Monday, April 1, 2019
Famous Puerh In the West: 2003 HK Henry “Conscientious Prescription”
Reason For Fame: This puerh was the first well documented instance in English of a young puerh that was initially very impalpable and undrinkable aging into something very enjoyable. The details can be found in this blog post by Hobbes on the famous Half-Dipper here and here.
There are many different transliterations of the name of this cake out there but they are all referring to the same cake. Here are some alternative names with the links to articles which used them:
2003 HK Henry “Conscientious Prescription”
2003 Hong Kong Henry “Conscientious Prescription” 7542
2003 Menghai Hong Kong Henry 7542 (“Scholarly Tea”)
2003 Henry Trading Co.HK Ltd."Seriously Formula" Ching Beeng 7542
2003 HK Henry Specially Ordered 7542 Menghai
As mentioned in the Half-Dipper post, this tea was for sale at Hou De Asian Arts in 2007 for $78.00 for 357g cake or $0.22/g. Back then this tea was really expensive, and probably a bit overpriced for its age at that time. Remarkably this cake now sells for around $130.00 and can be found with varying storage options and from various vendors.
Teas We Like feature a dry Taiwanese Stored version of this cake for $130. The Essence of Tea offers a Hong Kong then Malaysian stored more humid version also now priced at $130 which is currently sold out but may possibly be re-stocked. I have also heard that it is sometimes available from the Taiwanese Facebook puerh auctions. The options on this cake are many mainly because I think this puerh is actually more famous in Western puerh circles than it is in Asia because of the above reason for fame.
The lesson it taught me was this: if a puerh initially has a “Burning Acid in Throat” taste and throatfeel this quality will likely turn into an enjoyable “Stronger throatfeel with Sour aftertaste” with some moderate to heavier humid storage behind it. Last year I read some similar tasting notes on a different puerh and I bought a bunch of this up and is it ever tasty (I need to post about this one other one soon I think).
Anyways, as you readers may or may not remember this very tea sold out on me before it was quietly restocked by Essence of Tea before Black Friday. I think the re-stocked price was even cheaper than the price they originally marked it at (or maybe the exchange is just more favorable now). Either way, good for me. It was included in my order which also included this, this, and this- all nice teas by my estimation.
Ok, redemption time… let’s see what Hong Kong/ Maylasian stored HK Henry is all about.
Dry leaves are greyish typical of heavier humid/ Hong Kong storage and smell of old library but more sweet and grainy.
The first infusion starts with a slightly sour smooth woody onset which catches me off guard at first. Its tea body is slight watery here and a mild cooling camphours aftertaste with mild creamy sweet base. It tastes more light and deep and almost fruity.
The second infusion has a sour almost dried and candied grapefruit taste, if you can imagine it. It has a smooth pine tree base taste and a faint creamy sweetness underneath. The pungent camphor is cooling in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is a bit gripping at the throat.
The third is smoother and more cohesive. It starts with some sour notes over an increasingly woody pine aged leaves base taste. There is that grapefruit sourness thoughout. The tea liquor is light and spacious. The mouthfeel is slightly drying, slightly coarse on the tongue and gripping in the throat. Menthol on breath. Long dried grapefruit aftertaste of slight sour\ bitter. The Qi is slight heavy in the head and behind the eyes.
The fourth infusion delivers a smooth slightly sour onset with an aged grapefruit like taste with pine woods and old leaves taste. The sourness apparent in this puerh gives this medium humid stored and aged puerh a fresh zesty feeling which makes it unique.
The fifth infusion starts more creamy sweet wood along sour grapefruit. The pine taste is stronger on the breath than body and the cooling camphor taste is there too. There is a mineral stone like taste in the infusion also. The liquor and body is light and almost dry but mildly gripping. The Qi starts to feel mildly dizzying.
The sixth infusion is almost bean tasting along with less sour in the initial taste. There are still wood notes under there as well as grapefruit. This infusion is become less sour and drier wood overall. The cooling camphor aftertaste brings the most fruity grapefruit tastes out long in the aftertaste.
The seventh infusion is watering out a bit. The viscosity of the liquor is not the strength of this tea. There is an interesting incense note, pine wood, camphor. The fruity grapefruit is very faint in the aftertaste only now. The throat feel has a mild gripping sensation.
The eighth starts woody, incense, pine wood, long mild apricot and grapefruit taste under camphor wood. The ninth is much the same. The profile of this puerh is relatively simple but pretty delicious.
The tenth I add 10 seconds to the flash infusion it results in more woody tastes being pushes out. The mouthfeeeling and throatfeeling are more watery then gripping here but there is a little of that. This tea develops kind of a smoothness here. The aftertaste is mildly fruity.
11th I add 20 seconds to the flash and get aged but nicely refreshing pine woods, and dried apricots with not as sour tastes now but a little in the aftertaste. Although this tea is not overly complex, it is interesting enough, clean, feels nice in the body and makes me feel light.
12th I add 30 seconds to the flash and it really is much the same with a slightly more gripping mouthfeeling. The long fruity taste is nice here. The tastes are really clean in here.
13th infusion is about at 60 seconds past flash and delivers more fermented autumn leaves, woods up front with some bitterness. There is that same camphor and slight fruit in there.
The 14th is another long infusion pushing out mainly woods and autumn leaves, there is some barely fruity sweet under some bitter and some sour. A fresh clean menthol remains.
I long steep this one a handful more times. I get some nice but not overpowering woody tastes with menthol and dried sour fruit.
Overall, this tea is really clean and pure, it has an interesting and unique sour fruit and pine wood profile and simulating mild gripping throatfeeling and solid menthol aftertaste. However, its liquor is on the thinner side even with the teapot stuffed with leaves and its change from infusion to infusion is slight. I enjoy this one for the smooth and easy drinking for sure. I can only imagine that this more humidly stored version was probably closer to being stored in a way that this cake was originally intended when Hong Kong Henry Co. Commissioned it.
I think I would have been pretty content with more of these but I don’t think I will seek out more…
…Maybe just a cake of the Taiwanese dry storage just for some fun comparison...
Edit May 16, 2019: When I initially sampled my cake and made the notes above I hadn’t opened it from the sealed bag the cake arrived in until just before sampling. After making the above notes I just added a touch of humidity from the steam of the kettle into the bag then sealed it up again. I tried this puerh about 5 weeks later and the sour taste was completely gone. The other tastes that interacted with the sour kind of transformed as well. For instance, the pine note was much less in the second tasting.
Overall, this second tasting was very warming, more roasty earthy, and deeper tasting. With the loss of the sour/ grapefruit note the flavours, it felt much more harmonious however it seemed much less interesting and complex. Overall, the qi felt more warming and the session was much more comforting. Personally, I really liked the sour in there and wonder if shrink wrapped storage would have preserved some of it. Perhaps it was just a fermentation note working its way out from the sealed bag (it wasn’t “aired out”. Or maybe it was my addition of extra humidity after a period of drier storage. Either way this bing cha transformed more in just a few weeks than many of my cakes do over a period of years.