(Photo provided to China Daily）
For the first time, Chinese astronauts can enjoy tea in space, where drinking is not an easy thing to do, considering the gravity-free situation.
During the month-long trip aboard the Shenzhou XI spaceship, which returned to earth this month, astronauts Jin Haipeng and Chen Dong revealed how they drink tea on a TV show. They used a specially made tea cup and a special Pu'er cream to drink tea while standing upside down.
The Pu'er tea cream they drink is produced in Yunnan province, which is known for its pu'er tea industry.
"Drinking water in space means the astronauts squeeze the water from a special bag. Drinking hot tea is harder," said Jiang Xiaowei, vice-chairman of the Yunnan space biotechnology association.
The difficult part of drinking tea in space is that there should not be anything left after the tea dissolves in water, Jiang said. Also, the solubility of the tea should be low since water in space can only be warmed to 60 degrees centigrade at most.
The tea cream the astronauts drank is produced by Kunming-based Gongrunxiang Tea Industry Corp. It was founded in 1993 by the Kunming branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Zhang Guanghui, president of Gongrunxiang, said that the company aims to produce a tea cream that's a safe, healthy and convenient tea product. Tea products are often reported to be polluted by pesticide residues and heavy metals.
"I never imagined that one day our tea cream would help astronauts to drink tea in space," Zhang said.
Zhang said that drinking tea in space can be seen as a turning point for the floundering Pu'er tea industry.
For a long time there's been little added value for tea products because it's an industry heavily dependent on individual tea planters.
"For us, astronauts' drinking tea in space means our biotechnology applied to the tea industry has had some achievements," Zhang said.
Wang Pinghua, deputy director of the agriculture department of Yunnan province, said that in the future, more tea producers will use technology to upgrade the tea industry.