Panda

The world’s most expensive tea may also be the strangest. Reuters reports that an entrepreneur from southwest China is developing a $200 cup of organic green tea that uses endangered giant panda excrement as its main source of fertilizer.

An Yanshi is using organic fertilizer collected form a group of local pandas to foster his  ”Panda Tea” vision of decreasing waste and bringing awareness to environmental and health issues, such as the negative impact of using chemical fertilizers instead of dung in agriculture. Yanshi told Reuters, “I just want to convey to the people of the world the message of turning waste into something useful, and the culture of recycling and using organic fertilizers.”

Because the fertilizer comes primarily from nutrient-rich wild bamboo—the main food of the panda—Yanshi insists that the tea is higher in health benefits than other green teas. Pandas do not absorb most of the nutritional benefits from the bamboo, which is passed through their excrement and bioavailable to the tea plants, according to Yanshi.

Yanshi says the price will drop eventually, but the first batches will sell at roughly $3,500 for a 50 gram batch. A cup of tea typically uses about 3 grams. Additionally, a portion of profits from the tea sales will go to support environmental causes.

With the outrageous price considered little more than a gimmick, Yanshi’s critics have also questioned the tea’s health benefits and quality. But, China’s love for its giant pandas may overshadow the criticism and prove ideal for Yanshi’s cause. With ongoing questions about the integrity of the country’s organic standards and farming practices that have led to export restrictions in countries including the U.S., the importance of developing consistent quality standards may be a message the country is finally ready to embrace—even if it has to come from a panda.

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Image: lrargerich