Of all the things I have learned in my life so far, none I enjoy nearly as much as knowing nothing is more important that being able to have your own thoughts, and be willing to defend them, discuss them, and be open to change them. Now this knowledge has been wonderfully able to be applied to all aspects of life, including tea. Below I discuss a few of those such area's.
Understanding tea classifications, is a step everyone takes when they enter the tea world, and for those most part those are straight forward. (But I still have no clue what the heck Balhyocha is!) But often there are huge varieties of sub categories in even a single category of tea, the most easily recognizable of which are the steaming levels in Japanese tea. But there are times where from taste, examining leaves, and using any other knowledge you can gather about a tea, you can often argue one way or another about a certain tea.
In a similar vein to this I have three types of High Fired Tie Guan Yin currently on hand, I could brew all three of them side by side or one after another, and I bet even all novice tea drinkers can tell that they are completely different styles. Not really apparent what so ever from the looks of the dry leaves. But being able to attempt to describe what difference you are experiencing between the teas in terms of taste, and mouth feel, even when very new to tea is the first step in trying to be able to identify what you look for in that specific category of tea. For instance I have learned that I am incredibly fond of High Fire TGY that is slightly more oxidized before the roasting, and not roasted to nearly ash, but still quite roasted. Sadly this type seems to be rather hard to find in the world of Highfire TGY.
What original thought is not, is sitting down and reading many many things, and taking those things at face value no matter how reputable the source is. This is coming from a teacher, and its often the policy many of my teachers have also had. People that love thought and love knowledge, know memorized knowledge has little value, because being able to say its true because the textbook said its true while it might get a few points on a test, is nearly useless when eventually someone asks you to justify why it should be true.
To any students that happen to be reading this, this does not mean that you should question your teacher throughout the entire lesson, but rather absorb the lesson, and then go over your notes in detail and any part that is fuzzy, you should try and figure out why it is true. Usually if you approach the teacher during office hours, or during a time for questions we would love to explain it to you even more.