How to Prepare Elderberry Tea

The basic rules for preparing a good cup of tea are all you need to know in order to know how to prepare elderberry tea. 

There is a lot of tea-brewing advice out there, but if you pick through it, you’ll see that some accepted “best of” tips start to emerge. You’ll also see that you do get variation depending on the type of tea you are intending to brew. 

Basically, there is one set of “rules” for black teas and teas made from actual tea leaves; there is a slightly different preferred tips for herbal teas. For the most part on this site, we consider elderflower and elderberry herbal teas, though you will find some recipes mixed with regular black tea for taste and energy (read, caffeine), and so some bits of that advice mixes in here, too. 

Just want to know the best way to serve elderberry tea? Skip down for some serving and sweetening suggestions.

How to prepare a good cup of elderberry tea

How to prepare a good cup of elderberry tea

Does the water I use matter?

No matter what you are brewing, tea leaves, tea bags, elderflower, elderberry, or herbal teas, the one thing all the experts agree on is this: start with good water:

  • Use fresh, cold, oxygenated water. Tap is fine if you have good tap water. Cold spring water is a good second choice.
  • Oxygenate your tap water by running the tap for a few seconds until it runs cold. 
  • Never use hot tap water.
  • Microwaving is not recommended, but if needs so dictate, microwave the water to between 170 and 190 degrees F, and add the tea after the water is heated.
  • It is not actually recommended that you bring the tea water all the way to a boil. Stop just short. Boiling releases the oxygen in the water (which you took steps to oxygenate!). This makes tea taste “flat.”
  • The best middle-road results for tea water temperatures are between 180 and 200 degrees (ranges vary from 170 to 210 F. Water boils at 212 F).
  • A good basic rule of thumb is that lighter teas, including light-colored herbal teas, benefit from water temperatures at the lower end of the scale, while the darker the tea, the higher the recommended temperature.

Pot? Infuser? By the cup?

The right equipment makes brewing good tea easier, too:

  • Infusers of all varieties make a nicer, cleaner cup of loose-leaf tea, but don’t pack an infuser (whether a tea ball style or pot infuser) with dry tea mixture. 
  • Leave plenty of room for the tea to expand as it absorbs the water, so that the ingredients have plenty of room to unfurl and release their goodness. Otherwise, the steeped tea will compact in the infuser and inhibit flavor formation (and actually end up being something of a waste!).
  • Some people prefer to brew loose leaf teas in a pot, loose, without an infuser. Many feel this results in more freely-steeping tea and better depth of flavor. 
  • To brew in the pot, simply add the right portion of loose herbal elderberry tea to the bottom of the pot, then pour the hot water over the leaves. Let leaves settle and then pour off from above the settled solids.
  • You may prefer to pour through a strainer of some sort—there are good, handy small strainers that sit easily atop the cup to strain the solid loose tea. 
  • Personal-size tea pots with built-in infusers make brewing loose teas easy. 
  • You can now find both home and travel mugs with built in tea infusers, a well as large pots for brewing to share, too. 
  • Reusable tea ball-styles make single-serving and brewing different flavors for a group easier. 

How Much Loose Tea Do I Use for Elderberry Tea?

Sometimes more is better, and sometimes longer is:

  • To make stronger tea made from tea leaves (as in, from the actual tea plant), it is recommended that you increase the amount of tea used, rather than steeping the tea for a longer period of time. 
  • Tea leaves (black tea, etc.) become bitter when steeped for a long time, hence the recommendation to increase amount versus time. 
  • For stronger herbal teas such as elderflower and elderberry tea, increasing the steeping time is better than using more tea. 
  • For mixed tea leaf and herbal elderberry teas, err in favor of the black tea to prevent bitter flavors. 

Alternatively, can use the same serving of tea mixture twice or even up to three times to get all that the tea has to offer out of it. Waste less, want less. This is actually recommended by loose-leaf tea “experts,” including Bon Apetit. Subsequent brewing of the same teas give the flavors and compounds additional opportunities to release. There are some styles of tea served in some cultures that do not even drink the first and second steepings of the tea (though we don’t really recommend this level of waste for your delicious homemade elderberry teas, we do encourage you to get all they have to give by using the same tea mixture more than once in a setting!)

Less Really Is More for Elderberry Tea—For Some Very Good Reasons

In fact, when it comes to herbal teas, and this is equally important for elderberry and elderflower teas, the less is more approach is better for some very real reasons. Not only will using less tea mixture and letting it steep longer (and/or reusing the same tea) help to release the flavor, but it also may release more of the elderberry’s benefits. The therapeutic benefits that elderberry have to offer are more efficiently released when elderberry is “cooked” for at least 20 minutes. As with any tea, elderberry tea will also get stronger in flavor the longer it is steeped. Therefore, you get a lot more bang for your buck both financially and in terms of health, nutrition, and immune support if you use a smaller amount of your tea mixture and let it steep in the nearly-boiling water for a longer period of time. 

Finally, you may want to consider these alternate preparation instructions expressly for elderberry teas which may net more nutritional and nutraceutical benefits: 

  • Bring cold, fresh water to a boil.
  • Immediately reduce the heat until the tea is only at a simmer.
  • Simmer the elderberry tea for 20 to 30 minutes, then strain. 
  • Keep the tea warm, and enjoy!

These instructions will work best for teas based heavily in dried elderberries as a way to enhance the nutraceutical benefits of your elderberry tea by releasing favorable compounds through the prolonged boiling and simmering process. It is not recommended for elderberry teas with black tea or tea leaves in the mix (which will break down and turn bitter). Elderflower tea will lose its floral, fruity aromas if brewed by this method, contributing to its taste experience.

How do I Serve Elderberry Tea?


A little sweetening is all you’ll need:

  • You should always enjoy your tea to your own tastes and preferences. 
  • That said, milk and cream is not typically enjoyed in an elderberry or elderflower tea.
  • A teaspoonful of good honey added makes for the perfect cup of elderberry tea (local, raw if you can get it—more health and immune boost for your buck!).
  • Other preferred sweeteners make elderflower and elderberry tea quite enjoyable, too. Agave syrup, stevia, and plain sugar are other favored options. 

Aside from sweetening, you’ll enjoy your elderberry tea served hot, cooled to safe consumption temperature. Alternatively, in warmer months, a double-brewed strength of any elder herbal tea, sweetened and then cooled and served as iced tea, will be a welcome summer treat (that still gives great support to the immune system!). 

At the end of the day, though there are many suggestions and rules to help enhance your tea-drinking experience, you should enjoy your tea the way that you like it best; sweet or unsweetened, brewed strong and bold of lightly brewed and delicate, the best tea is the way you like it best. Personalize it. 

And enjoy! It is, after all, your cup of tea!