Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tea Eggs

When I was little, Kinder Eggs were a rare treat. The delicate chocolate eggshell was almost beside the point. My siblings and I quickly tore away the foil wrappers, and the chocolate crumbled easily beneath our eager fingers. Inside each Kinder Egg was a colorful plastic shell filled with the pieces of a toy to be assembled.

I haven’t had a Kinder Egg in ages, but a couple of years ago I discovered a grown-up substitute. On my trip to China in 11th grade, I saw big pots of cracked eggs simmering in brown-black water, but after several food poisoning incidents, I was not inclined to try one.

Several months later, though, back in New York City, I rediscovered tea-eggs on a shopping excursion to Williamsburg. After a tour of the local consignment stores, my family stopped for bubble tea at Saint’s Alp Teahouse. When our order of tea-eggs arrived, I immediately recognized the browned crackled shells. We peeled the eggs to reveal a surprise as good as a Kinder toy: a beautiful spider-web pattern on the surface of the eggs.

The flavor of a tea-egg is as delicate as the spider-web: soy sauce-salty with a hint of cinnamon and anise. They’re incredibly easy to make, but they did leave my entire apartment smelling like soy sauce and licorice. You can find star anise at Asian supermarkets, but (for New Yorkers) I found some at Fairway, and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are probably worth a try.

Tea Eggs (cha ye dan):

6 eggs

5 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoon black tea leaves or 2 tea bags

3 piece star anise

1 small stick cinnamon or cassia bark

1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns (optional)

1. Place unshelled eggs in saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
2. Remove the eggs. With a knife, tap each egg to slightly crack the shells in two or three places. Return to saucepan.

3. Add other ingredients and stir. Cover and simmer for 3 hours, adding water as necessary. Drain, serve hot or cold.


  1. She's right. They're absolutely beautiful to behold, and they make a satisfying snack!

  2. I too find tea eggs lovely to look at and easy to eat. But here's the real China Hand Challenge: "Thousand-Year" eggs, buried and aged until their whites turn a gelatinous grey-brown.

    Myself, I like. But not for breakfast, as I received them once on an upcountry Taiwanese farm. I reached quickly for a nearby glass of dark plum juice to ease it down (one can't just say "no thanks" to food in China), only to find the juice saltier than your tea egg broth!

  3. Mandy, funny you should mention "Thousand Year Eggs." Noa is planning on doing a post on them sometime in the coming weeks!

  4. How elegant! I remember organizing a cookie baking/decorating birthday party for my daughter and her friends when she was a little girl. These tea eggs might be another fun idea for even a grownup party! Thanks from Doda Sim.

  5. Awesome post Noa! Love the recipe and the photos rock! looking forward to seeing more!

    Delilah's Mom



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