Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs

A Chinese tea egg (cháyèdàn) is a traditional snack food commonly sold by street vendors or in markets throughout Chinese communities. It’s a hard-cooked egg steeped with tea leaves and traditional Chinese spices, which adds a savory, slightly salty tone to a normally neutral flavored source of protein. The shell cracking method is an important feature in this recipe that not only lends to a beautiful design, but allows the tea and spices to seep into the egg white. The tea used for making tea eggs is usually high in dark-brown tannins. Pu-erh is commonly used, but it can be substituted with any black tea leaf. Green tea is often considered too bitter, but may be worth trying if you’d like to explore the effects of the marbling pattern from an entire color palate of organic loose leaf teas from Arbor Teas.

I like the idea of imparting unique flavors directly to a hard-cooked egg, but I’m not one to eat such things directly out of hand. A quick poll of the egg eating habits of some friends, however, confirms that I seem to be in the minority. In any case, if you’re like me and prefer to incorporate hard-cooked eggs into other recipes here are a few suggestions to take tea-steeped eggs to the next level:

  • Sieved over roasted fresh asparagus or a salad of spring greens. Press the eggs through a strainer, or grate on the finest facet of a box grater to create mimosa flower-like bits.
  • Deviled with whole-grain mustard and cream fraiche to serve at you next picnic or barbeque
  • Mashed with olive oil and sea salt. Enjoy as creamy sandwich filling between slices of crusty bread
  • Stirred into a sauce gribiche, a vinaigrette bound with chopped hard-cooked egg, shallots, capers and herbs that makes a fine complement to roasted potatoes or grilled fish

Serves 6


  • 6 eggs
  • 2 TBS organic loose leaf Pu-erh
  • ¾ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 4 pieces star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 strips dried tangerine or mandarin orange peel (optional)


  1. Place the eggs in a medium-sized pot with enough cool water to cover by 1-inch. Bring the water to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cool water. Reserve the simmering water in the pot for use in the next step of the recipe.
  3. When cool enough to handle, take the back of a spoon and gently crack the eggs evenly all around the shell. Take care when cracking to leave the shell intact. This allows the dark steeping liquid to seep into the egg white, staining it with a marbled design. The more you crack, the more intricate the design will be.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot of simmering water, stirring to combine.
  5. Return the cracked eggs to the pot as well. Bring the liquid to boil again, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid.
  6. Let the eggs steep for a few hours to overnight. The longer the eggs steep, the more intense the flavor and color will be.
  7. Drain the eggs, peel and serve. Unpeeled eggs can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 days.

Recipe by Olivia May

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