Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tea. Panda poo. Hot.

You may have heard about Luwak Coffee, the "most expensive brew on Earth," which is made from coffee beans that were pooped out by an Indonesian species of weasel called a luwak.  Supposedly the beans ferment in the luwak's digestive tract, and this gives the coffee a "distinctive aroma."  (I'll just bet it does.)  To experience this... um... delicacy, you have to be willing to pay $600 a pound.

Now a Chinese tea manufacturer is trying to top this by producing the most expensive tea on Earth.  Inspired by the hard-to-fathom success of Luwak Coffee, An Yanshi has created a tea for which he is charging £ 50,000 per kilo (about $36,000 a pound).

Made from panda poo.

I wish I was making this up, but if you don't believe me, here's the source

"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," An explained.  "It has a mature, nutty taste and a very distinctive aroma while it's brewing."

(I'll just bet it does.)

So, I'm sure that given the price, it will become a delicacy.  What is it with the word "delicacy," anyway?  The dictionary definition is that a delicacy is something "pleasing to eat that is a rarity or luxury."  My feeling is that this definition is incorrect; it should be, "something that you should only consume if it is because you stand to win a great deal of money from your buddies for swallowing it."  Examples include the durian fruit of Southeast Asia (which smells so disgusting that it is a crime to cut one open in a hotel room) and hakarl (Icelandic fermented shark meat, which informed sources tell me "has a pungent ammonia smell").

So if you're thinking of going all-out in the delicacy department, you could have some hakarl, follow it up with a bowl of durian, and wash it all down with panda-crap tea.  That would certainly be a "distinctive" meal!  Mmm-mmm!

Myself, I wonder if this will catch on.  $36,000 per pound seems a little steep to have the privilege of drinking stewed panda poop, and I'm not sure how many people out there are both (1) seriously rich, and (2) insane.  But you never know; I thought the same thing about the much-cheaper Luwak Coffee when it came on the market about ten years ago, and there it is, still selling like crazy.  It could be that there are even crazier people with even larger amounts of money who will be willing to buy An Yanshi's poolong tea.

If it does sell, I will find that to be a little discouraging, considering what good things could be done with $36,000.  You could buy a nice car, take a grand vacation, or even just pay down your mortgage -- and instead, there the money goes, for a pound of panda poop.  But to each his own, and a fool and his money are soon parted, and all that sort of stuff.

But for An Yanshi's sake, I hope some of it does sell, because five tons of panda poop is an awful lot to be stuck with.


  1. Look on it as an opportunity. Come up with something even more expensive and ridiculous so people can top their panda-poo drinking friends.

  2. It's sold 'ten pounds in a five-pound box', so I hear.
    Good point to ask what better could be done with the money. You addressed this on a personal basis, but I'm trying to grasp the implications for making a better world. If the 36K is discretionary cash for someone ('funny money') he has no concrete obligation to use it to found a day-care center for single panda-mothers, for example. And what if the income to the tea-seller does just that in his village? 'It's complicated." I guess

  3. I've just been hearing on MPR about how volatile the membership of the top 1% wealth group is. I'm starting to understand why...