The idea is to hard-boil regular chicken eggs -- supermarket-bought ones will do -- until they are about 75% done. You can use any type of eggs (I used a mixture of chicken eggs and quail eggs, as you can see above), but chicken eggs are larger and provide more food for your effort. Then, the eggs' shells are cracked carefully with the back of a spoon, and the eggs are marinated in a simmering mixture of soy sauce, black tea leaves, star anise, sugar, and other optional ingredients. The main items in the marinade are the four ingredients mentioned above, but you can add whatever you want to customize the flavor and aromatics as you wish. Some optional ingredients can include cinnamin stick, cracked black peppercorns, or orange zest. You can imagine the possibilities.
Chinese Tea Eggs - 茶叶蛋 （cháyèdàn)
6 eggs (chicken or quail eggs)
3 tea bags of black tea
1 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 pieces star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorn (optional)
2 to 3 strips dried mandarin peel (optional)
1. Submerge the eggs in a pot with cold water. Bring the water to a slow boil, then lower heat to simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Remove eggs from heat and allow to cool (or run them under cold water). Once they are cool enough to handle, take the back of a spoon and crack the shell all over. The more cracks, the more the marinade will penetrate the shell, and the more flavorful the resulting egg will be.
2. Return the eggs to a clean pot, and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer for 1-3 hours, or even longer, for more intense flavor and color. Add water if level gets too low.
3. Remove from heat and peel egg immediately before serving. You can store them in the refrigerator for a cold snack.