„Alcoholfree and sparkling“

On the History of Mate-Softdrinks in Germany

copyright by Achim Zubke/ Hamburg-Germany

Translation of a lecture held at the “Mate in Berlin”-symposion in the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin, 30.06.2017

In the last five years there has been a creativity boom on the German soft drinks market producing a large number of new caffeine-containing mate-lemonades and mate-iceteas.
At the beginning of 2017 more than 30 different suppliers with dozens of mate drinks were already on the German market. Natural ingredients, organic, fairtrade, solidarity and originality play an increasingly important role in the creation of new products. It is interesting in the context of this innovative wave to deal with the actual history of the mate drinks.

In the mid-1990s, Berlin freaks from the computer scene discovered „Club-Mate“, a carbonated and caffeinated Mate-Lemonade, which was produced by the brewery Loscher in Münchsteinach since 1994 as a by-product.
They organized the supply of their new favorite beverage through a collective distribution system.
In Hamburg, the drink had been known in the alternative squatter scene since the late 1980s by self-employed and alternative beverage traders from the small Dietenhofen company „GEOLA“.
The taste, which was relatively pleasant for a Mate brew, offered a good alternative to sweet colas and artificially tasting energy drinks just at night.

In any case, in this boom period of electronic dance music flourished a new urban club culture. Interest in non-alcoholic liquid and energy donors rose there.

In fact, „club mate“ is not a new invention.

Since around 1900 more and more Mate plantations were built in South America.
The traditional preparation of a strong and bitter infusion of the plant material found in Europe only few lovers.
Several traders tried to establish Mate as a cheap tea substitute. The imperial German Consul Heinze for the Brazilian state of Parana, where thousands of German-born migrants lived, fought 1910 for its introduction into Germany. Praisingly, he mentioned „the company Dr. Graf & Co. in Berlin-Schöneberg … as a zealous champion of the Herva Matte consumption“.

Captain Rudolf Lender joined the Berlin factory of chemical, pharmaceutical and technical preparations, founded in 1889, and finally became its sole owner. In 1906 the production of „Yer preparations“ based on Yerba Mate, was added. One of these products was the „Yermeth“, a carbonated beverage from Yerba extract, sodium bicarbonate and citrate and cane sugar, and thus a precursor to today’s Mate lemonades. From 1913, the „Yer preparations“ do not seem to have been produced or distributed anymore. After the First World War in 1919, the company did not exist anymore in Berlin. The captain Lender died in 1923 and was buried in Potsdam.

In a lexical work by Hahn and Holfert of 1906, „Yermeth“ has already been described: „The drink has an extraordinarily invigorating effect and will, among other things, be excellent for filling the field bottles of tourists, cyclists, etc.“ As a manufacturer, „Obst in Bayreuth“ is called here. This beverage producer probably was the pharmacist Hugo Obst, who had worked in Bayreuth. The pharmacist Hugo Obst, acting from Wriezen an der Oder, acquired in 1899 the already historic Mohren-Apotheke in Bayreuth. 1903 was presented in the „Pharmaceutische Centralhalle“ his new alcohol-free drink called „Yermeth“. Thus it is said there: „There is no doubt that the alcohol-free beverages already have a certain economic importance… Recently, a preparation was brought into the public, which has used as starting material the… Mate… This tea is used now by Obst in Bayreuth for the representation of an alcohol-free, tingling drink, which he calls „Yermeth.“… The fact that the drink exerts an invigorating effect can be attested by the speaker. As far as taste is concerned, it should be pointed out that the taste of each beverage must be accustomed. “

In 1904 H. Metzger published an article in the Tropenpflanzer, in which he reported: „A few weeks ago, an association for the establishment of a German Yermeth Society has been formed. Hopefully the society soon becomes reality and the company is progressing rapidly, as a new sales area would have been created for the Yerba growers.”

Apotheker Obst sold the Mohren-Apotheke 1905 and left Bayreuth. It is to be presumed that he has sold the right to name Yer products and Yermeth 1905 or 1906 to Rudolf Lender and his company „Dr. Graf & Comp.“ in Berlin. According to a notice published 1907 in the Pharmaceutical Newspaper, the pharmacist Obst with his enterprises went to bankruptcy in Saxony.

However, the history of pharmacist Obst and his Mate marketing ideas goes further, namely in Köstritz.
For this purpose, the Heimatverein of Bad Köstritz, in particular Bert Oehlgardt, researched extensively and also collected objects from this period. The pharmacist Hugo Obst appeared historically1908 in Köstritz with a contract in which he allowed the landlord Rudolf Zersch to use the name „Bronte“ for a carbonated mate beverage. He was co-owner of the Fürstliche (Princely) Brewery Köstritz (famous for its “Schwarzbier”/ “Black beer”). The landowners and brothers Rudolf and Kurt Zersch offered a building complex as a production facility, which had become vacant. The production of the „Bronte“ drink seems to have been so successful locally that Obst could win the upper ranger from Tautenhain for his project and a capital investment. In 1911, he founded the „Deutsche Matte-Industrie Köstritz G.m.b.H.“ At the start were the brothers Zersch, who provided the mentioned building, which is still known today as „the Bronte“.

The goal was the industrial exploitation of the „matte“ and the distribution of products derived therefrom, in particular for the production of non-alcoholic beverages. Obst brought equipment for processing and the knowledge of his previous enterprises. On the basis of the distribution network of the brewery, branch offices were set up in Gera, Leipzig and even in Stuttgart and elsewhere. They had to undertake to purchase certain quantities of Mate concentrates for the „Bronte“ at fixed prices. The simple „Bronte“ became by the addition of carbonic acid “Sekt Bronte” („champagne bronte“). The bottled bubbly „Sekt Bronte“ was sold in 250 ml and 500 ml bottles. The label was given by Köstritz. They sold “Bronte” to the gastronomy and all sorts of beverage outlets, but also private individuals. “Sekt Bronte” was advertised as “recommended from scientific authorities because of its health values” as a „home drink of first rank!“ Ullmann wrote in 1914: „Sekt-Bronte tastes, according to the author of these lines, pleasant like apple juice.“ In addition, a number of other matte-products were sold.

1913 the pharmacist Hugo Obst born in Bärwalde in the Mark died at the age of 54 in Köstritz. In his stead Wilhelm, a third Zersch-brother, joined the board of the „Deutsche Matte Industrie“. On the basis of the First World War the Mate supplies from the Brazilian Parana stopped. As a result, the company went bankrupt in 1915. The settlement lasted until 1922.

In March 1926 a new foundation was established under the name „Mate-Industrie G.m.b.H. Köstritz i. Thür.“ ,
Partners were the three Zersch-brothers, who regarded the company as part of their Princely Brewery Bad Köstritz, Zeitz. The production took place again in the „Bronte“. The goal was the recycling of Parana-Mate in particular for the production of beverages, essences and other mate-products. For legal reasons, the term „Sekt Bronte“ had to be converted into „Bronte“ at the beginning of the 1930s.

As an additional product, „Club-Mate“, advertised as a „Brauselimonade from Mate Tee, alcohol-free refreshing“, was probably already launched 1926, on old advertising boards or on the company letterhead, a light-yellow sparkling drink served in special glasses out of its own bottle.

According to Bert Oehlgardt, „Club Mate“ emerged on sheet metal plates and letterheads together with „Bronte“ from 1926 on, when the Zersch brothers founded the company, Obviously, both products were sold in bottles with different labels. In the 1930s „Club Mate“ was advertised in a brochure together with „Bronte“.
The company had 10 employees in the Nazi (nationalsocialist) era in 1935. Nothing is known about forced labor.
With the Second World War the production came to a standstill and was not resumed after 1945.
Instead, they produced different colored lemonades. In the newly founded socialist GDR, the lemonade production was introduced into the Köstritzer brewery. In the 1950s, the entire “Bronte”-plant was converted into apartments.

In one of the licensed companies in Dietenhofen the production of „Bronte“ and especially „Club Mate“ was resumed on a small scale after the second world war. This was a small beverage trade company acquired by Georg Latteyer in 1913, which also produced alcohol-free sweet drinks and lemonades. In 1957 Hans Sauernheimer became by marriage with the owners daughter co-owner of the company „Latteyer“, which eventually became „GEOLA“. In addition to the owner couple, only 2 women were employed in the family business. At some point, it was decided to add caffeine to “Club Mate” to ensure a strong and reliable effect. For age reasons, the final owner Hans Sauernheimer sold the plant to the Loscher brewery in 1994. He died in 2015.

The creative pharmacist Hugo Obst set as a pioneer the historical foundation for the following development of the carbonated mate-softdrinks. Whether he was the first inventor of a carbonated mate lemonade is unclear.
In any case, before the „Yermeth“ and the „Bronte“ at least one different sparkling mate lemonade appeared in the public. According to „Pharmaceutische Centralhalle“ of 1901 it was the „Hactormin“. It is said that „the derivation of the strange sounding word“ Hactormin „is left to the more discerning linguists. The low-foaming drink, produced by the Reh Mineral Water Factory (Edgar Liliendahl) at Dresden, is prepared from Yerba-mate and is said to find good appreciation in alcohol-free circles.”

Here research can be carried out further.

I can only recommend to anyone who is concerned with the marketing of mate products, also to deal with their history.

My detailed (a total of 29 pages) research contains much more details than today’s lecture.”

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