February 02, 2008

Kellogg's Kaffee Hag

This morning I pulled a small sheet of paper out of an old Kellogg's cereal recipe booklet. It was neatly tucked in the back, just inside the rear cover. At first I thought it was a loose page but soon realized that it was an advertisement for another Kellogg's product. By all appearances, the paper looked as if it belonged there, so I'm going to assume that the paper was meant to be part of the booklet.

Did you know that Kellogg's once produced a decaffeinated coffee product? I didn't. Or not that I remember, anyway.

After a little searching, I discovered that for a period of about ten years (from 1927 until 1937), Kellogg's manufactured a 97% caffeine-free coffee sold under the brand name of Kaffee Hag.

As its name indicates, the brand had German roots. In the early 1900s a process for removing the caffeine from green coffee beans was invented in Germany by Ludwig Roselius and Karl Wimmer. This early process involved using solvents such as benzene and methylene chloride as part of the caffeine extraction method.

Roselius was already marketing his coffee in Germany and other parts of Europe under the Kaffee Hag name and in France under the Sanka name, when he established the Kaffee Hag Corporation in New York. In 1912, he began manufacturing the first decaffeinated coffee in America in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

During World War I, the company, along with its trademark, was expropriated by the Alien Property Custodian office of the U.S. government. George F. Gund II, of the Cleveland, Ohio brewing family, purchased the American portion of Kaffee Hag and its trademark for $130,000 after state Prohibition laws interrupted their brewery operations in 1919. Gund built up the company and sold it to Kellogg's for the sum of $10 million in 1927.

I learned here that Roselius continued with his American decaffeinated coffee ventures after the war was over.

"After the armistice, Roselius returned to the United States and in 1927 entered into a partnership arrangement with the General Foods Corp. to produce decaffeinated coffee under the Sanka label in Brooklyn, New York. In 1932 Roselius sold his interest in the Sanka business to General Foods. In 1937 General Foods bought the American Kaffee Hag Co. from Kellogg and thereby became the sole producer of caffeine-free coffee in the United States."

A quick perusal of old magazine and newspaper advertisements didn't turn up anything for the Kaffee Hag brand in the U.S. after the Kellogg's sale, so it's probably safe to assume that General Foods retired the brand altogether after the acquisition to focus solely on Sanka. The Kaffee Hag brand is still sold in Europe today.

The front side of the ad shows a formally dressed couple sitting at a candlelit table with the woman holding a cup of coffee, illustrating a "Happy Ending" to their meal, just as the ad copy suggests.

The copy on the rear side is remarkably similar to what one might see in a decaffeinated coffee advertisement today:

"Does ordinary coffee over-stimulate your nerves, keep you awake at night, or upset your digestion? Have you wished that some day there would be a coffee without the harmful caffeine that would still give you all of coffee's satisfying taste and tantalizing aroma?"

Since we now know that Kellogg's only owned the Kaffee Hag brand for ten years, we can date the advertisement (and the booklet) as being from sometime between 1927 and 1937. To my thinking, Kellogg's mention of their "improved" decaffeination process in the ad suggests it may have been published sometime in the late 1920s, shortly after the purchase from Gund. Certainly they would have wanted to accentuate how Kaffee Hag was "better" under their new ownership.

Until fairly recently, I hadn't ruminated much on decaffeinated anything. I didn't care for the taste of the coffee and it didn't do much for the flavor of my iced tea either. Sanka was around our house for a while in the 1960s, until my father eventually gave it (and his doctor's other advice) up and went back to regular coffee.

Some casual conversation around the dinner table this past Thanksgiving lit up a little light bulb in my brain and led me to the realization that I might be ingesting a little too much caffeine. So since Thanksgiving, I've been mixing decaffeinated coffee and tea in with the regular stuff as a means of cutting back.

As for the decaffeination process itself--I'd never given it a thought before now.

I sat up a little straighter in my chair when I came across the words "methylene chloride." I'm familiar with methylene chloride as being the main ingredient in the easiest, handiest-dandiest paint stripper there ever was. The stuff magically washes away hundred year old paint and other finishes from old furniture without the pesky business of scrubbing or slowly scraping off sludge that is required from the array of less powerful products found in the corner hardware store. My respect for the power of this solvent is such that I no longer strip my own furniture nor do I flinch when quoted a price for professional furniture stripping. It's definitely not something I want to even think about in relation to my food or drink.

My reading took me here for the basics of the decaffeination process and here to see how the brand of decaf coffee I've been using is being processed. Ick! I don't like any of it.

No more decaffeinated anything for me.


At 4:23 PM CST, Blogger T.W. Barritt said...

I'm amazed that they were trying to ditch caffeine so long ago. What's the point of drinking decaff, I always say. I love the photo of the classy couple calmly drinking their decaff! I wonder what the "caffinated photo" would have looked like ...

At 6:11 AM CST, Blogger Kathy said...

All of my favorite beverages are loaded with caffeine: coffee, iced tea, Dr Pepper. I suppose I was desperate and didn't want to face "moderation" in this case.

At 5:44 AM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history lesson. I found an old Kaffee Hag can in the basement recently with the Kellog name on it. As for drinking the stuff, I gave up coffee years ago after it upset my stomach--even decaf. I don't care for tea either. Caffeine makes me feel "wound up" like a spring, and I don't like fizzy drinks, so I happily avoid all caffeinated and carbonated beverages.


Post a Comment

<< Home