In many ways, it’s a story that combines everything that makes the Chinese media gush: pandas, tea, X-thousand years of culture, little children wearing cute costumes…
That’s the recipe behind what some are calling the most expensive tea ever created. Selling for an eye-popping 440,000 RMB per kilogram (about $32,000 per pound), the “Panda Tea” is the brainchild of artist/calligrapher-turned-amateur-botanist An Yanshi of Sichuan province. He’s been brewing this idea for a couple of years, and finally got it on shelves recently at a price he says will set a Guinness World Record for “most expensive tea leaves.”
So what role does the panda poop play? Professor An used it to fertilize plants whose leaves were eventually picked and dried for the tea. He set up operations around a panda refuge, allegedly pouring nearly 10 tons of panda-based fertilizer into the project.
The result, he claims, is a cancer-fighting tea made from a “national treasure.” An says that pandas eat leaves that contain cancer-fighting elements, and since the pandas themselves are unable to fully digest those leaves, the anti-cancer agents remain present in their droppings. Bury that poop near a bush, and leaves from said bush will naturally combat cancer… right?
Even the Chinese media aren’t biting. There’s a bit too much gooey cultural nonsense even for them. The creator even went through the trouble of photographing kids in panda hats picking the leaves, but what kind of publicity did this generate? The good people at Hualong Net titled their article, “Don’t make children sales props for ‘Panda Tea.’” Caixun has also written a takedown. Journalists who took a sniff of the fabled Panda Tea probably came away looking like this:
Matt Sheehan is a broadcast journalist in Beijing. You can reach him at email@example.com or @mattsheehan88.