session could remember almost nothing about the flavor of the tea, other than the fact that it was at least generally pleasant.
I next began to tap more into my intuition. I had been visiting it already for a time, but it was always the slave of my rational mind, and I tried to turn that relationship on its head. The result was that I followed my intuition and brewed some teas that I had formerly brewed quite strong very weakly in comparison. To the surprise of my rational mind, the tea tasted quite good this way. As a result, many expectations began to fall away (it’s a continuous battle), and sessions began to morph from trying to produce a certain experience with a certain method, to wondering what experience a certain method might produce today.
So in the beginning, I didn’t care what my tea tasted like, in the middle, I cared, and now, I’m beginning not to care so much anymore.