The mountains of Sichuan Province in southwestern China will soon yield a new and different product: namely, the world’s most expensive tea.
This new tea has no secrets. Its main ingredient, panda poo, is the reason it is so costly, selling at £50,000 (more than US$77,000) per kilo.
Chinese entrepreneur Yanshi An left his job as a teacher of calligraphy at Sichuan University to pursue his dream of fertilizing his lucrative tea-crop.
Mr. An purchased from a panda-breeding center 11 tons of excrement, which will become the basis for his first batch of leaves, which he hopes to harvest this coming spring.
This is in keeping with an important tradition among Chinese tea drinkers concerning the first batch of tea harvested in early spring as the very best. This is a similar concept to “first-pressed olive oil” and other such Western food qualifications.
Successive batches will be considered inferior and sell for a lower price, at around 20,000 RMB (around US 3,000).
He got the idea for panda tea while attending a seminar last year, where he learned that pandas absorb less than 30% of the bamboo they consume, excreting the remaining 70%.
Panda Tea has a logo featuring a smiling panda wearing a bow tie and holding a steaming glass of green tea.
Yashi An is so passionate about panda tea that he dresses in a panda suit when extolling its virtues to the media.
But are his claims about the potential health benefits of panda poo tea real or exaggerated?
Health claims include that the green tea will help people lose weight and protect them from radiation.
It is true that bamboo, similar to green tea, contains a cancer preventative. Considering that about 70 percent of bamboo is left in the panda excrement, which would be used to fertilize the tea, the supposition is that the tea will provide cancer-preventative effects.
Although he expects to make a ton of money from his panda tea project, An claims that his main mission is to protect the environment and replace chemical fertilizers with natural ones from the animal world.
“Panda dung is rich in nutrients…and should be much better than chemical fertilizers. People should make a harmonious relationship between Tea heaven, earth and the environment. Everybody has an obligation to protect the environment,” said An.
Animal excrement has been used before to make poo-filled drinks. Kopi Luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee, made from the feces of the civet, a cat-like animal.
So is panda poo tea a fascinating new health-filled product or just a pile of, well, panda poo?
Time alone will tell.