Tea-leaf eggs

I’m feeling like a couple low-carb weeks may be a good idea, and since lunches are kind of an issue if you’re planning to sharply reduce carbs, I looked up my recipe for tea-leaf eggs. They’re pretty, they’re tasty, they’re good at room-temp, they’re not expensive to make, what’s not to like?

1 Eggs

I should have lined that plate with spinach or parsley or something, but I didn’t think of it. But didn’t they come out well? No big brown blotches anywhere.

Now, I’ve seen somebody or other mention that her tea-leaf eggs were flavorless and disappointing. These are not, and the way you cook ’em, one can see why they come out with a subtle but distinctive flavor. They’re easy, but they do take (unsupervised) time, so it’s something to plan ahead. Here’s how you make them:


12 medium (or any size, really) eggs
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 whole star anise (I hate anise, but I like star anise in this recipe; the flavor is so subtle and yet it adds something.)
4 tea bags of any black tea (I am not a tea connoisseur, so if you are, you know what you like. I use the first brand that says “black tea” that I find on the shelf)

Okay, cover the eggs with cold water, bring to a boil, lower heat, simmer gently for 15 or 20 minutes. Cool enough to handle. Now take a small spoon and tap the shell of each egg gently all over in order to make a network of fine cracks. I was as gentle as possible, but I thought the cracks were too extensive. But as you see, the eggs came out beautifully.

Return the eggs to the pan, add four cups of cold water and all the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to very very very low, cover (or partly cover if you can’t turn your heat that low) and simmer gently for two hours. Yes, two hours. That’s why you need the heat so low; otherwise they’ll start to boil pretty briskly and while this is probably okay, the recipe says “simmer gently.”

Turn off the heat and let the eggs rest in the pan for eight hours or overnight. You see why you need to plan ahead. Actually, I ate one after the two-hour simmer and it was perfectly fine, but I did let the others stay in the pan overnight.

Now, you can put the eggs on a tray whole, like in the above picture, but whatever you do, you want to show off the marbling. One way to do that is cut them in quarters and arrange the quarters on a tray so that the marbling shows clearly.

These are tasty as-is and do not need extra salt.

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3 thoughts on “Tea-leaf eggs”

  1. I’ve never heard of those. What an odd thing to do with eggs. I will have to lay in some star anise and try it with a couple.

  2. Now, I’ve seen somebody or other mention that her tea-leaf eggs were flavorless and disappointing.

    I think that was me! And I’m planning to try your recipe, which sounds like it has much greater potential.

    I’d also like to try pickled eggs & beets sometime, because I like beets that way and the eggs turn such a lovely fuchsia.

  3. Elaine, I’ve had this recipe so long I think of it as a normal thing to do with eggs, but I wish I could remember where I first saw the recipe. I know they do make these eggs in Hong Kong because Chachic says so, so it may have been a Chinese cookbook.

    Maureen, I couldn’t remember for sure, but I’m not surprised, because I know you cook! I don’t much care for the flavor of eggs pickled with beets, but the color is amazing. I have a recipe somewhere for a beet cake, where you use grated beets instead of carrots, and although the color vanishes in the cake, the icing is fuchsia. I haven’t ever made it, but eventually I’ll get some beets and give it a try.

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