Recipe: Marbled Tea Eggs … in Celebration of the Chinese Spring Festival

My mother, Betty, celebrated as many cultural festival days as she knew about…she did this before we had such enormous access to information via the world wide web.  She attempted foods from other cultures often – and quite successfully…she had a knack and intuition about what went together to make a dish shine.  We celebrated Bastille, St. Valentine, St. Patrick, Cinco de Mayo, all U.S. holidays (including cherry pie on Washington’s birthday) and at least a dozen family days with special menus from her.  She loved Chinese foods and, if alive today, she’d be preparing something to celebrate China’s Spring Festival later this week.

The Spring Festival (Chinese Lunar New Year) of 2014 falls on January 31. The public holiday starts from January 31 to February 6. It is the Year of the Horse.  This festival is considered the most important of the year.   Below is the step-by-step process for making China’s famous marbled tea eggs…I just finished consuming my last one from the batch I prepared last week.  The sweet scent and flavor from the star anise and cinnamon stick balance beautifully with the savory soy and Chinese black tea…the yin and yang are in sync.

Marbled Tea Egg Recipe (From Tea With Betty: A Tea Manual):

Marbled Tea Eggs..nesting in a clear Steuben bowl...

Marbled Tea Eggs..nesting in a clear Steuben bowl…

Makes 12 eggs.

PREP TIME:  20 minutes TOTAL TIME:  8 hours 20 minutes (includes soaking time)

12 large eggs

1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt

3 tablespoons loose Chinese black tea or other black tea (Earl Grey or smoky Russian Caravan)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

Boil eggs 15 minutes over low heat.  Cool in the cooking water.  Drain the eggs and tap shells all over with the back of a spoon until each shell is covered with a web of cracks.

Return eggs to the pan, cover with cold water, add salt, soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon sticks, tea.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer very slowly for approximately 2 hours.

Remove from heat, let cool in the pan with the liquid, then cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove eggs from liquid, peel, cut eggs crosswise, and serve.

They will be beautifully marbled looking.

Serve chilled, with small bowls of the cooking liquid and coarse salt or slice and serve on soft white bread with mayonnaise.

Ingredients in their place (mise en place) for steeping "cracked" hard boiled eggs…

Ingredients in their place (mise en place) for steeping “cracked” hard boiled eggs…top left, cinnamon sticks and star anise: top right, Adagio black dragon pearls Chinese Yunnan tea, soy sauce, coarse salt

 

After hard boiling your eggs, discard water, crack eggs with the back of a spoon, place back in pan with cold water and the ingredients…slow steep for 2 hours

After hard boiling your eggs, discard water, crack eggs with the back of a spoon, place back in pan with cold water and the ingredients…slow steep for 2 hours

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Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Making these marbled eggs is truly as easy as boiling water…the fragrance wafting through the house when they are slowly simmering is delightful.  The end result is a healthy, beautiful product.  Enjoy with a cup of green tea or an oolong.

 

Drink tea!  It’s good for you 🙂

 

 

Iced Jasmine Pearl, Marbled Tea Eggs, & Instructions for a Heatwave…

Yesterday was book group discussion day at my house…and, sorry to you guys who live in cold country, but it was 80 degrees here in sunny, drought-ridden, So. California….which called for a summery menu of tidbits to snack on while discussing the seriously good writing of Maggie O’Farrell in her recent novel, Instructions for a Heatwave.

We highly recommend this book…family dynamics are expertly portrayed

We highly recommend this book…family dynamics are expertly portrayed

My original thought for small bites to serve when hosting this month’s discussion included scones and hot tea (as the book is set in England and Ireland), but, alas, the weather forced me to rethink what to serve.  Ironically, the unusually hot weather we are experiencing in California paralleled the strangely hot weather setting O’Farrell had London experiencing in her novel.  Still, in the story, there was A LOT of preparing of hot tea going on.  Actually, the Irish are known to drink more tea per capita than any other nation.  Well, I decided on iced tea and prepared one of my favorites,  Jasmine Pearl Green tea…it is light, refreshing, and fragrant.  I also had been desiring my fragrant marbled tea egg (hard-boiled eggs, steeped in tea, cinnamon stick, star anise, and a bit of soy).  They are unique and tasty served sliced onto a little biscuit, of which I had a few put away in the freezer just for this occasion.  These, along with a raw coconut tea cookie (much like a shortbread, with coconut) would be the primary fare.  Some fresh organic California grown juicy raspberries made it to the discussion too.

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

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I’m not sure why my mind went this Asian route with the menu for our English/Irish story, but we had fun, ate it all up, and continue to be moved by how our small group discussions seem to soothe our souls in a special way.  I will post the recipe for the marbled tea eggs in a few days.  They are easy to prepare, yet just gorgeous and unusual.  It’s as easy as boiling water, but looks like you painted them. Same for the coconut cookie, easy as pie (but it’s a tea cookie 🙂 )

Coconut Tea Biscuits…I make them with raw, unsweetened coconut…even cut some into teapot shapes…not too sweet, perfect paired with green tea

Coconut Tea Biscuits…I make them with Bob’s Red Mill raw, unsweetened coconut…even cut some into teapot shapes…not too sweet, perfect paired with green tea

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Our discussion brought us closer together as we shared our own history as related to the book…and all over a cup of tea…amazing the revelations tea brings about.

Time For A Healthy, Food-Friendly Oolong…

As you might be noticing, with the holidays behind us, marketing efforts have turned to focus on healthy offerings.  Green tea ads have been populating my inbox, touting the high anti-oxidants and amino acids contained in tea leaves.  While I enjoy several green teas, I just love a good oolong.  And contrary to popular belief, most varieties of quality leaf teas offer health benefits (not just green tea)…it’s just that most of the studies about tea have been done on the green leaf varieties…but suffice it to say, “quality, pure, leaf teas are good for you whether green, semi-fermented (oolong), black or white varieties.”

I like oolongs for several reasons.  I posted about oolongs last year here.  Most often, when I serve tea after dinner, I go to an oolong.  It pairs well with almost any food …similar to how a pinot noir wine complements food… so, when in doubt of which tea to serve with food, I go to a pure oolong.  There also is a bit of mystery and/or ritual surrounding these teas.  I use a little old Yixing clay pot for steeping my oolong (pictured below).  It is the only tea I use in that pot…I can actually just put hot water in the pot and the fragrance of this semi-fermented tea exudes. The gaiwan, lidded cup (also pictured below)  is a traditional Chinese brewing vehicle for leaf teas..and an oolong is perfect for multiple infusions.  Each infusion brings out nuanced flavors and lends to a feeling of old world custom and ritual each time you steep  your leaves.

What is oolong tea? Oolong teas are partially oxidized, as opposed to black teas which undergo a longer oxidation period, to achieve a sweet, floral-fruit flavor.  They are in between a green and black tea in color, flavor, and caffeine levels.

Oolong Teas…dried whole leaf…unfurled into a full, beautiful, pliable leaf

Oolong Tea…dried whole leaf…unfurled into a full, beautiful, pliable leaf below…the white lidded cup is a sleek looking Gaiwan cup traditionally used in China for tea preparation.

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Gaiwan Cup

Gaiwan

 

I currently am working through a pound of Mighty Leaf’s Tiequanyin-jade Oolong.  It is from China’s Anxi province, is competition grade, and lightly oxidized with a complex, orchid like taste…just a teeny bit floral.  Very nice indeed.

This tea is a medium bodied tea…light in color and not grassy.

Enjoy…Here’s to a healthy 2014…Drink quality, leaf teas and feel good about it 🙂

French Laundry Ben Shan Oolong

The French Laundry served a Ben Shan Oolong the last time I was there from a gorgeous silver teapot

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Yxing Teapot…the one I use solely for brewing Oolong teas

Yixing Teapot…the one I use solely for brewing Oolong teas — the small Bodum cup above is one of my favorite small cups…the silicon band surrounding the cup keeps your tender fingers safe from the heat of the tea when first poured

 

 

A Year In Review…Part Deux

I am guessing that “A Year In Review…Part one”  was so exciting that you are anxiously awaiting to see the back half 2013 recap of what moved me.  Here we go…I had to restrain myself and trim (or more like, hack away) at what to include…figuring that “less is more.”

June – December 2013 was filled with interesting gatherings for us…Napa with our daughter and son-in-law was special.  Anytime we get away with these two is cherished time for us (even though we missed the noise-making rug rats 🙂  Reuniting with old friends was a big part of the summer, as my husband reconnected with many high school friends which led to new-found, old and delightful relationships.  Reconnecting with his Southern family resulted in an incredible couple weeks in the American South, then, capping year end with one of the top two tea menus  ever…seriously….ever…at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis”  for a second year with my dear sister and our dear friend Dawn was just the perfect way to finish off twenty-thirteen.  Included are photos of my touching new artistic, lidded tea cup…named “Betty” which my twin brother and sister-in-law got me in Carmel (a favorite vacation spot for Betty and us)…ahhhh

I don’t know why…but I have always thrilled over small food bites… in particular, those presented in clever utensils, packed with flavor, touching a variety of  taste senses.  As I’ve mentioned before, that’s what first drew me to seek out afternoon tea menus – the variety of tiny bites.  However, mastering the delivery of a melange of gorgeous, flavorful bites proves to be a daunting task for many and often has been disappointing to me (and my Mom (Betty).  Thus we created our own recipes and menus.  Today, I like to go OUT and find these scrumptious morsels while sipping teas or wines.  These tasting adventures, which so suit wine tasting, as well as, tea time, are just so civilized and conducive for eliciting deep thought, or divining small chatter, or examining life in all its manifestations, or doing nothing at all…your choice.  These photos made the cut of favorite “bites” or tastings this year…

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, inventive foods, along with a few scones, cooking class, and teas, of course…and why not finish with a tea martini

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, starting with a most flavorful shrimp bite at Jordan winery, then a stunning cheese pairing from Arrowood Winery, then the  French Laundry garden tomatoes, my own petite bites in Great Aunt Helen’s egg plate, polenta topped with sausage, whimsically inventive foods from Ink Restaurant, Corn chowder w/ popped corn from our Ramos House Cafe in SJC, lovely hearts of palm wrapped in smoked salmon from our dear Chef friend, Julius, along with several petite sweets, tea affogato (as featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine’s September, 2013 issue, and a few scones, quiche made at my first cooking class at Eat Street Culinary, and teas, of course, lots of tea…and why not finish with a tea martini

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Ending with my first tea martini was a good thing.  I had them “hold the sugar” and it was still soooooo good, refreshing and certainly drinkable…I could have had two but prudently moved onto a nice Mighty Leaf darjeeling instead.  Will write more about this Tea and Tini experience at the St. Regis in another post.  (The best finger sandwiches ever!)

Happy New Year…Drink Tea…organic, whole leaf…it’s good for you!  Even with a little Ketel One vodka in it 🙂

A Year In Review…Well, Half Of It Anyway :-)

The past month has been a bit crazy …  I suppose it has been for most of you; however, I complicated things by throwing in a couple vacations, as well as, caught some kind of cold / virus that seems to want to fake me out…it comes and goes…then comes back just when I think I am better.  So…I got a little behind on my writing, but I think I am BACK now 🙂

2013 is gone.  While I don’t want to spend much time looking back, it was a year of interesting experiences inspired by tea for me.  I moved from my Tea With Betty blog to Eat Be Tea so I can expand the writing and experiences to include more about what I love…small bites of foods, paired with tea, experienced in numerous ways in various settings that often changes one’s life…one cup at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, one moment of reflection while waiting for the steep to finish.

I say goodbye to 2013 with this brief journey back.  I was blessed to have so many wonderful experiences over tea and food that I’ve had to break this into two posts…Below are photos for the first half 2013 of tea and food experiences that inspired and brought me joy –  beginning  with tea with my family at the Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca. last January 2…and ending with savoring a cup of Marriage Freres Darjeeling up in the Napa Valley while relaxing with a book.  In between, there were several garden tours that motivated us to redo our herb and vegetable beds (thanks to my sister’s invites and my husband’s hard work) and additional tea time items that touched me.

January - June 2013  Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

January – June 2013
Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

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Caption list:

1. Teatime at The Mission Inn with two darling little boys 🙂

2. Gonfu tea service…a favorite of mine enjoyed at several locations

3. Kusmi teas…a gift from my sister-in-law from their trip to France, their chocolate tea is as good as eating a piece of quality chocolate…seriously

4. Chocolates and confectionery my daughter and I made while at an Eat Street Culinary class with Chef Katie Averill in Anaheim…can’t believe we made these, from scratch.

5. Surfas opens in Costa Mesa, Ca…yay…lots of food and cooking supplies

6, 7, 8, 9. Napa Valley in February…the mustard in bloom as a cover crop for the grapevines, tea items at Dean & Deluca fine food purveyors…and they carried one of my favorite tea pots, featured on the cover of my tea book…the Betty pot and The French Laundry garden hot house.

10. Japanese tea house located in the bucolic Descanso Gardens L.A.

11. My Life Is Good “Tea Shirt”…a gift from my best friend.

12, 13, 14  Gorgeous tea foods prepared with the significant help from our friend Clive (the 5 layered tea sandwich he used to make at the Savoy, London and stunning lemon meringue tarts prepared by my niece Sammycakes. Also, my petite favorite biscuit scones.

15. Teapot with tea warmer at our dear friend Eugenie’s.

16. We discover pastry chef Kevin Montoya…owner of Carley Cakes. yum.

17 – 23. Out of the blue…I get asked to do a tea tasting for 100 and launch Eat Be Tea at this time….more Tea With Betty books are ordered, tables set in this gorgeous, rustic outdoor setting in the historic area of  San Juan Capistrano – my husband and Chef Kevin plate the food for the pairing with several organic teas from Mighty Leaf.

24.  Chef Kevin decides to name my biscuit scone…the Jones Scone and offer it in his pastry case with my fragrant and flavorful vanilla, cinnamon butter…at Hidden House Cafe on Los Rios Street in SJC.

Finally, we are up to June…back in Napa at the culinary institute where they claim “food is life”…so true…

Finally, I sit down to a fragrant darjeeling packaged in a darling cotton sack.

Happy New Year! Relax and drink tea!