How neat do these eggs look?! Yes, they’re edible and no, they aren’t diseased.
These beautiful looking and flavorful eggs are called Taiwanese tea eggs. They’re a traditional Chinese delicacy and popular snack that is commonly sold by street vendors at night markets. Taiwanese street food is one of my favorite snacks to get when I’m walking the night markets in Taiwan. There are so many vendors there that you can basically end up having a complete meal while shopping. These eggs are also sold at the local 7-11 convenience store in Taiwan. They’re always just sitting there bathing in the mixture and every time you walk into the store, you get a hit of the star anise and Chinese five spice scent. It is so comforting to me because it is a scent I grew up on.
I think Taiwanese tea eggs look like art, as if it was something intricately handmade. The egg shells get this marble-like pattern, kind of like a spider web effect from the braising liquid seeping into the cracks of the egg shells that make it look so unique and mesmerizing. I almost didn’t want to even eat them because they’re just so neat to stare at.
The only thing I don’t like about the eggs is because they’re sitting in hot liquid for so long, the yolks end up being overcooked and the egg yolk turns a grey/green color. I’m used to the chalky texture but that is just something to note if you ever make this yourself or try some from a street vendor. It’s basically an over boiled egg but the spice flavor is really nice and worth it.
The process of making these is fairly easy but requires a bit of time. You don’t have to physically do anything because it’s mostly letting the egg sit in the braising mixture, but you still have to baby it and watch over it to make sure it doesn’t boil over, etc.
It takes a long time because you want it to develop flavor. Also, the longer it sits in the braising mixture, the more it allows the braising liquid to seep into the cracks and give the eggs the marble-like effect.
How to make Taiwanese tea eggs
You start off by placing your eggs in a large pot of cold water along with the tea leaves, star anise, dark soy sauce, and Chinese five spice powder. Place the pot over high heat then bring the mixture to a boil then once it’s boiling, remove from heat and let the eggs sit for about 15 minutes, enough time to let the water cool down a bit to room temperature. You could throw them into an ice bath but I like naturally cooling them down as the egg shells don’t get too fragile and crack too much.
When the water is cool enough to touch and the eggs are cool enough to handle, take an egg and very carefully with the back of a spoon, you’ll want to tap the egg shell all around to crack it. Don’t remove the egg shell or break the egg; you just want the egg shell to have cracks.
Once you’ve cracked all your eggs, return them to the pot and let them sit overnight. I usually just leave them out on the counter but if you aren’t comfortable with that approach, you can put it in the refrigerator overnight.
After their overnight bath, peel the cracked shell and reveal your masterpiece!
Ingredient substitutions and tips
Dark soy sauce – dark soy sauce gives you that deep, beautiful color on the eggs. I usually find this at Asian grocery stores, however, if you can’t find it, you can use light soy sauce.
Rock sugar – this is popular in Taiwanese cuisine. It literally as it is a rock of sugar. It’s usually clear and looks like a small rock. This is used often to sweeten dishes instead of using granulated sugar or brown sugar. You can add one or two into the braising liquid but this is completely optional. I just know that sometimes I’ve seen my mom do it.
Cinnamon stick – this is optional as well but it does give it a nice warm flavor in addition with the star anise and Chinese five spice.
Sichuan peppercorns – this is optional as well but I wanted to note it because you’ll see variations in Taiwanese/Chinese tea egg recipes where some include it and some don’t.
Black tea leaves – you want loose black tea leaves in this recipe. I’ve used black Taiwanese oolong tea leaves. You can definitely use black tea bags if you don’t have black tea leaves but I find that black tea leaves yield a stronger flavor. Definitely do not use green tea.
Bay leaves – this is not for this recipe. Black tea leaves and bay leaves are not the same.
What to serve with Taiwanese tea eggs
You can serve your tea eggs with noodle soup dishes. I love serving mine with traditional Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Usually you cook the egg with the beef noodle soup but if you are making Taiwanese tea eggs, you can omit that and slice the tea eggs in half and serve it with the noodle soup!
Serving tea eggs with ramen is a great idea as well, although typically the jammy eggs are what you see served with ramen, but again, if you’re making this recipe, you might as well serve it with something.
Another traditional dish I love serving tea eggs with is my Taiwanese braised pork dish. Again, you usually cook the egg with the braised pork but since you are looking for a side dish to serve with the tea eggs, the Taiwanese braised pork dish is the perfect pairing. It has similar seasonings like the tea egg braising liquid so it honestly works extremely well.
What do they taste like?
It’s a savory taste and you can taste the soy sauce and spice mix, along with the subtle tea flavor. It’s kind of like a warm licorice/anise taste but also the earthy tea combined with it. It’s actually very hard to describe unless you’ve tasted one before (sorry — you’ll just have to make some!).
The tea is subtle, but it also depends on which tea (the type and strength) and the variety of spices used. Five spice powder adds a warm, savory, slightly salty tone to the egg white, and the tea should bring out the yolk’s flavor.
Taiwanese tea eggs bring back a lot of childhood memories for me because it brings me back to my childhood days spent in Taiwan, running in and out of the convenience store and through the night market. It also reminds me of when my mom would make traditional Chinese dishes at home.
The spice mix just has this nostalgic scent that hits me in the most comforting way possible. I hope you make this traditional dish and get a taste of what I grew up with!
Taiwanese Tea Eggs
- 6 eggs
- 4 cups (946 ml) water, enough to submerge the eggs completely
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon loose black tea leaves
- 5 star anise
- 2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- In a large pot, cover your eggs with cold water and add in dark soy sauce, tea leaves, star anise, five spice powder, and salt. Bring the water to a boil then remove from heat and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Once cool enough to touch, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon but keep the braising liquid.
- With a back of a spoon, tap the eggs all around until it's covered in cracks.
- Place eggs back into braising liquid and let sit overnight in the refrigerator or on the countertop.
- Gently peel off the egg shells and reveal your masterpiece!
- To serve, you can either slice the egg in half or in quarters or just take bites out of the whole egg. Serving suggestions in the blog post.
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