The lunar new year is fast approaching and with it a chance to look into the Chinese culture and find new ways to use tea. The Spring Festival, which used to be the Chinese New Year, was renamed in 1913 when the Communist Party took over China and put the country on the Gregorian calendar (this is our modern calendar which was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII). The Spring Festival corresponds with the lunar new year, which starts this year on February 19th. In Chinese culture, It is considered a time for cleaning, gathering of families and celebrating a fresh start.
Like every family gathering, no matter which country you live in, there is plenty of food. A typical dish, which uses tea in a unique way, are Chinese tea eggs. These are basically spiced hard boiled eggs. The combination and concentration of spices are unique to every family. So while I use one combination below, feel free to modify for your taste.
Chinese Tea Eggs
- 6 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons of Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon of Black or Puerh Tea (traditionally this is made with Puerh)
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- ½ tablespoon anise seeds (3 to 4 Star Anise if you happen to have a good spice shop nearby)
- 1 tablespoon dried orange peel
- ½ tablespoon peppercorns
You will need tongs, a bowl with ice and water to cool the eggs and a spoon to crack their shells.
Place the eggs in sauce pan or large pot. You will want the pot big enough to hold the eggs in a single layer and allow you to pour in enough water to cover the eggs entirely. Place the eggs in the pot and fill it with water. Bring the water to a boil and then lower to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and put into the bowl with ice water. This will cool the eggs enough for you to handle them without burning yourself.
Assuming none of the eggs broke during the initial cooking, just leave the water in the pot as you will be putting the eggs back in it. If one did, drain out the water, it will be foamy, wipe out the pot and fill with fresh water. Pull an egg out of the ice water and use a spoon to crack the egg shell. You are trying to make a lot of small cracks without removing the shell. Don’t worry if you lose part of the shell, just crack the entire shell then place the egg back in the pot. Do this to the remaining eggs.
Once all the eggs are back in the pot, add in the soy sauce, tea and spices. Add more water if necessary to get the liquids above the eggs. Turn the heat back on and bring the water up to a small simmer and allow to cook for at least 2 hours, if you want a darker web on your eggs you can simmer up to 3 hours.
This makes a salted and slightly spicy hard-boiled egg that is also colored by the tea and soy sauce.
Enjoy the lunar new year with a new way to use tea.