It is a well known story that the original 1885 formula for Coca Cola was sold as an elixir with it’s main medicinal ingredients being coca leaves and kola nuts, hence the name Coca Cola.
As a child I had an elderly neighbor who has long since passed away that recalled stories about the drink at the turn of the twentieth century where they would have endurance contests where he and other boys would dare each other to drink what he reported as being a much harsher, caustic drink to consume than it is today.
It was less than a decade after it’s arrival in the late 1800’s before a growing concern about the effects of cocaine began to raise issues over the safety of the formula. By the 1920’s the formula had been drastically altered to remove the cocaine properties.
But, what is not as well known is that cocaine was NEVER actually removed from Coca Cola.
As the story goes it was crucial to the right to the name Coca Cola that coca leaves be in the formula or else it would not be an accurate description of it’s contents. Without the key ingredient the right to the trademark name would not maintain.
So the solution to this dilemma comes through an unusual exception made by the Drug Enforcement Agency to allow the import of coca leaves that generally come from Peru and are then shipped to a Stepan Company plant in Maywood, New Jersey. It is the only commercial entity in the U.S. that is legally allowed to import coca leaves. It goes through a process of “de-cocainization” and is sold to Coke, while the active ingredient is used by pharmaceutical companies in various medicines.
However, don’t expect to get a buzz from this small amount of cocaine. The amount of active ingredient left in Coca Cola is reported to be less than one part in 50 million. But, it saves the name of one of the biggest giants in beverages known to humanity.