Tea has no rules, but others may try to tell you otherwise.
There are thousands of years of tradition and history behind these leaves. So what? Each and every tradition can and should be questioned–at least until your understanding of them is more complete. Then you can judge for yourself whether any tradition is worth upholding.
Tea is not the end, it is the means. It’s an ingredient of the human experience that is drinking tea (don’t forget caffeine is psychoactive so, yes, you are altering your mind when you consume it). If anyone says “you’re doing it wrong”, ask them why they think so. If their reply is something along the lines of “because this is how it’s always been done”, then you know they are close-minded and not worth paying attention to.
There are commonly accepted norms developed over time, and generally they point the tea drinker in the right direction. Follow them and adopt them–if they work for you. If not, discard them and seek or build new norms. Part of growing as a tea drinker is expanding your experience with tea by drinking a lot of it over time, then forming ideas and theories about tea based on those experiences.
Try explaining a tea “rule” to a five year-old. Be prepared to answer a series of “why” questions in response. Be comfortable if you can’t answer them all. Be alarmed if that fact injures your pride or identity. Let it go and learn something new. Ego is the enemy, and sometimes children are the wisest of us all.
Keep your theories up to date. Defend them when challenged, but do not cling to them. Update your theories when they become outdated or replaced by new learnings and information.
“Strong opinions loosely held” should be your catchphrase as a tea devotee. In my opinion, it should also be your catchphrase as a human being.
Since tea has no rules, the best cup of tea is the one you enjoy.
So get out there and enjoy your tea.
(Photo credit: biphop on Flickr)