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Pinkies Up: Better Brewing Through Panda Poo

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 11, 2012

I wouldn’t care to drink the stuff.  But maybe this isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  We live in a bottom line world, and the business model would seem to require that giant pandas not go extinct.  Here’s the report from The (UK) Telegraph:

Chinese entrepreneur An Yanshi is convinced that he has found the key ingredient to produce the world’s most expensive tea–panda dung.

The former calligraphy teacher has purchased 11 tonnes of faeces from a panda breeding centre to fertilise a tea crop in the mountains of Sichuan province in southwestern China, home to the black and white bears.

An says he will harvest the first batch of tea leaves this spring and it will be the “world’s most expensive tea” at almost 220,000 yuan ($35,000) for 500 grams (18 ounces).

Chinese tea drinkers regard the first batch of tea to be harvested in the early spring as the best and successive batches, regarded as inferior, will sell for around 20,000 yuan.

The 41 year-old, who is so passionate about his new project he dressed in a panda suit for his interview with AFP, has been ridiculed by some in China for his extravagant claims of the potential health benefits of the tea.

But he insists he is deadly serious, saying he quit his job at Sichuan University to throw himself “heart and soul” into his company, Panda Tea, whose logo features a smiling panda wearing a bow tie and holding a steaming glass of green tea.

While An hopes to make money from the tea, which he has planted on just over a hectare (2.5 acres) of land, his main mission is to convince the world to protect the environment and replace chemical fertilisers with animal faeces – before it is too late.

“Panda dung is rich in nutrition … and should be much better than chemical fertilisers,” An said, as he sat at a traditional Chinese tea table drinking tea grown with cow manure.

“People should make a harmonious relationship with heaven, earth and the environment,” An said.

You can read the full article here.

You can also read about the scientific discovery of the panda in The Species Seekers.

And check out The Last Panda by George B. Schaller, where he goes a little batshit on first sighting of wild panda droppings:

“Two pale-green objects lay at the edge of the path, each spindle- shaped and about six inches long and two inches wide. Panda droppings! I knelt and cupped one in my hand. It consisted of undigested pieces of bamboo stem, all neatly aligned and held together with mucus; it smelled sweet, like freshly cut grass.  Carefully, I passed the  fragile treasure to Sir Peter [Scott], as all the others crowded near to discover the cause for our reverence. Sir Peter and I grinned at each other, tremendously pleased and oblivious to what our hosts might think about our delight in fondling feces.  Some days are marked for recollection.  ‘A grand day, isn’t it,” commented Sir Peter with British understatement.”

And on that note, I must go have a cup of tea.  Pinkies up!

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