DIY Food

How to Make Street-Style Chinese Tea Eggs at Home

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Cynthia of Two Red Bowls is proving that you don't have to travel all the way to China to enjoy an authentic tea egg.

I went through a phase in school when I was obsessed with making tea eggs. The pungent aroma must have made me really popular with my roommates. You know how things like poaching pears can make your home smell magical, like a fall wonderland? Well, tea eggs make your room smell more like a wizened Chinese man’s apothecary.

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But there is something magical about the way these come about: the eggs are soft-boiled, then gently cracked all over and simmered in a flavorful broth of tea and soy sauce for hours until the black liquid seeps in along the cracks. The eggs end up with a rich flavor and an intricate, delicate spider-webbed pattern. 

More: The Lunar New Year has come and gone, but you can still make delicious mochi at home.  

Tea eggs are such a popular snack that they can be found everywhere in China and Taiwan, sitting in gigantic metal bowls or rice cookers in 7-Elevens, night markets, and along the streets. With the right ingredients, they’re perfectly easy -- and wonderfully fun -- to make at home.

Street-Style Chinese Tea Eggs

Makes 6 eggs, but easily doubled

6 eggs
3 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (1 tea bag) black tea leaves 
3 to 4 pieces star anise
1 small stick cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 strips dried orange, mandarin, or tangerine peel
1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns or 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Place eggs in a pot and cover with about an inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.

Rinse the eggs with cold water. One by one, take each egg and tap it gently with the blunt end of a knife or the back of a spoon until the entire surface is lightly cracked.

If small pieces flake off, don't worry, but do try to keep the shell intact over the egg.

Return the eggs to the pot and refill with water. I add just enough water to barely cover the eggs, but for the sake of precision, it should be about 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Add the rest of the ingredients -- soy sauce, salt, tea, star anise, cinnamon, orange peel, pepper, and sugar, if you're using it -- and give it a good stir.

Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 2 to 3 hours. If you like softer eggs, cover the pot as it simmers.

I like to simmer mine for 3 hours if I have the time, and I also like to keep the pot uncovered because I find it yields firmer eggs with better flavor. The water will evaporate fairly quickly, though, so you will need to add more as it simmers.

Be warned that these eggs never have the soft, bright yellow yolks you get from hard-boiling for just a few minutes. They often have that greenish tinge that I've learned some people abhor -- it's only natural because they cook for much longer.

For a stronger flavor, steep overnight after you finish simmering.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Cynthia of Two Red Bowls

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Magdalena R
    Magdalena R
  • Thomas V
    Thomas V
  • Maggie
  • Aneesa Hussein
    Aneesa Hussein
  • Jesse Mojica
    Jesse Mojica


Magdalena R. February 21, 2021
How long will these keep in the fridge after making ?
Thomas V. June 13, 2018
Does anyone know if the tea marinade can be saved and reused?
Maggie February 1, 2016
Do you eat them cold?
Aneesa H. June 15, 2014
Eggs are in the pot now. Less than 3 hours wait!
However, I'm not sure if this is right or not, but instead of Soy Sauce, I put in Sweet Soy Sauce. I also added Chinese 5 spice instead of peppercorns. Will see how it turns out! Thanks so much for this recipe! Can;t wait to taste mine! :)
Jesse M. March 20, 2014
Eggs simmering as we speak. I've been wanting to do these for a while - glad the recipe popped up today! Thanks for writing this out!
Mark J. March 19, 2014
Also (sorry for adding so many comments) are there any best practices when it comes to drying fruit peels? The dried orange peels: can you buy them dried? Or can you do them at home (and how)?
Cynthia C. March 19, 2014
I don't have any advice for drying orange peel because I don't do it myself -- but if you don't have any, you can just use fresh peel!
Mark J. March 19, 2014
Just wondering about the sugar. Why is it optional? How do the flavors differ between using it and not using it? Is there even a flavor difference? Is it optional strictly for "health" reasons, to keep it sugar free?
Cynthia C. March 19, 2014
Hi Mark! It's just optional because, like you guessed, the flavor difference isn't all that pronounced. I just have a preference for a touch of sweet in my savory foods! Not a big deal either way to include it or leave it out. :)
londonbakes March 19, 2014
I can't stop staring at these! They're so beautiful.
Emily S. March 19, 2014
I recognized these tea eggs as Cynthia's work as soon as I saw them on Facebook. Love her gorgeous (and tasty!) contributions. Keep 'em coming! :)
Gerianna March 19, 2014
Oh my, this makes me acknowledge that I have been hankering for these and just didn't realize it.
Can you use fresh instead of dried peel?
Cynthia C. March 19, 2014
You absolutely can! I'll edit the recipe to reflect :) (To be honest, I usually use fresh myself because I tend to have citrus around the house much more often than I do dried peel.)
JadeTree March 18, 2014
A friend of mine in grad school used to make these for us - how I miss them! Thanks for reminding me of this treat with a good recipe.
HalfPint March 18, 2014
I LOVE tea eggs and was so sad when the Taiwanese tea place, around the corner from the office, closed down. Looking forward to trying your recipe.