I don’t really celebrate Easter. I’m Chinese and not religious, but when you start seeing bunnies and peeps everywhere, you get sick of pink and yellow, and suddenly crave eggs. Right? Well, good thing I now have a batch of tea eggs in the fridge, ready for me to snack on any time. It’s actually so common to find in any Chinese household, but every family has their own way of making tea eggs, probably passed down for generations.

Three Tea Eggs 2

I see plain hard boiled eggs at deli’s often sold as quick and healthy snacks, but how about so much more flavor with negligible extra calories? Egg white is close to flavorless but you can make it complex, smoky and fragrant. The rich savory flavor penetrates down to the yolk. Tea eggs are beautiful too, each with it’s own cracks and shades of brown. No two will be the same.

Some use soy sauce but my mom advises against it because it masks the tea flavor somewhat. She actually had one with soy sauce for me to try and compare, and it does seem to mask some of the tea fragrance. Plus, the eggs will be a darker brown which is not as pretty.

You’ll notice that I have “sweet root” as an optional ingredient. It is called Gan Tsao in Chinese (literally translates to dry grass) and is a dried form of licorice sold in thin 2″ slices. You can find them at Chinese supermarkets and Chinese medicine/herbal stores. It brings out a little more sweetness, but we’ve made it several times without it so rest assured, it will be fine if you don’t have this ingredient.

sweet root (gan tsao)

There’s a few different thoughts on cooking time for tea eggs. We’ve even heard that some will cook it for days. We don’t think that’s necessary and my mom generally uses two methods.  One is to simmer it for 4 hours in the flavoring liquid. The second is to simmer for 30 minutes, then shut off the heat and let it soak for 4 hours. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and let it soak again for another 4 hours. Which method we use depends on what we’re doing that day. If we’re going to be home preparing a meal all day and we want the tea eggs to be done in 4 hours, we’ll use the first cooking method. If we want to run errands that day, stepping in and out of the house, we may choose the seconds method, which doesn’t require as much babysitting. Both yield great results.

Three Tea Eggs in a row

Tea Eggs (Chinese Easter Eggs)
~12 eggs

  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • 4 Lipton “red” tea bags
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 6 slices sweet root/licorice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar

Instructions -

1. Boil water in a pot (enough water to cover eggs). Add eggs and boil for 8 minutes.

boiled eggs

2. Drain and set aside in cold water for at least 15 minutes.

3. Crack the egg shells by tapping it on the counter, rotating to make cracks all over. Don’t peel the shell off.

cracking shells on boild eggs 2

4. Boil 6 cups of water in the same pot (fits 12 eggs with water to cover). Add tea bags, salt, sweet root if using, 5 spice, and sugar. Boil for 1 minute.

Tea Bath

5. Add eggs, making sure the liquid covers the eggs. Bring it back to a boil before turning down to a simmer.

6. Here, you have two options:

  1. Simmer for 4 hours.
  2. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Turn off flame and let it rest for 4 hours. Bring back to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover for 30 minutes. Turn off the flame and let it rest for another 4 hours.

shell-on tea eggs

7. Remove the shell and serve. Can be eaten at any temperature. Can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for at least a week.

peeling tea egg

*Notes: You don’t want the shells to fall off when they’re cooking so don’t over-crack them, and don’t let the liquid get to a rapid boil.

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