Club-Mate is a German club beverage that basically consists of lightly-carbonated, lightly-sweetened, heavily caffeinated tea. Somehow it was adopted by the German and Austrian hacker scene as their official staying-up-late-and-coding beverage. It’s become so popular that it’s been imported to the U.S. where it fetches prices as high as $10 a bottle. Despite these hurdles, it has caught on here as well with hacker magazine 2600‘s parent organization 2600 Enterprises serving as distributor. Last year Nick Farr of Hackers on a Plane made a road trip with a bunch of cases of Club-Mate and sold them from city to city, ending up at DefCon in Las Vegas.

Despite the efforts of 2600 and Farr to spread the Club-Mate love, the stuff remains difficult to get in the U.S. — it must be shipped by freighter from Europe. Because of these logistical hurdles, and plain ole hackerly initiative, several individuals and groups have tried to brew their own from yerba-maté tea, sugar, and caffeine powder.

Open Mate

A group of Hack Pittsburgh members wanted to bring Club-Mate to the Open Source world, so they created Open Mate.

After the members meeting last night, the M-team (Marek, Marty, Matt S., and Matt M.) brewed our first batch of Open Mate soda. Inspired by the Club Mate that Marty had ordered, but put off by its closed-source nature (hey, we are a hackerspace here!), we realized that we should brew our own. After acquiring some yerba mate tea, caffeine powder, sugar, and kegging equipment, the first batch is brewed!

Interlock Rochester’s Open Mate

The advantage of an open source recipe is that anyone can pick it up and brew their own batch. Interlockroc’s Open Mate spinoff experimented with adding some citrus juice, with (apparently) dubious results.

We finally got to do some beta tasting this past Thursday, and all testers agreed that it was yummy and pretty faithful to the original product. I have since sat down for a more in-depth side-by-side comparison (not double-blinded, mind you), and I feel our recipe — although quite tasty — has come up a bit short compared to the real deal. The sweetness is spot on, but there is a complexity and depth to the tea flavor that is missing in our beverage.

Noise Mate / Sudo Pop

San Francisco’s Noisebridge hackerspace similarly wanted to brew their own Club-Mate, but quickly began playing with the recipe, and therefore changed the name to Sudo Pop, describing it as a “yerba mate ginger beer.”


Dave Toews of Minneapolis’ Hack Factory bought a case of the stuff, but decided he wanted to create a more economical alternative using Club-Mate’s signature ingredient, yerba maté. He bought a sack of dried yerba maté tea and began mixing and experimenting. The result, which he calls Dave-Mate, is a close match for the German soda, with the main difference being more of a “tea-ey” taste, which Dave chalks up to Club-Mate being brewed with maté syrup rather than actual leaves. I wrote up Dave’s experiment for MAKE Vol. 23.

Tschunk, a Club-Mate Cocktail

It’s inevitable: as soon as Club-Mate began to take off, people tried to figure out how to make it into a cocktail. This is usually called Tschunk, though the precise recipe varies. Most variants call for limes to cut up and muddled with sugar at the bottom of a glass, then filled ice, light rum and Club-Mate. On the other hand, hacker Strom Carlson has his own Tschunk recipe that uses lime juice instead of lime chunks.

Do you know of any other Club-Mate recreations or Tschunk recipes? Send me a link and I’ll add it to the list, or leave a comment!

From the pages of MAKE Volume 23:
MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets
This special issue is devoted to machines that do delightful and surprising things. In it, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus we go behind the scenes and show you how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper — yes, it’s real, and you wish you had one for your patio barbecue. All this and much, much more.