Sweet and savory Chinese Tea Eggs take regular hard boiled eggs up a notch in flavor and appearance. These beautiful marbled tea eggs are made by soaking in tea and aromatic spices. A traditional recipe for Chinese New Year!
Chinese Tea Eggs are hardboiled then the shells are gently cracked with a spoon to allow a soaking liquid of black tea and spices to seep inside and color the eggs where they are cracked.
When eaten the eggs have a gentle flavor of the soaking liquid of black tea, star anise, cinnamon, and in this version Szechuan peppercorns, Chinese Five Spice, brown sugar and dried orange peel.
The eggs symbolize fertility and wealth and will be found at Chinese New Year banquets.
This authentic recipe was given to my Grandmother when she lived in San Francisco and would spend time with friends in Chinatown playing mahjong. It’s a traditional method that requires some time but the end result is beautiful and delicious.
These eggs are also referred to as marble eggs due to the marble-like pattern from the cracks. This same technique is used to make marble eggs for Easter using a colorful steeping liquid for unique Easter eggs. Once the peel is removed from the marble egg, the tiny cracks of brilliant colors are revealed!
What is the origin of tea eggs?
Though called Chinese tea eggs, versions of the savory snack can be found in different countries in southeast Asia and in Chinese communities internationally. This popular snack is widely available in China from street vendors, convenience stores and at restaurants.
In Taiwan fruit flavored versions can be found using duck eggs. In Indonesia they are often made with shallot skins instead of loose tea. In the United States they can be found at some Asian grocery stores but also are easy to make at home.
No matter how they are made the magical experience of removing the shells to reveal the marbling on the cracked eggs white is the best thing in addition to their light spice flavor. The egg yolk may have a gray circle around it or take on a greenish tinge from the length of cooking time.
The eggs symbolize fertility and wealth and will be found at Chinese New Year banquets. This Chinese tea eggs recipe is simple to make and enchanting to behold once done.
Recipe Ingredient Notes
A variety of spices and black tea leaves combine to make the soaking liquid.
Black tea. You’ll need loose tea, not tea in bags (but you can cut the bags and use the tea inside).
Star anise. This star-shaped spice can be found with other spices in the grocery store. You’ll just need two broken into pieces.
Cinnamon stick. One 3-inch cinnamon stick will be used.
Brown sugar. One teaspoon.
Soy sauce or tamari. Either soy sauce or gluten-free tamari can be used.
Chinese Five Spice. If you don’t use this already this delicious spice blend of five aromatic spices you’ll love it. You can buy it or make your own. We love it in our whole duck recipe.
Chinese Szechuan Peppercorns. Your use 1 teaspoon of cracked peppercorns. These can be found with other spices or online. Black peppercorns can be substituted if needed.
Dried orange peel. You’ll find this in the spices at the grocery store.
How to Make Chinese Tea Eggs – Step-by-Step
STEP 1. Hard boil the eggs
Place the eggs in a medium saucepan that allows room for all the eggs and at least enough water to have ½ inch of cold tap water over the top of the eggs. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the hot water (retain the water in the pan for the tea mixture) and place eggs in an ice bath (bowl of cold water and ice). Allow the eggs to fully cool. Note: cracking the eggs before they are cold may lead to the shell coming off.
STEP 2. Crack the shells
Using the back of a spoon, gently tap the shell all over causing cracks (as shown in the photo). The goal is to crack the shell all over but not dislodge the shell from the egg. Once cracked, set the eggs aside.
STEP 3. Simmer the eggs in tea mixture
Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan of water: black tea, star anise pieces, cinnamon stick, brown sugar, tamari sauce, Chinese five spice, sichuan peppercorns and orange peel.
Place the eggs into the saucepan and bring to a low boil; then lower heat to a low simmer.
Simmer the mixture for two hours watching to ensure the braising liquid level continues to cover the eggs.
Turn off heat and allow the eggs to soak in the tea mixture another 2-3 hours steeping time.
To deepen the coloration inside the egg further, place eggs and tea mixture in a covered container or glass jar in the refrigerator overnight.
After soaking, remove the egg shell to reveal the marbled eggs!
Frequently Asked Questions
They have a mix of savory and sweet spice flavors with a hint of tea. Because the cooked eggs are soaked in the shells with just enough cracks to create the dark-brown lines the eggs don’t have a stronger flavor.
How to Store
The prepared eggs can be stored for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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Marbled Chinese Tea Eggs
- 8 large eggs
- 3 ½ cups eater
- 2 tablespoons loose black tea
- 2 star anise broken into pieces
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoons soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- ½ teaspoon Chinese five spice
- 1 teaspoon Chinese Szechuan Peppercorns ,cracked (black peppercorns can be substituted)
- ½ teaspoon dried orange peel (spice)
- Place the eggs in a medium saucepan that allows room for all the eggs and at least ½ inch of water over the top of the eggs. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the hot water (retain the water in the pan for the tea mixture) and place eggs in a bowl of cold water. Allow the eggs to fully cool. Note: cracking the eggs before they are cold may lead to the shell coming off.
- Using the back of a small dining spoon, gently tap the shell all over causing cracks (as shown in the photo). The goal is to crack the shell all over but not dislodge the shell from the egg. Once cracked, set the eggs aside.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan of water: black tea, star anise pieces, cinnamon stick, brown sugar, tamari sauce, Chinese five spice, peppercorns and orange peel. Add the eggs to the saucepan and bring to a low boil; then lower heat to a low simmer.
- Simmer the mixture for two hours watching to ensure the water level continues to cover the eggs. Turn off heat and allow the eggs to soak in the tea mixture another 2-3 hours. To deepen the coloration inside the egg further, place eggs and tea mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight.
- After soaking, remove the egg shell to reveal the marbled eggs!
Originally published: February 19, 2015
I have never seen this before. This is awesome!
Sandhya Ramakrishnan says
These eggs look absolutely beautiful and I had to make them right away. It took me a while to take my eyes off the beautiful pattern on the eggs. What a brilliant idea it is to let the flavors seep in.
Aimee Mars says
You know, I’ve always wondered how to make these! They really would be a perfect snack and I bet my kids would love them too. I’m going to try these this week for school lunches.
Beautiful and delicious! We absolutely loved this recipe!
Beth Sachs says
I’ve always wondered how to make marbled eggs like this! I’ll definitely be giving this a try with my children!
Ursula @ LilVienna.com says
These eggs look stunning, even the egg shells!
Toni Dash says
Aren’t the shells great Ursula? I wish I could think of something to make with them!
Toni Dash says
Thank you Marye!
Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen says
These are beautiful Toni! They look like fine art!
Toni Dash says
Thank you Kristi! They are super easy to make and I agree they are like unwrapping a surprise package to see what awaits inside. I love the shells too!