Easter time is now upon us and many of us will be decorating eggs with our families. This time honored tradition is always a lot of fun, whether you like the painting of the eggs, the hiding of the eggs, or the finding of the eggs.
However, in Chinese culture, they have an egg decorating tradition of their own, in which they prepare hard-boiled eggs in a mixture of black tea, soy sauce, and spices. I was first introduced to Tea Eggs last year, when I moved to my new home and was invited over to my neighbor’s house to celebrate Chinese New Year with her and her family.
To make Tea Eggs, eggs are first hard-boiled. Then the shells are cracked (but not removed) and then put into a marinade of black tea, soy sauce, water, and Chinese Five-Spice powder, which contains ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns (although some recipes just call for star anise and cinnamon). The cracking of the shells produces a marbled look to the eggs after they have been dyed in the spiced-tea mixture.
Because of the tea, soy and spices, the taste of the egg is more flavorful than the standard hard-boiled variety. I have even read that a pinch of brown sugar to the mix will give it a sweeter taste, though that’s certainly a Western-sweet tooth version of the recipe.
I asked if the Tea Eggs were specific to Chinese New Year, and my friend told me that the recipe was not holiday-specific. In fact, when traveling in mainland China, you can find Tea Eggs sold on street-carts and grocery stores. Even the 7-11s in China sell Tea Eggs as an everyday snack!
Further research into this topic instructed that only black or Pu’erh teas be used. Green teas can be too bitter or astringent. Also, Tea Eggs are traditionally eaten cold – just like our Easter eggs.
So if you’re looking for something unique and exotic for your Easter baskets and egg hunts this year, or looking for a healthy, low-cost snack food, try a Chinese Tea Egg!
Madam Potts’ blog, Mad Pots of Tea!
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