Opinion: Chinese delusions

POSTED: 11/15/11 4:30 AM

Sometimes we come across stories in serious newspapers that blow our mind. Nostalgically we think back to the days when people told each other stuff like: It was in the paper so it has to be true. We’re not about to undermine our own credibility as a newspaper: we are able to honestly testify – under oath if need be – that we read the following story in an actual newspaper yesterday.
“A Chinese professor is busy developing the probably most expensive tea in the world. The brew An Yanshi is working on is made on the basis of feces from panda’s. Our biology teacher in high school would tell slow students who were not familiar with the word feces the popular term most people use for it. As we all know, this words begins with an s and it ends with a t. These days even toddlers are well versed in this part of their vocabulary.
An Yanshi has collected five tons of the stuff so far, saying that he has discovered a niche market and that his tea will have a unique aroma. (We tend to believe this part of the story).
Yanshi says that pandas digest only 30 percent of their food and that their feces are therefore rich in fibers and nutrients. The tea will have a rich, nutty taste, Yanshi claims.
The newspaper ads helpfully that the most expensive coffee in the world is made of coffee beans that have been eaten and partially digested by the Indonesian Civet cat. A 500 gram pack of this Kopi Iuwak coffee costs about $155.
After reading this story we felt that there must be more to it. We tuned in to Chengdu News, an English language Chinese web site. There we learned that An Yanshi is not a professor but a college teacher in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province.
The report says that An Yanshi wants to grow green tea using panda feces as fertilizer. The man must be ambitious, because he intends to sell his tea for $69,000 per kilo.
Chengdu News wrote that Yanshi patented his idea with the Sichuan Copyright Bureau. That’s remarkable, because the teacher admitted to the web site that he has no idea how he could get his hands on enough panda feces or what effect it will have on the tea.
Excrement is better than chemical fertilizer, Yanshi says, adding that green tea has properties that might prevent cancer. Bamboo leaf, the staple food for pandas contains the same ingredient for combating cancer.
Here is the clincher: panda excrement is rare and therefore the price of Yanshi’s tea should be ten times higher than the price of ordinary teas. At $69,000 a kilo? Maybe Yanshi has to get himself a new calculator. We saw a kilo price for a Chinese green tea called, believe it or not, Special Gunpowder, of $12.42. The thought that Yanshi is suffering from Chinese delusions crossed our mind when we saw that price.
To add insult to injury, Tang Chunxiang, a senior engineer at the China Conservation and research center for Giant Pandas (the stuff they have in China …) is urinating on Yanshi’s parade with the remark that it is unclear what effect the panda’s poopoo may have on the tea.

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