Black Tea and Spice Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

Photo by Julian Landa

When entertaining a crowd, it often seems that space on the grill is at a premium. For that reason, rather than a long slow grilling over indirect heat, I sometimes choose to tea-braise my ribs and then quickly finish on the grill!

Note: Once they are tea-braised, they may be held at that point warm for up to two hours, or chilled for up to 2 days and then finished on the grill right before serving.

Black Tea and Spice Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

Using the nutty, woodsy notes of Pu-Erh and the lush smokiness of Lapsang Souchong tea enhances the sweet flavor of baby back ribs while creating a lacquered crust that keeps the meat tender and juicy.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 14 hours 20 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Barbecue, Chinese
Servings 1 rack of ribs
Calories 1001 kcal


  • 1 rack Baby back ribs or preferred style of ribs
  • 1/4 cup Black Tea and Spice Rub
  • 3 cups Black Tea Barbecue Sauce or your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1/3 cup Pu-Erh leaves or other earthy tea leaves
  • 3 cups water

Black Tea and Spice Rub

  • 2 tbsp black tea use a full bodied black tea and grind to a powder
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt use kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tbps paprika consider using a hot Hungarian paprika!
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin toasting and grinding the seeds are even better!

Black Tea Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons black tea leaves (Lapsing Souchong works particularly well here)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup vinegar apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard preferably whole grain
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • Rub the ribs with the tea and spice rub. Wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

When Ready to Cook Ribs

  • Pre-heat the oven to 300°F When ready to cook the ribs bring the 3 cups of water to a boil and steep the Pu-Erh tea leaves for 6 to 8 minutes. Strain and discard leaves.
  • Combine the steeped Pu-Erh tea with 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce or the smoky barbecue sauce shown below.
  • Place the ribs into a large roasting pan. Pour the barbecue sauce/Pu-Erh mixture over the ribs. Cover the pan with foil and place in the pre-heated oven.
  • Cook covered in the oven for 1 hour or until ribs are tender. Turn the ribs every 20 minutes while they cook
  • The ribs may be enjoyed at this point, but are even better if finished on the grill over direct heat, just long enough to add some external charring to the meat. (Photo by Julian Landa)

Black Tea and Spice Rub

  • This rub is infinitely changeable. Feel free to adjust to your own personal style. It is always a good idea to make extra which you can save for later, or give as gifts in small jars or pouches. Combine all ingredients. If not using immediately, store in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.

Black Tea Barbecue Sauce

  • Bring water to a boil and steep the Lapsang Souchong tea leaves for 6 minutes. Strain and discard the leaves.
  • Return the steeped tea to a medium saucepan. Combine in other ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce is thick and homogenous. Stir periodically.


Keyword Baby Back Ribs, BBQ Sauce, Black Tea, Lapsang Souchong, Pu-Erh, Spice Rub

2 thoughts on “Black Tea and Spice Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

  1. Do you have recipe for tea smoked ribs using black tea with orange like constant comment. Which tea would you recommend

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating