When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonaid

Words Oisin Fogarty Graveson  


Unethical farming, children living in poverty, global pollution; it’s hard to know where to start when looking to make a difference. Well now, “Drinking Helps.” That’s what Hamburg’s organic and Fairtrade soft-drink brand Lemonaid are telling the world. If the numbers are to be believed, they’ve raised €1.000.000 and counting, to support a growing range of charitable projects around the globe. They’re making the world a little less sour one lemon and lime at a time.

Lemonaid, and sibling brand ChariTea, began life in Hamburg in 2009, when two friends Paul and Jakob decided that if they were going to play this little game called Capitalism, they would do it on their terms – for a social goal.

An unfortunate truth

“Paul had spent his teenage years in Sri Lanka, at which time he came face to face with poverty often,” brand ambassador in The Netherlands, Paul Bestebreurtje explains. After university, founder Paul began working with a large German NGO, GIZ, but soon became disillusioned by the way in which large development aid operations like this found so much of their money wound up in overheads, salaries and travel.

“Traditional NGOs like these get so good at collecting funds, that when the end of the financial year comes around they don’t know where to put them. This is, unfortunately, where corruption enters the game. Less care goes into researching exactly what certain projects are doing, and where the money is going.”

Jakob had been working for an advertising agency, but he too had become disillusioned with his work. “At 28, the two guys got together and decided to start a social venture. Remembering how Sri Lankans had made lemonade when he had lived there, Paul suggested they go into trade relations with local farmers in Sri Lanka.”


Laying the foundations

“We find projects locally and expand from there.” says Besterbreurtje. “We currently fund 13 projects internationally, each one linked in some way to the production of our fruit, tea, sugar and agave”

From the Rooibos Justice land purchasing campaign in South Africa, where the rooibos tea comes from; to business school Instituto Intercultural Ñöñho in Mexico, where the limes are grown; to small scale projects such as a daycare school in Paraguay, where they source their organic cane sugar – these projects come in all shapes and sizes.


“We are looking to expand more and more every year. And we want to find creative ways to engage people all around the world, for example, connecting to backpackers, who find projects for us to sponsor while they’re travelling.”


The team currently sits at around 70 people, mostly in Germany. “I opened the Dutch market,” says Bestebreurtje. “Then there are colleagues of mine in London, Denmark and France. Just one person like me in each place, trying to get people to support what we do.”

Lemonaid/ChariTea now have 18 flavours of loose-leaf tea in production which means 18 new regions with projects to support. These will be a winter-ready companion to the summer soft-drinks which, by the way, go great with vodka.