Traditional Chinese Tea Eggs Recipe at Home

One of my favorite breakfast items as a child was homemade tea eggs made by my grandmother.  She would always advocate its health benefits alongside its incredible fragrance and flavor.  When she made tea eggs for the household, the entire home would fill with the aroma of herbs and spices making my mouth water.  Recently, I had a long conversation with her over the phone and it reminded me of how much I missed her making this easy and delicious treat for us so I decided to make an attempt at home.

Tea eggs originated in China with history dating back to 1792.  In the way of Eating documented by Qing Dynasty scholar Yuan Mei.  This flavorful dish was a way for people to utilize their leftover tea.  The original recipe only contained salt and tea leaves, however today it has become a delicacy that is enjoyed by many as a nutritious snack or breakfast treat.

The steps to prepare this dish is simple but the flavors are complex.  Simmernig eggs in mixture of tea, spices, soy sauce and aromatics help the egg absorb the essence of the tea and spices.  In the end the eggs take on a marbled pattern on the surface and give a rich, umami taste.

  • 6 eggs
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons loose black tea leaves (such as Lapsang Souchong or Pu-erh)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
  • 1 small piece of ginger, sliced
  • Optional: 1 dried chili for heat
  1. Boil the Eggs: Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and let the eggs simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Cool and Crack the Eggs: Remove the eggs from the pot and transfer them to a bowl of ice water.  Let them cool for a few minutes, then gently tap each egg with the back of a spoon to crack the shell all over.  Be careful not to peel the eggs completely.
  3. Prepare the Braising Liquid: In another pot, combine 4 cups of water, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, loose black tea leaves, star anise, cinnamon stick, sugar, salt, garlic, ginger, and dried chili (if using).  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  4. Braise the Eggs: Carefully place the cracked eggs into the pot with the braising liquid.  Make sure they are fully submerged.  If needed, add more water to cover the eggs.  Simmer the eggs over low heat for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally to ensure even coloring.
  5. Marinate Overnight: Once the eggs are done simmering, turn off the heat and let them cool in the liquid.  Once cooled, transfer the pot to the refrigerator and let the eggs marinate overnight for the best flavor.
  6. Serve: carefully peel the eggs and slice them in half lengthwise.  Arrange them on a plate and drizzle with some of the braising liquid for extra flavor.  Enjoy these delicious Chinese tea eggs as a snack, breakfast or appetizer for guests.