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Forget Lipton or Starbucks. Pass the Panda poop

Monday - 11/14/2011, 12:43pm  ET

Panda.jpg
The excrement of this little tike will be worth it's weight in tea. (AP)

WASHINGTON -- Those who bandy about four-letter words could emphasize a product's high value with a phrase that begins with "That's the ----."

In the case of a certain expensive Chinese tea, this appraisal would be correct.

A new kind of tea leaf is made with Panda poop.

The rare leaf is the world's most expensive, according to online novelty store Neatorama.com.

It's a serious business for China's more than 1.3 billion citizens producing more than 850,000 metric tons of tea annually.

The morning wakeup brew is made by Sichuan University Professor An Yashi, who fertilizes the plants with the rare bear's droppings.

It costs $80,000 per kilogram, or almost $2,300 per ounce of tea; enough to make 10 cups.

"Pandas have a very poor digestive system and only absorb about 30 percent of everything they eat. That means their excrement is rich in fibres and nutrients," he told Chinese website Scol.com.cn., Neatorama says. The brew has a "mature, nutty taste" and "distinctive aroma," he says.

The elements in bamboo, presumably captured through the Panda's poop, also fight cancer, says the professor, similar to the benefits of green tea.

A cursory search of the Washington, D.C. area market proves this tea may be hard to find.

"We don't have the resources, or the market," says Michelle Brown, co-owner of Dupont Circle's Teasim tea house, after an initial pause.

"But it sounds very exciting."

Brown suspects the Panda bear's droppings are valuable due to its vegetarian diet. Poop from animals that eat meat doesn't make good fertilizer, she says.

The most expensive tea that shop sells is a Korean leaf for $60 for two ounces. The price of tea is determined by three factors, Brown says: the quality of the plants, oxidation, and the processing of the leaves themselves.

The highest demand for these kinds of teas is in Asia, she says.

Americans don't seem to need high-end teas as badly.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)