What is a Taiwanese Tea Egg?
Traditionally, a Taiwanese Tea egg is served at 7-11 convenience stores. They typically hard boil the eggs and marinate them in a hot bath of spices and soy all day, with the shells on. These 7-11 tea eggs are childhood memories of the Taiwanese born and raised.
This is a slightly different recipe, which results in a soft-boil tea egg. They don't replicate the exact childhood memories, but they are far tastier.
How to Make a Taiwanese Tea Egg?
Serves 4 or less, depending on how many eggs you want to eat at once.
Eggs 4 large eggs
For the brine
Black tea 10g
Star anise 2ea
The brine starts with boiling black tea, star anise and cinnamon in a pot of water. Bring it to a boil, remove from the heat and add sugar. Make sure the sugar is well dissolved before adding vinegar and soy. Pour the brine into a container and put in the fridge to allow it to cool.
For the eggs, we prefer a soft boil than a hard boil. Traditionally, a Taiwanese tea egg sits in a solution of water, salt, tea, and spices for at least an hour, hard-boiled and with its shell on. The eggs are gently cracked during the marinating therefore creating a beautiful marbling pattern. The eggs look great but the flavor tends to sit on the shell which gets peeled off. We prefer the marinate without the shells.
Bring a pot of abundant water to a boil and gently drop in the eggs one at the time. If the eggs were in the refrigerator the water will stop boiling for a few seconds, wait until it comes to a boil again and then turn down the heat slightly. Gentle boiling will avoid the egg white tasting rubbery - we are being picky here. After the time is up, rinse them under cold water for a minute or add them to bowl with ice. Peel immediately, which might upset the purists.
Although we prefer in the 7 minutes ball-park, boil them to your preference. How long should you boil eggs? Using the method of adding the cold eggs to boiling water - soft boil goes from 5 to 7 minutes and hard boil is in between 10 and 12 minutes.
When the eggs are cooked to your preference and the brine liquid is cold, place the eggs in it and allow them to sit, submerged, for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 hours. Ensure the eggs are fully submerged with the help of a plate. The longer they marinate, the more flavorful but also more salty.
Do not toss the brine, as it can be re-used for at least three times.
We prefer to eat the tea eggs on the same day that they are prepared, however, you can make them in advance, keep them refrigerated, and snack on them within 3 days - after that you are on your own.
What kind of tea to use for tea eggs?
The most appropriate tea to use for making tea eggs is black tea. The eggs get their dark color mainly from the tea itself. The darker the tea, the better. Oolong tea can also be used to make tea eggs. We recommend using a dark style oolong tea, Taiwanese Tieguanyin is a good option. If you don't have access to loose leaf tea you could use black tea from tea bags. This is more about the eggs than the tea. For this recipe, we used Red Jade Black Tea.
Tea egg and spices
Although we use just cinnamon and star anise in our Taiwanese tea egg, feel free to explore with other spices to give a different and unique taste to your own creation. This is just a brief list of spices and aromatics that go well with tea egg flavor.
- Fennel Seed
- Szechuan Peppercorn
- Orange Peel
How to make a traditional tea egg?
For a more traditional take on the tea egg you would still follow the same steps, but instead of peeling the egg you would just crack the egg all around, with the help of a spoon, and then marinate the egg with shell on. The cracked shell will allow the marinade to penetrate into the egg, giving it that popular marble tea egg appearance. Allow it to marinate for longer to ensure that the flavor steeps into the egg properly.
Whatever method, or recipe, you decide to do, Bon Appetite!