Tea egg

Tea egg
This article is about the Chinese egg-based snack. Tea egg is sometimes also used to refer to a Tea infuser.
Tea egg
A peeled tea egg shown with shell
Traditional Chinese 茶葉蛋
Simplified Chinese 茶叶蛋
Literal meaning tea leaf egg
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 茶葉卵

Tea egg is a typical Chinese savory snack commonly sold by street vendors or in night markets in most Chinese communities throughout the world.



Regular/traditional method

Fragrant and flavorful tea eggs are a traditional Chinese treat. The original recipe uses various spices, soy sauce, and black tea leaves. A commonly used spice for flavoring tea eggs is Chinese five-spice powder, which contains ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. Some recipes [1] do not use tea leaves, but they are still called "tea eggs". In the traditional method of preparation, eggs are boiled until they reach a hardened, cooked state. The boiled eggs are removed from the water, and the entire shell of each egg is gently cracked all around. Smaller cracks produce more marbling when the egg is peeled for eating. The extra water from the boiling should be allowed to seep out of the eggs on its own. After about ten minutes, the cracked eggs are ready to be put into the prepared spiced-tea liquid and simmered at medium heat. The simmering allows the spiced fluid to seep into the cracks and marinate the eggs inside their shells. After about 20 minutes, the eggs and the spiced-tea liquid should be transferred to a glass or ceramic container for further steeping in a refrigerator. For best results, the eggs should be allowed to steep for two days. The dark color of the spiced tea gives the egg a marbled effect when it is peeled to be eaten.

Quick method

Another method of making tea eggs is to boil the eggs until fully cooked inside, then remove the hard boiled eggs from their shells and let them steep in the spiced tea mixture at low heat for a little longer. The eggs and the mixture are removed from the heat and transferred to a glass or ceramic container for further steeping. This method requires a shorter steeping time than the traditional method. Also, the egg is less visually appealing without the marbled effect from the traditional crack shell method of preparation. The eggs can be eaten at anytime; however, the longer they are allowed to steep, the richer the flavor will be. The perfect spiced-tea egg should have a perfect balance between the egg's natural flavor and the spices. The cracking method is the formal feature in this traditional egg recipe. Tea eggs are traditionally eaten cold.

Appearance and flavor

A batch of tea eggs with shell still on soaking in a brew of spices and tea

In the end, when the peel comes off, the egg should have regions of light and dark brown, with mid-brownish tone along the cracks of the shell. The yolk should have a thin, greyish layer, with the core being the usual yellow. As for flavor, it depends on which tea (the type and strength) and the variety of spices used. Five-spice powder adds a savory, slightly salty tone to the white, and the tea should bring out the yolk's flavor.


Hong Kong

The tea used in making tea eggs is usually low in quality but high in dark-brown tannins. Green tea is considered too bitter for this recipe. In Hong Kong Pu-erh tea is most commonly used, but it can be substituted with any black tea leaf.


Tea eggs in a metal bowl over heat source. A common sight throughout China

In Northeast China and other parts of northern China as well as in major cities, tea eggs are a household treat. They are also sold in stores, restaurants, and from street vendors.


In Taiwan, tea eggs are a fixture of convenience stores. Through 7-Eleven chains alone, an average of 40 million tea eggs are sold per year.

Also some people would say that the tea eggs' flavor is very addictive. It tends to linger in one's mouth because of the star anise used in the preparation. This spice has also commonly been used in teas from other countries, where they also report a similar addictive quality. Tea eggs can be made with or without cracks, but will still have the same flavor, but a different appearance. The most traditional way to prepare them is simply to make cracks in the shells after they are finished hard boiling, but before one soaks or boils them in the brine made out of tea, sugar, soy sauce, star anise, and cinnamon. All of these ingredients can be modified depending on a person's preference. Soaking the eggs for longer will result in more flavor.

See also


  1. ^ 陳富春. (2004). “小楊桃系列-003. 茶葉蛋”. 楊桃文化. ISBN 978-986-7853-58-5

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