According to the history of Coca-Cola, the soft drink was invented by an American pharmacist. However, residents of the village of Aielo de Malferit in the province of Valencia believe that its origin lies in their village.
On Coca-Cola’s official website, it is stated that the pharmacist Dr. John Styth Pemberton from Atlanta created the recipe for Coca-Cola in 1886. However, six years earlier, in a small Spanish village, Aielo de Malferit, a syrup was already made with similar ingredients called “La Nuez de kola Coca.” According to the villagers, the origin of Coca-Cola is in Spain.
In 1880, three friends, Bautista Aparici, Ricardo Sanz, and Enrique Ortiz, founded an innovative distillery that later supplied liqueurs to the Spanish royal household. The distillery received numerous gold medals and international awards for its originality. In 1885, they participated in a beverage competition in Philadelphia, and in 1889, they took part in the World’s Fair in Paris. This exhibition is particularly famous because it marked the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
Aparici traveled extensively to explore new markets. One of his trips took him to Philadelphia in 1885. There, he left behind a few bottles of Nuez de Kola Coca in exchange for grapevines. The American grapevines were stronger and more resistant to insect pests. Less than a year after his visit to the United States, pharmacist Pemberton introduced a beverage to the market with the same taste, color, and basic ingredients, namely, kola nuts and coca leaves from the Peruvian coca plant.
While Coca-Cola production soared in America in the late 19th century, the sales of Nuez de Kola Coca in Spain stagnated. The liqueur factory changed ownership several times and was occupied during the Spanish Civil War. During and after the war, production halved due to a shortage of raw materials and reduced demand for the product.
Coca-Cola was already conquering the world and wanted to establish a presence in Spain. However, the company encountered an obstacle. In Aielo de Malferit, a beverage was made with almost the same name and the same basic ingredients. According to Spanish laws, a similar beverage with nearly the same name could not be introduced to the market. Therefore, the owners of Coca-Cola purchased the patent for the recipe of Nuez de Kola Coca in 1953. On March 31, 1953, the first bottle of Coca-Cola was bottled in Spain at the Cobega factory in Barcelona.
El Licor de Nuez de Kola
From 1953 onwards, the original liqueur factory was only allowed to produce a version with alcohol. Despite everything, one of Spain’s oldest liqueur factories survived. The factory walls still bear medals and awards that remind of the glorious days of the factory. The liqueurs, such as the sweet Licor de Nuez de Kola, are still handmade and are usually consumed on special occasions, such as weddings. At present, only a handful of people work in the small factory. Among these, the current 79-year-old owner, Juan Juan Micó, and his son and niece.
What if, in 1953, the patent had not been sold for the paltry amount of between 30,000 and 50,000 pesetas, but a small percentage of Coca-Cola sales had been agreed upon.
Recognition from Coca-Cola
Under the leadership of Mayor José Luis Juan Pinter, the villagers of Aielo de Malferit are now trying to gain recognition from Coca-Cola for laying the foundation for the world-famous soft drink.