3. Accessibility. Can I buy good Pu-Erh in Australia or do I need to order online? Hunting around the web has me a bit saddened as most vendors either don't ship to Australia or charge high shipping rates ($40?!). Yunnan Sourcing looks ok for shipping at about $20 but I'd want to be somewhat certain I'm not going to be disappointed.
What I ended up doing with Yunnan Sourcing was to get enough samples to make it worthwhile. I also waited a while before buying anything off of there and stuck to other sources.
Places like sampletea and finepuer are good places to buy samples of factory produced tea and shipping wasn't too bad, so that'd be a good place to start with samples. I also like Bana Tea Company -- they have a mini sampler of their teas -- their vintage sampler contains both raw and cooked, although I've never tried to get international shipping out of them before and I think you have to contact them...
4. Brewing. Brewing in a Yixing pot sounds like a lovely ritual but adds to the upfront cost and seems to be a learning curve. I don't have a gaiwan either. Purchasing more teaware is something I'd like to look at once I know if Pu-Erh is for me or not.
Gaiwan will be good for any other tea you drink, so there's no reason not to go for it.
I'd also love to hear about how you were introduced to Pu-Erh, mistakes you made, things you love, etc.
I think one thing I wish I did earlier was to sample more. I sampled a lot initially in the beginning, but slowed down considerably after finding a cake that I really liked (2005 Golden Unicorn from Bana), and stuck with that for months -- which I think was informative, But looking back I think I stuck with only that for far too long and it really affected how I thought of other puerh not really realizing that that cake was one example out of many, many, more. So I started being more adventurous. Maybe I'm overcompensating on sampling now though since I have stacks of samples to work through and working on obtaining more...