By Benjamin Cost
How do you convince someone to not only drink poo, but pay loads for the privilege? A 41-year-old former calligraphy teacher, An Yanshi, appears to have the answer: make sure it’s panda poop. This professor-turned-businessman has purchased 11 tons of panda manure from Sichuan Province’s panda breeding center and is using it to fertilize a new luxury crop of tea leaves in that same region. The price for the first line of pan-doo brew, slated for the shelves this spring, is estimated at around 215,000RMB per pound – approximately ten times as expensive as the white truffle, the priciest edible on earth.
However, the tea is allegedly more than just another gimmick to reap the cash flow forever tied to anything panda-related. An claims that fertilizing the tea with pan-dung imbues it with unique nutritional and anti-oxidant properties:
‘Pandas have a very poor digestive system and only absorb about 30 per cent of everything they eat.
‘That means their excrement is rich in fibres and nutrients.
‘Just like green tea, bamboo contains an element that can prevent cancer.’
On top of that, An regards the panda-poo-grown tea as a crucial part of promoting environmental conservation. He hopes people will recognize panda manure as an invaluable fertilizer, and therefore drop chemical fertilizers in favor of more eco-conscious animal excrement.
Not surprisingly, many feel that An is full of “panda” crap, stating that the “health and conservation” arguments are merely a cover for its lofty cost. The fact that the former professor is reportedly gunning for a guinness world record for “most expensive tea” seems to confirm their case.
This isn’t the first time someone has sold a feces-“seasoned” foodstuff for a steep price. In Southeast Asia, coffee brewed from beans that pass through the intestinal tract of a civet fetches hundreds of dollars per pound and has become somewhat of a hot commodity in the US and Japan. As with the panda-poop tea, we wonder if there are any actual special culinary/nutritional perks to sipping on such a beverage, especially perks worth that kind of expenditure. Or are people just shelling out oodles of cash so they can brag that they drank the excrement of a WWF endangered species.
Undaunted by naysayers, An is confident that his panda-poop tea will rally hordes of affluent nature nuts to his cause. But in this testy global economy, we remain doubtful of how many people are willing to throw maos at what might amount to an overpriced “load of crap,” panda or not (unless of course it turns into gold).