Sorry folks...my wife and I have too many hobbies. Been neglecting my Wormwood Society forum crawling
But yes...Tea! A wonderful obsession to have.
It sounds like you enjoy the personalization of blending pipe tobacco, but really good tea is rarely blended. My favorite that we do actually make at home is Chai: Golden tip assam, cardamom pods, whole cloves, allspice, and rose petals. Brew in a water and milk blend and sweeten with honey. Yum.
There are so many ways to prepare very good tea...kinda depends what you're going for. Once you really get into it and start tasting the good stuff from China or Taiwan (that's not to say there isn't great tea elsewhere), I definitely think that preparing it in a gaiwan or Yixing clay pot is the way to go. The pots do eventually develop flavor characteristics of the tea you're brewing, though, so it's a good idea to have a few pots for different types of tea. For everything else though...I've found that a French coffee press is the absolute best tool. Easy to clean, and the leaves have a chance to open up.
Also might want to seek out a nice chinese or Taiwanese tea shop. Most have dozens of varieties of excellent teas lining the walls, so you might be able to find something that matches your tastes. But if you like pipes, I'm willing to bet that you'll love Lapsang Souchong, Gunpowder, and/or Pu-erh (aged, pressed tea cakes). I know Gwydion loved the latter. Great stuff, bad for your budget :(
At home, we usually drink our good tea "gongfu" style. Here's a decent video:
Very basic steps:
Put some tea in your pot or gaiwan
Pour hot water over the leaves and quickly pour off the water into the pitcher (this is to rinse the leaves)
Pour the "rinse water" to the cups to warm them up, then discard the water
Brew the tea to your personal preference. Most teas don't need more than 30 seconds, honestly, especially the jasmine pearls mentioned above. It's great to have the taller cups in the video above, too. They're specifically for smelling the tea, and you drink out of the shallow ones after flipping it.
Re-brew the leaves multiple times. Really good oolong from Li Shan or Ali Shan can be brewed up to 10-12 times, and the flavor keeps evolving.
(me making Ali Shan Oolong the other night)
As for blending your own herbal teas, they aren't really tea, but they can still be very tasty. Here's a decent list of ingredients that you might use along with some descriptions:
And here's a great place to buy them:
Experiment and have fun! My wife actually has a bit of a cold right now, so I made her a nice blend of chamomile, lavender, a lemon wedge, and a spoon of local honey. Wonderfully soothing for sore throats, and delicious to boot.
I could write a book, but for the sake of brevity, I'm going to stop myself here.
Maybe I should bring my tea setup to the event on the 12th?