What are tea-boiled eggs and how can one make them? If these considerations have crossed your mind at one point or the other, this article will aid in quenching your thirst for answers. The Chinese have a deep love for this food which they consider to be a snack. If you visit China, you will come across many vendors selling tea eggs accompanied with various seasonings. 

Vendors first boil the eggs before gently cracking them and simmering them in spices, sauces or tea. You may have come across this delicacy in the past in the form of a marble egg. The reason behind the naming is because the cracks in the eggs acquire a darkened appearance when cooking, which results in a marble-like appearance.

You can also find tea eggs in Asian restaurants across the world. Though this delicacy originated in China, other Asian countries were quick to find ways in which they could add a touch of their culture to them, thus resulting in many variations of the original recipe.

Chinese Tea Eggs

There are two methods in which one can make this delicacy, and it depends on one’s preferences.

The traditional way

If you were to eat a traditional Chinese tea egg, you would notice that it is quite flavorful and fragrant as this is how the original makers of this recipe intended for the result to be. As such, there are ingredients such as black tea leaves, some spices, and sauces in play. One of the mainly used spices in this regard is the five-spice powder from China. It features fennel seeds, cloves, ground cinnamon, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. With these spices in play, you are sure that your eggs will be out of this world. You may come across some recipes that do not necessarily use black tea leaves.

However, these variations also go by the name tea eggs.

Traditionally, people would boil eggs until they hardened and the insides got cooked, much like what you would do when preparing a hard-boiled egg for breakfast. However, the process would not end at that point. The eggs would get removed from the water, and gentle cracking of the shell would follow.

The number of cracks would depend on the kind of marbling one wanted to see once they peeled the egg’s shell. For more marbling, smaller breaks are advisable. The eggs would then remain in a clean area for about ten minutes where they would slowly seep out the remaining water from the first boil. From here, the eggs would get immersed in a spice tea solution where they would remain simmering for at least twenty minutes over low-medium heat. The essence of simmering is to allow the liquid to get inside the cracks and thus marinate the eggs while in the shells.

After twenty to twenty-five minutes, the eggs and the liquid would get moved to a ceramic or glass container before getting put in a refrigerator for more steeping. This process would take at least three hours, and if one wanted the best results from the steeping, it was advisable to let the eggs steep for five or more hours. The eggs would then take on the dark color of the spiced tea, and once peeling took place, the marbling would appear.

It can seem like a lot of effort for an egg but trust me you, the results are unbelievable. As such, many people still turn to the traditional way of making tea eggs to this date. If you lack much time, but you wish to enjoy this delicacy, here is another way in which you can go about preparation.

Fast method

In this technique, you will start by boiling eggs until they turn hard and the insides are stable. From here, instead of gently cracking the shell, you will remove the entire eggshell before steeping the eggs in a spiced tea mixture.

Let the marinade mixture simmer over low heat for at least fifteen minutes given that the eggs have no shell around them. Next, move the eggs and the mix from the heat to a ceramic or glass container to allow for steeping to continue.

In this method, you do not have to let the eggs steep for as long as you would in the traditional manner. Though fast, the results are less aesthetically appealing than those of the first method as there is no marbling in play. These eggs are quite similar to soy eggs.

You can enjoy the eggs at any time, including after one hour of steeping. If you wish to enjoy the eggs more, be sure to let them steep for long as this will enable them to soak in the flavors present in the mix. The perfect tea eggs have a balance between the eggs’ natural flavors and those of the spices.

The result

If you follow the traditional method, you will get to enjoy some beautiful marbling effects. Once you peel off the shell after steeping, you will observe that the eggs will have some regions of light brown while others will have dark brown hues. The areas where the cracks were will have a tone in-between the two.

The yolks will retain their color.

However, if you overcook the eggs, the yolks will have a thin grayish layer on the outside while the inside will remain yellow. The coating is safe to eat. The flavor you get from the eggs will depend on the type and strength of the tea in use as well as the spices in play.

That said, you now have an idea as to what constitutes tea eggs, and we can now jump into my experience with making them as well as a simple way in which you can prepare the same. What’s more, the recipe I will provide is gluten-free adaptable, thus allowing anyone on a gluten-free diet to enjoy it too.

My love for these eggs began a while back when I came across Carol who had grown up in China. I am always one to try out new snacks and to find ways in which I can customize them to meet my tastes. As such, as I went on about how great my chocolate chip cookies were as well as the many ways in which I could bring out their flavors, she presented me with the idea of tea eggs. I had only heard of them but had never quite grasped how beautiful they were or how delightful in taste they were. On tasting them, I came to understand why Carol chose to stick to her childhood snacks and why these delicacies get sold across numerous retailers in China.

The first thing that you will observe about these eggs is their marbled surface, and one who is unaware of how the preparation takes place would think that they are not chicken eggs. They also come infused with diverse flavors, depending on the route you wish to follow. In this instance, this is one of those recipes that you should let your preferences take over for amazing results.

Why Tea Flavored Eggs?

Carole explained that traditionally, vendors would cook eggs twice and there was a reason behind this. In the first boiling, the eggs would simmer to the point that they were hard on the surface and the insides were stable. After this, one would then move on to cooking them in a solution of their liking such as black tea. The motivator behind this prolonged cooking time is the environment in which the tea eggs get served.

Most vendors sell these delicacies on the street where refrigeration is not in play, and the prolonged cooking ensures that they are safe to eat even after exposure to such conditions. You will notice that this kind of cooking results in overcooked eggs with a rubber-like texture.

This method works great for anyone looking for a firm egg, but if you prefer runny yolks, there is another way in which you can make these eggs as I will show you. My recipe goes into the creation of delicious tea eggs with a marble texture and the cherry on top is that you get to choose the taste you would like. As such, you need not eat a rubbery textured egg if it does not float your boat.

There is one trick you should know before we move forward if you plan on making soft-boiled eggs. Let the eggs marinate for a long time, and by this, I am talking about two to three days. In this way, the yolk will start growing bigger by the day, and it will also acquire a light brown hue that is pleasing to the eye. What’s more, it will have a creamy taste that will be oozing with all sorts of flavors. Have this with some steamed rice, and you will never wish to have an egg any other way than this.

Making Chinese Egg Dishes

What do you need to make this delicacy? Here are the ingredients you need to have within reach before embarking on the cooking.

Dry components

You do not need many dry ingredients when making these eggs. The essence to these components is to use them in making the marinade liquid in which you will steep your eggs such that they can acquire the flavors you want.

Spices such as black tea leaves, star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves, and Sichuan peppercorns are what I use. You can choose to add other spices of your choice if you wish. Be sure not to have too many flavors in play as this could have disastrous results. Take all the ingredients of your choice and mix them in soy sauce and water and boil them such that the flavors combine and get infused in the solution.

There is an easy way in which you can make the marinade liquid if you do not have all these components. Look for a five spice powder and scoop half a teaspoon of the same and follow the procedure above.

The results will be just as good.

Cracking the eggs

The way in which you break the eggs affects how the marbling will appear. If you wish to have large shapes on the egg, make few cracks. In a case where you want to have smaller forms on the eggs, work on making as many breaks as you can.

Here is how you go about it.

You can choose to knock the eggs on hard surfaces while slowly rotating them in your hand. You can likewise use the back of a spoon to make the cracks. The idea behind the cracking is to make cracks that are big enough to let the solution into the eggs without being so large that the mix can break the eggs apart. This proper cracking goes for both hard-boiled as well as soft-boiled eggs.

Save on the marinade

If you do not have much marinade and are wondering how you can use it to steep all your eggs, here is an easy way to accomplish this: use a quart bag. Here, you can place the eggs and pour in your solution, thus soaking the eggs entirely without using much of the mix. If you choose to use a container, you will end up using twice as much as you would have used if you were using a bag. Do not worry about what to do with the left-over marinade if you choose the quart bag method.

If you store it in the fridge properly, you can use it the next time you are making tea eggs. As such, be sure to use clean utensils while handling the solution such that it can be safe for use the next time. You should also ensure that you boil the solution and cool it before using it for the next round of eggs. A great way to make these eggs would be by cooking a large batch at a time. In this way, you can enjoy them with your meals. Let us now get down to the recipe!

Tea Egg Recipe

The preparation time for this meal is approximately fifteen minutes and the cook time is fifteen minutes, bring the total time taken to thirty minutes. Substitute the soy sauce with tamari if you wish to make this recipe gluten-free. When it comes to the question of soy sauce, you can opt to use light soy sauce or dark soy sauce, and for the black tea leaves, you can use two black tea bags. These eggs are a side course from Chinese cuisine, and this recipe serves twelve people.


For this recipe, you should have the following items:

  • 12 large eggs
  • For the marinade, you will need:
  • Four tablespoons soy sauce
  • Two tablespoons soy sauce
  • One teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • One star anise
  • One cinnamon stick
  • Two teaspoons sugar
  • One teaspoon salt
  • Two tablespoons black tea leaves
  • 2 ½ cups water


Start by combining the marinade mix ingredients in a pot before cooking them over medium heat. Once the marinade comes to a boil, lower the heat and let the marinade simmer for ten minutes. From here, remove the pot from the heat and let the mix cool before taking out the tea bags or sieving off the tea leaves.

Next, place a pot over the heat and fill it with water that is enough to cover the twelve eggs. Allow the water to boil before you add the eggs in the pan one by one. Use a spoon when adding eggs into the boiling water as this will prevent them from cracking in the process. If you want soft-boiled eggs, let the boiling continue for five minutes. For medium eggs, the ideal time taken is seven minutes and for hard-boiled eggs, the advisable time is ten minutes.

As the eggs are boiling, prepare an ice bath. You can do this by combining equal parts of tap water and ice in a bowl. Once your eggs get cooked to your preferred level of doneness, transfer them to the ice bath and let them cool for about three minutes. From here, crack their shells gently either using a hard surface or the back of a spoon. If you wish to have the eggs ready in a short time, skip the cracking and peel off the shells instead. In this way, you will only steep them fortwelve hours before they are ready for eating.

Take out the eggs and place them inside a quart bag with a zip-lock. Proceed to add marinade to the bag as well as the dry ingredients. For peeled eggs, this procedure can take place overnight. For cracked eggs, you will require twenty-four hours. If you wish to enjoy the flavors more, let the eggs sit in the solution for four to five days in the fridge. From here, you can serve the green tea eggs cold or at room temperature for some mind-blowing tastes.

My tea eggs recipe is a twist to the traditional Chinese boiled eggs recipe while incorporating the benefits of the fast method. Enjoy!


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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