Anyone opening a cold bottle of Coke this summer owes a nod of thanks to a rundown factory in the Spanish town of Aielo de Malferit, locals tell Der Spiegel. The few folks remaining at the factory producing Nuez de Kola Coca, an alcoholic version of the soft drink, say the recipe for the world-famous cola originated here. They feel cheated out of bragging rights and, of course, money. The short version: Three locals founded the factory in 1880 and began producing beverages from the fruit of kola nut trees and the leaves of coca plants. Their drinks started winning innovation prizes around the world, including one for Kola Coca in Philadelphia in 1885.
"Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps it wasn't—but just one year later, US pharmacist John Pemberton made history when he invented Coca-Cola," says the Der Spiegel piece. Not surprisingly, the current owner of the Spanish factory falls on the no-coincidence side. "It was easy to copy a beverage in those days." The companies kept on their separate paths until 1953, when Coca-Cola moved into Spain, bought the rights to "Kola Coca" for a relative pittance and allowed the Spanish company to keep producing only an alcoholic version. Flash-forward another half-century, and the Spanish factory has just four employees left and probably won't last another generation. "After that, this chapter in history will probably come to an end once and for all," says the owner.