Sniffing In The Herbal Fragrance Of Home-Brewed Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs

Chinese Tea Leaf Egg 6

Chinese Tea Leaf Egg 5

My original intention was to make sauna hard-boiled eggs – those that often appear in Korean shows. The typical drama plot would feature homeless husbands (or wives) staying overnight at a sauna with a towel tied over their hair to form two cutie side buns. They would be seen sipping off a cup of beverage with a straw and munching on hard-boiled sauna eggs. We have always wanted to find out how these eggs taste like.

After discovering that it would take a pressure or rice cooker to make the sauna eggs (both of which I don’t possess), I had to give up this mission and move on to the next closest option, which is to make Chinese tea leaf eggs, or 茶叶蛋 in Mandarin. This is, for me, a highly irresistible Chinese delicacy, what with its strong herbal fragrance that typically marks the presence of Chinese medicinal halls nearby.

The recipe for making delectable Chinese tea leaf eggs calls for the right concoction of herbal ingredients which should include good Chinese tea leaves, 5-spice powder and dang gui among others. Another equally important skill that must not be lacking is the ability to knock the eggs delicately enough such that the shells crack slightly without breaking apart. This is what gives the tea leaf eggs their distinctively marbled look.

Try it and have fun at making your very own marbled egg creations!


  • Egg: 10
  • Boiling water: 1 liter (4 cups)
  • Dark soy sauce: 4 tbsp
  • Light soy sauce: 5 tbsp
  • Brown sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Tea leaf (普洱, 铁观音): 3 bags
  • Star anise: 4 pieces
  • Cinnamon stick: 1
  • 5-spice powder: 1 tbsp
  • Chinese sinensis (dang gui): 5 pieces


  1. Place eggs in a pot. Fill with enough tap water to cover the eggs.
  2. Bring water to a boil. Leave to simmer for 3 min.
  3. Remove eggs and rinse in cold water.
  4. Tap egg shells gently with back of spoon to form cracks all over.
  5. Return eggs to pot. Fill pot with boiling water to cover the eggs.
  6. Add remaining ingredients into the pot.
  7. Leave to simmer for 3 hrs.
  8. Cool eggs for 5 min before serving.

Chinese Tea Leaf Egg

Chinese Tea Leaf Egg 2


  • The longer you leave the eggs to simmer, the more flavourful is their taste. You might have to top up the pot with hot water once in a while when it dries up though.
  • It takes a lot of skill to be able to crack the eggs such that the shells do not break apart too much to create any huge slits. The formation of small cracks would allow the eggs to be stained in such a way as to create the marbled effects. This is what distinguishes them from the uniformly stained ones which are typical of braised eggs.

10 eggs

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