A popular street snack in China and Taiwan that's easy (and super fun) to make at home. For a stronger flavor, let the eggs steep in the tea broth overnight in the fridge after you finish simmering them in step 4. You can also freeze the broth and reuse it. —Cynthia Chen McTernan
Test Kitchen Notes
Yes, you can make tea eggs at home, and this recipe shows you how easy it is to do so. Popular throughout Southeast Asia, you don't have to travel around the world to get a hold of these delicious treats. Featuring warming spices like star anise, cinnamon, and peppercorns, plus orange peel and sugar for an optional hit of sweetness, the eggs are infused with so much flavor. Just be warned that these eggs are never the soft, bright yellow yolk eggs you get from hard-boiling for just a few minutes. They often have that greenish tinge that I've learned some people aren't the biggest fans of—it's only natural because they cook for much longer. But there are a lot of color combinations you can experiment with, and this recipe easily doubles.
Cynthia Chen McTernan, who developed this recipe, went on to describe some more cooking tips and tricks and why she loves these tea eggs so much: "This dish reminds me of my mother’s cooking. I'm a sucker for anything savory and just a bit sweet. These eggs combine salty soy sauce and smoky tea with just a hint of sweet from the licorice-y anise, cinnamon, orange peel, and sugar. I also love the texture of eggs that have been hard-boiled for awhile—I know I'm in the minority on that one!
"There's something wonderful about making them for the first time and watching the shell fall off to reveal that fun, webbed pattern. Make plenty of cracks to let the flavor seep in and create a more intricate web." —The Editors
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
- Makes 6 eggs, but easily doubled
black tea leaves or 1 tea bag
2 to 3
orange, mandarin, or tangerine peels (fresh or dried)
small cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
star anise pods
cracked peppercorns or ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- Place the eggs in medium pot of cold water, enough that the eggs are covered by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Rinse the eggs with cold water. Working one at a time, gently tap each egg 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 just fill enough to barely cover the eggs, but for the sake of precision, it should be about 1½ to 2 cups water. Add the soy sauce, tea, orange peels, cinnamon, star anise, pepper, salt, and sugar, if using, give it a good stir.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer. The amount of time you simmer at this point will depend on how firm you like them. I like to simmer them for 2 to 3 hours if I have the time, uncovered, yielding a flavorful egg yolk and chewy, firm egg white. (Note that if you simmer uncovered, you’ll need to add a cup of water every 15 minutes or so, as the water depletes.) If you like softer eggs, simmer for just 40 to 45 minutes, with the pot covered.
- Steep the eggs in the tea broth overnight for a stronger flavor, or simply enjoy as is. (Note: If your one true love is soft-boiled eggs, you could theoretically simply skip step 4, heat the mixture until warm and the flavors have a chance to disburse, then let the soft-boiled eggs steep overnight in the liquid in the refrigerator. The flavor should still come through, and the eggs would be less cooked. If you try this, I would love to know your results!)