Besides the key ingredient of black tea, five-spice powder—a seasoning blend of more than five spices (most often some combination of pepper, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, turmeric, Chinese licorice, or orange peel)—seems equally indispensable.
Many tea-drinking countries continue to perfect their versions of this popular street food. In Taiwan, eateries near NanTou County’s Sun Moon Lake, a historical tea-growing region, marinate eggs with mushrooms in soy sauce and Assam – the seemingly succinct process is in reality labor-intensive as it requires multi-day monitoring. TaiNan County’s culinary visionaries craft spicy tea eggs, one of tourists’ must-savored specialties.
Frozen tea eggs
In 2021, a tea enthusiast from NanTou County substituted black tea with oolong and named his creation “qing cha tea egg” instead of “oolong tea egg.” (In Chinese, oolong is also called qing cha (青茶), or ching cha.) The use of free-range chicken eggs and premium grade tea leaves harvested in MingJian Township tripled the cost. Furthermore, the eggs must be cooked, refrigerated, cooked again, refrigerated again – a tedious process repeated at least four times until reaching the desired al dente stage. The proprietor did experience some difficulty hiring assistants.
In Asia, those who are too lazy to cook could purchase packaged frozen tea eggs. I saw these products for the very first time via the photos shared by my cousin Andrea in Taiwan. Those who insist on getting their hands dirty should consider spice pouches – tea included and often hidden among myriads of other seasoning products at local Asian supermarkets.
Egg’s perishability propels the endeavor for its preservation, which concocted salted egg, century egg, and iron egg, just to name a few.
Pre-mixed tea egg spice pouches
Image copyright to Andrea Yeh and used with permission