Chinese New Year – Making Tea Eggs

I have memories of my mom making these eggs for me when I could barely peer over the stove. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see the hard-boiled eggs bubbling in the pot, because I could smell them. The aroma of anise, cinnamon, orange peel and black tea would waft through the house as the eggs simmered hour after hour. I’d be so excited when she turned off the heat, but I would have to continue to wait. And as you know, waiting is not a children’s game. The eggs had to steep in the tea overnight, so the dark caramel color could penetrate the egg’s cracks and create a beautiful marbled effect. This takes coloring eggs to another level—and without the food coloring. Bonus: they’re incredibly easy to make.

In the morning, I would be the first one down the stairs because I wanted dibs on the eggs.  I’d examine all the tea-stained shells and find the one with the most cracks—but small, fine cracks, without large pieces of shell broken off. Those were usually the most beautiful inside. Then, I would carefully peel off the shell to reveal the art beneath. Egg after egg after egg, the anticipation never wore off. My brother and I would compare eggs, and like a typical boy he didn’t care that I had the prettier egg. But I did.

Now, I get to pass on the tradition to my kids. I watched this morning as S painstakingly removed the shell of her tea egg. Her excitement mounted with each fragment of shell that came off. She was so pleased with herself when she was finally done. After admiring the intricacy of the design, she gobbled it up and asked me, “Can I take one to school, so everyone else can see what tea eggs look like?” After C peeled his egg, he asked me repeatedly, “How’d you do that?”

I love that the kids love tea eggs, and not just because I have such fond memories of my mom making them. Eggs are high in choline, which is essential brain food for growing children. Plus, the high quality protein in the eggs keep them full longer, gives them more energy and makes them more alert. Sure beats a handful of crackers or Pirate Booty.

Note: These do taste different from regular hard-boiled eggs, but it’s subtle. However, the fragrance of all the spices is pretty strong. When you bring that egg to your lips, you’ll get a nice whiff of anise, cinnamon and tea.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Ingredients:

12 eggs

4 TB of black tea leaves (or 4 tea bags)

1/2 cup soy sauce (or tamari, if you’re gluten-free)

2 tsp salt

1 TB sugar

1 cinnamon stick

4 star of anise

1 tsp. Szechwan peppercorns (optional)

3 strips of dried mandarin orange peel (optional)

Directions:

Gently place the eggs in a medium pot and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs, but leave the water in the pot. Cool the eggs under running water. Using the back of a small spoon, or the surface of a hard counter, tap the eggshell to create cracks all over. You want to tap hard enough to make the cracks, but not so hard that pieces of shell start to fall off.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the eggs back into the pot and simmer on low for three hours. Turn off the heat, and let the eggs steep in the tea overnight. Peel, admire beauty and eat.

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8 Comments to “Chinese New Year – Making Tea Eggs”

  1. Oh what a wonderful way to bring tradition, family, and food together. Truly a great blog today. I cannot wait to try this one.

  2. Oh my goodness, they are edible works of art! Soooo pretty! Why aren’t we neighbors so I get to partake in all this culinary joy?

  3. Looks awesome! So do you let them steep overnight in the fridge? I thought hard-boiled eggs should be refrigerated after cooking.

    • Great question, Laurie. When I was growing up, my mom always let them sit on the burner overnight. Thankfully, no one ever got sick. But I’d recommend putting them in the fridge. Some tea-egg aficionados insist that you should let them steep for two days. Other folks eat them warm after the three hours of simmering. The longer it steeps, the more the flavors get infused into the egg and the deeper the color. Good luck!

  4. Hey Cal,
    Your dad linked me to your blog. Wow – everything looks so amazing and definitely brings back memories of my childhood as well. Yum – comfort food. My kids love tea eggs, too. They call them “spider web eggs” because of the pattern on them. Hope you are well – and your beautiful family, too! Love, Chenning

    • Thanks, Chenning. I just re-discovered your blog after your New Year letter, and have really been enjoying it. We can’t wait to meet Lily, and we’re long overdue for a phone call. Hugs to everyone!

  5. Sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to get home & try it with my kids. Thank you for sharing your childhood memories.

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