Tea eggs are simple things really – hard-boiled eggs, steeped in a marinade made with tea, soy sauce, and a variety of spices. The shells are intentionally cracked all over, allowing the marinade to seep in slowly and leaving an attractive network of dark lines on the egg white. The spice blend and tea choice varies quite a bit, but the general flavour profile is built around the classic Chinese five-spice mixture (anise, cassia, cloves, Sichuan peppercorn, and star anise).
- 12 large eggs
- 6 cups water (1500 ml)
- 2 cm ginger (~3/4 inch) sliced
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oolong tea (see note)
- 3 star anise pods
- 1 small piece cassia (~3 inches) or cinnamon
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 cloves
- 1.5 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 10 g rock sugar (or 2 tsp golden/light brown sugar)
- 1-2 pieces dried orange peel (optional)
- 2-4 black cardamom pods (optional)
Tea Sauce Reduction (Optional)
- 3/4 cup spiced tea marinade (190 ml) from above
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 15 g rock sugar (or 1 tbsp golden/light brown sugar)
- 2 tsp glutinous rice flour
- Combine water, spice mix, soy sauces, ginger in a large pot (basically everything but the eggs and the tea). Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Add tea leaves to the hot liquid, set aside, and allow to cool.
- Make and set aside an ice bath for the eggs. A large bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes will work.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then reduce heat to a very low simmer. Gingerly place the eggs in the pot (ensuring that they’re covered with water). Simmer for 8 minutes, then remove from heat and place in ice bath. See the note below about the doneness of the eggs, as you can make some adjustments based on personal tastes here.
- Take each egg in one hand and use the backside of a large spoon to crack the surface of the egg shell all over. Simply hold the spoon and gently whack the shell all over, rotating it in your hand in order to cover the shell. Note that if you’ve made the softer boiled eggs described in the steps above that you’ll need to take extra care not to hit or squeeze the eggs too hard, as they’ll break more easily than a truly hard-boiled egg.
- Add the cracked eggs to the liquid and marinate for at least 24 hours (or even longer for a particularly strong flavour – I personally like them after about 48 hours).
- (Optional Special Trick Step) Try this if you’re looking to get a bit more marinade flavour in the egg – including the yolk. After the eggs have been in the marinade for about 12 hours, take them out and GENTLY press down on them against a hard surface (e.g. a cutting board). The idea is to crush them enough to break open a bit of a fissure in the egg white itself, but not so hard that you ruin the egg. Err on the side of caution. Return the eggs to the marinade and let them sit for another 12-36 hours.
Tea Sauce Reduction (Optional)
Combine 3/4 cup marinade, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, and 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down so that the mixture is at a low simmer and reduce the sauce by about half. Whisk in the glutinous rice flour, remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Drizzle the sauce over eggs, or place in a small dish for dipping.
Egg Doneness – this recipe uses a Japanese-style cooking method that yields a medium-set yolk typical of the eggs served along with ramen. This isn’t the typical method of preparation used to tea eggs, but I personally think it yields a tastier boiled egg in general (plus it avoids that chalky, greenish-yellow yolk that you get in over-boiled eggs). If you prefer a more firmly set yolk, increase the cooking time by 2-3 minutes.
Oolong tea – Oolong tea is a wonderful semi-fermented tea that’s extremely popular in Taiwan. If you can’t find a good loose-leaf oolong tea, you can try using 3 tea bags, or substituting a mix of black and green tea. Alternately, you can substitute a black or a green tea of your choice. Some people quite like green or jasmine teas with these eggs, though I personally find that they don’t stand out against the powerful spices quite as much. To each their own, and feel free to experiment.