I thought it might be interesting to list what I think are the best ways to improve the cup you drink, day in, day out, arranged in order of cost effectiveness
1) Skills — skills are free, unless you’re paying for lessons (which you shouldn’t). The thing that can most improve your tea in your cup everyday is how you make them, and that, unfortunately, only comes with lots of practice. Taking golf lessons with Tiger Woods won’t make you a better golfer, so similarly, taking tea lessons with some “tea master” won’t necessarily make your tea any better either. It’s all about practice, learning, investigation, understanding, and thinking. With enough time and effort, you can be your own tea master.
2) Water — how exactly you can improve your water depends on your circumstances and what teas you make, but in general, improvements to water is much cheaper than trying to improve the other things. As the only other ingredient in tea (aside from the leaves of course), it makes a huge difference in what comes out from the other end of your pot
3) Tea — yes, the leaves. I think this part is pretty obvious. Remember — good tea is rarely cheap, but cheap tea can be good, and most importantly, expensive teas are not guaranteed to be good at all.
4) Wares — kettles, pots, pans, dishes, cups, whatever. This is by far the least cost effective way to improve your cup. The benefits (if any) they offer are usually marginal, and not that obvious if you’re newer to tea. It also clouds other things and can mask problems in your brewing technique, etc, and so it’s better to get the basics down before trying to upgrade the wares. They are also expensive and unpredictable. To continue the golf analogy – using the best clubs won’t make you a good player. It can help a good player, but if you’re not good enough to use that help, it’s just wasted money