Street-style snack: Chinese tea eggs

Society & Culture

A flavorful, fragrant twist on hard boiled eggs.

Chinese tea eggs

I used to hate hard boiled eggs when I was a kid. They tasted plain and dry, and I simply had a hard time swallowing them. But there’s a better alternative: Chinese tea eggs (茶叶蛋 chá yè dàn), which remain my favorite way to enjoy hard boiled eggs.

Simmered in a savory liquid with five-spice powder, soy sauce, and black tea, Chinese tea eggs give hard boiled eggs a new life. They not only have a flavorful and fragrant taste but also have a beautiful marbled surface — cracks in the egg shell create darkened lines with marble-like patterns. In addition, the egg yolk becomes less dry.

Black tea is best for making tea eggs. It adds fragrance and a brightness to the eggs. Green tea or jasmine tea also works, but may result in a slightly bitter taste.

Since it can be easily prepared in advance, preserved in the fridge for up to a week, and convenient to carry, Chinese tea eggs are offered everywhere across the country as a savory snack, or a side dish at breakfast. People also bring them on trains or picnics. My mom used to pack me Chinese tea eggs for my elementary school spring picnic.

The eggs continue to absorb flavor as they soak, so it’s better to let them steep overnight. My mom often cooks Chinese tea eggs in batches and lets them sit in the fridge or an open cool area for a couple of days before serving.


Serves 8


30 minutes


  • 8 eggs
  •  2 tablespoon black tea leaves
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 5 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cup water

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1. Put the eggs into a medium pot with enough cold water to just cover them. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and let it sit covered for 5 minutes.

2. Drain the eggs and cool them under running water. When cool enough to touch, gently and evenly crack the eggshells all around.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of black tea leaves , 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder  , 5 teaspoons of soy sauce  , 2 teaspoons of salt , 1/2 tablespoon of sugar,   and 3 cups of water  into a medium pot. Bring water to a boil, then turn down the heat. Simmer for 3 minutes.

4. Add cracked eggs into the pot. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Turn down to low heat and simmer covered for 5 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat. Transfer everything into the fridge and soak for at least 12 hours.

6. Serve cold or warm after reheating.

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