tion he helps organize. It was quite an undertaking.
The pallets had to be shipped from Europe via
freighter, and there were frequent delays.
On top of that, the shipping costs at least equaled
the cost of the beverage. Goldstein overcame the
hurdles and Club-Mate made its U.S. debut at the
convention. “People who haven’t had a bottle since
then still remember it vividly,” Goldstein says. “That
can be seen as either a good or a bad thing.”
Goldstein is now the sole U.S. distributor of
Club-Mate. A 12-bottle case costs about $60 with
shipping. A pallet of 800 bottles comes to about $3
per bottle. Either way it’s a pricy proposition, which
has led some fans to question the need to ship the
product from thousands of miles away when theoretically, it could be brewed in anyone’s kitchen.
Case in point is David Toews of Minneapolis, Minn.,
who was intrigued by Club-Mate’s punch and its odd
flavor. “I’ve always had a thing for weird caffeinated
beverages,” he says. “I used to order Bawls from
ThinkGeek during my college’s 40-hour trivia marathon when the only place you could get it was online.”
Faced with the steep costs of shipping Club-Mate,
and knowing that he could easily acquire the basic
ingredients, Toews decided to brew his own.
Toews (pronounced TAYVZ) began with a kilogram
sack of yerba maté (yur-buh MAH-tay), the heavily
caffeinated herb that provides the core flavor of the
beverage. Known to scientists as Ilex paraguarien-sis, yerba maté is a species of holly used to make a
traditional South American tea, drunk from a gourd.
For his first batch, Toews skipped Club-Mate’s
high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in favor of agave
syrup, a sweetener produced in Mexico. “I’m not sold
on the whole HFCS health controversy, but I tend to
prefer sugar-based beverages due to the smoother
flavor profiles,” Toews says. “I sort of stumbled upon
the agave at Costco, and decided to give it a try.”
After steeping the yerba maté for five minutes,
Toews strained the tea and added the other ingredients — the agave and a bit of citric acid for tartness
— then carbonated the result in his kegerator.
And how did the batch turn out? “Absolutely
mouth-puckering,” Toews admits. “I thought that
carbonating it might mitigate the sourness, but it
was not to be. It was very encouraging, though, to
be able to taste the tea flavor and tell that I might
be able to replicate it with a bit more tweaking.”
Intent on matching the flavor of the original beverage, Toews set out to equal its sweetness. His wife,
Sarah, provided invaluable assistance, suggesting
various combinations of simple syrup, corn syrup,
and molasses in place of some of the agave. Toews
also reduced the steeping temperature a few degrees
to help mitigate the astringency of the first batch.
Toews continued refining his recipe, producing
1-liter batches, tweaking the mix, and then trying
again. “Whenever you reduce a liquid to extract
form, you lose some of the subtlety. I think this is
also why the Club-Mate has that malty aspect to
it,” he says. “When I brew beer, and want to create
that profile, I’ll boil the wort longer, creating more
Maillard reaction compounds that are associated
with malty and caramel flavors.”
With batch six, Toews called it done. The resulting
beverage, which he calls Dave-Mate, is extremely
close to the original, while displaying a unique twist.
So what’s next? “I think I’d like to try a hybrid process in which I melded the maté with a light-style
beer to make a hacker-friendly alco-pop,” he says.
He’s excitedly producing batches of Dave-Mate for
the new Twin Cities hackerspace, the Hack Factory.
“It would be my small contribution to insomnia for
the sake of creativity,” he says.
John Baichtal is a contributing writer for
(Makes about 1 liter)
Strain the tea into another container. You may need
to filter multiple times to remove all the sediment.
Add the sweeteners, citric acid, bitters, and guarana.
(Simple syrup is 1 part sugar dissolved in 1 part hot
water.) The guarana simply serves as concentrated
caffeine — it doesn’t add any flavor, but it may
affect the overall flavor of the beverage.
Stir until blended, then carbonate. Toews used a
1L soda bottle with a carbonator cap, then added
CO2 from a cartridge using a method called forced
carbonation. This equipment and instructions on
the process may be found in any home brewing