A long history of success

Establishing a tea company in Frankfurt, far away from major seaports, was a bold step in the early 19th century. Our success story dates back nearly 200 years – now we are one of the world’s leading tea brands served at top hotels thanks to our focus on quality and creativity and our love of tea.

You need to be patient and passionate if you want to be successful in the tea business. This is why we cultivate our business relationships with the same attention to detail as we do our tea gardens: We have taken a sustainable and long-term approach ever since our company was founded by Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt in 1823. As the proprietor of the company I am continuing this rich tradition with the same vision and passion.

Jan-Berend Holzapfel
Owner

  • Excellent tea from selected countries

    The quality of our tea is a top priority for us. To meet our high standards, we select only the best growing countries for our tea gardens and perform regular quality checks to ensure the compliance of all Ronnefeldt products.

    From the well-known tea gardens in Assam and Darjeeling on the slopes of the Himalayas and Yunnan in China, to Japan, Africa and South America – Ronnefeldt is looking for and finding the best teas in the whole world.

  • Quality thanks to orthodox tea production

    You can enjoy Ronnefeldt teas in the best hotels and restaurants of the world – and in many countries at home as well. Tea connoisseurs appreciate our hand-crafted, superior quality teas – every production step is executed carefully, incorporating traditional methods from the picking of the leaves in the tea gardens, blending and tasting of the tea all the way to filling and packing in bags and caddies. We ensure perfect tea quality for your enjoyment through continuous monitoring of every single step.

  • In the tea garden

    Tea is cultivated in many parts of the world. This is why we have high standards regarding quality and taste when we select our producing countries. We work together with our suppliers, the NGO Ethical Tea Partnership and the Childaid Network foundation to improve social and environmental standards in the tea growing countries so that we can continue offering our clients delicious, premium quality Ronnefeldt teas for many years to come.

Excellence as an overall seal of quality

Our responsibility does not end with the blending of our fine teas; it also includes the way how our products are presented and served. As it is the case with the purchase of our raw material, we exclusively work with reliable partners and use only high-quality packaging materials.

Our packaging is both innovative and appealing in terms of its look and feel. Thus the perfect preparation of our teas is guaranteed and a unique and pleasurable experience is ensured thanks to easy handling.

Hight quality

Our tea tasters are trained experts and connoisseurs with a keen sense of taste. Using all their senses they examine and taste the prepared tea as well as fruits and herbs, blending these into creations that meet the most discerning tastes of tea lovers all over the world. Our tea tasters sample hundreds of teas every week, carefully testing each and every one according to the highest standards.

BIO Organic

Organically cultivated products are becoming increasingly popular. Ronnefeldt meets this demand with a large selection of organic teas. The organic label guarantees controlled organic cultivation, i.e. the tea is grown without genetic modifications and without the use of chemical and synthetic pesticides. Moreover, we have all of our teas tested for residues at accredited German laboratories.

Our varied range of products

Excellent tea from around the world is in more demand now than ever before. This is why our assortment includes a variety of traditional teas such as black teas, oolong teas, green teas and white teas as well as various herbal infusions and a large selection of fruit infusions. Our tea tasters create aromatic tastes and flavours throughout the year for the enjoyment of diverse teas that perfectly fit every season. In addition to loose tea, we also offer pre-portioned solutions to meet the needs of our clients.

New materials

We continuously test new, environmentally sound materials and make sure that they are suitable for our production machines and for the contact with our teas. We are currently in the process of switching over to simple, unpainted materials for our sales packaging and are testing whether we can use compostable, biodegradable materials instead of films and filter papers. Our goal is that 50 per cent of our new products will be compostable in the next two years. Currently, recycled paper is not an alternative for us as it is not food safe due to impurities and therefore not suitable as a packaging material for our teas.

For product displays or porcelain we furthermore use only secondary raw materials certified to be food safe, such as artificial leather. We want to do what we can to protect the environment, so even our office supplies like stationery and printer paper or wood merchandise displays are FSC® certified. By mid-2019 we will verify that our partner printing companies use eco-friendly inks and FSC®-certified wood and paper only.

Ronnefeldt has been delivering high-class tea for 200 years. Since then, the company is looking back at a long tradition and focuses on enjoyment and luxury products.

Ronnefeldt since 1823 – our history

1823 Founding

1750
The Ronnefeldt family originally came from Zörbig in Saxony-Anhalt. In historical records, Johann Tobias, the oldest son of Tobias Ronnefeldt and Anna Christine Konradi, appears as an apprentice carpenter in Frankfurt beginning in 1750. He stayed with Master Carpenter Johann Leonhard Stöber, whose daughter he married, and acquired the rank of Master himself. His son Johann Sigismund followed his father’s trade and married the daughter of the long-established and distinguished Finck family in 1792. He died six years later leaving two sons, the older of whom Johann Nicolaus also learned the carpentry trade in the tradition of his father.

1810 – 1823
The second son, Johann Tobias completed a four-year traineeship and a year as an assistant with the well-known Frankfurter trading company Johann Christian Mühl between 1810 and 1814. In 1815 he broadened his knowledge in foreign commercial centres and began working for a large Rotterdam grocery store. He developed a solid network of relationships here and became familiar with the import and export of goods, which is what inspired him to establish himself as a self-employed importer in his home town Frankfurt am Main in 1823.

1824
The company, founded by Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt in Frankfurt in 1823, is bound by long tradition to one of the world’s greatest tea-producing countries: China. In the Frankfurter Ober-Postamts-Zeitung, No. 20, 20th January 1825, Frankfurt am Main, we find the first mentioning of the trading with China.

1845 The second generation of companies

1845
On 14th August 1845, Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt died leaving his wife with five under-aged children and a business that had grown to a considerable size. Friederike Ronnefeldt managed the business until 1860 when she handed it over to her sons Carl Adolf and Philipp Wilhelm. As the consumption of tea became more and more popular, new branches of the now well-known brand Ronnefeldt were established. Philipp Wilhelm died in 1880 and Carl Adolf took over the company.

1884 Location Zeil / Holzgraben

1884
In 1884, Carl Adolf Ronnefeldt acquired a large house on the famous boulevard Zeil. Carl Adolf played an active role in the business till the advanced age of 87 years; his son Rudolf has been the General Manager of the company since the end of the 19th Century. Under his aegis, many secondary articles were dispensed with and the company specialised exclusively in trading tea. In the meantime, Ronnefeldt had become a well-known brand of tea. Rudolf Ronnefeldt, the founder’s grandson journeyed around the world in 1889 and his travel diary contains awesome descriptions of his impressions.

1904 Moving to Roßmarkt

1904
Due to construction of the famous department store Wronker in 1904, Ronnefeldt moved to the legendary house “Zum Goldenen Brunnen” at Rossmarkt 8, where already Goethe’s mother spent the last years of her life. In the same year, an Art Noveau artist from the Mathildenhöhe, Hans Christianen designed an advertising poster for the tea house, with a dragon’s head as a symbol for Chinese tea. The Ronnefeldt Limited Company (KG) was registered two years earlier, in 1902.

1914 Location Goethestraße 3

1914
In 1914, the company moved into the large property at Goethestr. 3. The First World War brought the entire tea trade to a temporary standstill. By 1916, the entire stock had been consumed and only opportunist traders occasionally managed to bring a few pounds of tea through or into occupied territory at enormous prices. In spite of increasing world prices, tea consumption was growing in Germany and the Ronnefeldt Tea House experienced a steady upturn in demand. Close connections existed with the most esteemed international trading companies, including an over 80-year-old relationship with the tea import company G.W.A.Westphal & Son, which was founded in Hamburg in 1796.

1922
Herwarth Westphal, the grandson of Carl Rudolf Ronnefeldt and Emma Ronnefeldt, nee Rößler (Degussa founder), was born in Shanghai on the 17th August, 1922. His mother Emmy married into the family of the Hamburg tea trading company Westphal, which had already traded with China for five generations at that time. At the beginning of the 20s, the parents Alfred and Emmy Westphal lived in Shanghai, where the tea entrepreneur cooperated in business with the King & Ramsay Company.

Shanghai and Hankow were the important trade centres for tea and other colonial goods at that time. The city used to have five foreign concessions belonging to the United Kingdom (115 acres), France (60 acres), Russia (60 acres), Germany (100 acres, est. 1895) and Japan (32 acres). The principal article of export was black tea, of which staple Hankow has always been the central market. The quantity of brick tea thus exported in 1904 was upwards of 10 million lb. Historic pictures of the Westphal, King and Ramsay, that were recently found, show the tearoom at that time. On one of the pictures we see Mr King with the oldest teaman of Hankow.

1942
In 1942, Georg Lülmann joined Ronnefeldt. He came from an old Bremen tea-trading family, was a former leading salesman for Meßmer and became a partner.

1944
On 22nd March 1944, the Ronnefeldt company building was hit hard in air raids.

1951 Head office Kurfürstenplatz

1951
On February 1st, 1951 Ronnefeldt celebrated its 125th anniversary in the new business premises at Kurfürstenplatz in Bockenheim. The building, a former corset factory, became a tea processing plant.

1962
Herwarth Westphal became a partner in 1962. He joined the company in the early fifties following detention as a prisoner of war and completion of his commercial apprenticeship.

1975
Frank Holzapfel joined the company as the Head of Sales and Marketing, and worked in close cooperation with Georg Lülmann and Herwarth Westphal.

1984 Company generation Holzapfel

1984
In 1984, Frank Holzapfel became sole owner of the company in accordance with the wishes of Herwarth Westphal. In the years that followed, he changed the business strategy and positioned the Ronnefeldt brand as the exclusive tea brand for the four and five-star hotels. As the time went on, he was largely responsible for shaping the company and its image, and began exporting to Eastern Europe and Russia from the beginning on.

1991
takeover of the Tee-Handels-Kontor Bremen located in Worpswede.

1993/94
transfer of the complete tea production, blending and distribution logistics to Worpswede.

2002
Jan-Berend Holzapfel, son of Frank Holzapfel, joined the company after completing his studies in Vienna and at the University of Illinois/USA, and subsequently developed the company’s representation in Dubai/United Arab Emirates.

2005 Second generation of the family Holzapfel

2005
Jan-Berend Holzapfel became General Manager and Partner.
He focussed on strategic expansion of the core market and new international markets.

2008 Launch of the webshop

2008
Ronnefeldt launched its own online shop: www.ronnefeldt-privat.de

2009 Brand shop in the MyZeil shopping center

2009
After 125 years, Ronnefeldt reopened a retail shop in the Zeil, in the new shopping center ‘MyZeil’.

2013 190 years of Ronnefeldt tea

2013
Ronnefeldt celebrates its 190th birthday. Historical research shows that Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt started trading in tea and silk in 1821.

2015 1823 Tea Lounge by Ronnefeldt

2012
Jan-Berend Holzapfel took over the company from his father Frank and is now the second generation Holzapfel with sole responsibility for the company.

2013
In 2013, the company celebrated its 190th birthday. New historical records document that Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt traded in tea and silk from China in as early as 1821.

2015
Ronnefeldt created a new and unique concept: the ‚1823 Tea Lounge by Ronnefeldt‘. The first lounge opened in July in the luxurious Gaysorn shopping mall in Bangkok and offers an exclusive tea collection and a variety of culinary specialties to its guests.

2016
Ronnefeldt publishes its first sustainability report. The report is guided by the “core” option of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards. The GRI Standards are the first global standards for sustainability reporting. The modular, interrelated structure of these standards are widely used and most trusted in the world. Material aspects according to GRI include economic, environmental and social impacts. Ronnefeldt is proud to be one of the first German midsize company that bases its sustainability report on the Global Reporting Initiative Standards.

2017
The Ronnefeldt office shop was launched: www.ronnefeldt-office.com Registered business clients have the opportunity to enjoy high-quality tea at the office themselves and to serve their own clients with excellent hot beverages. Our whole range of pre-portioned tea is available to order online.

Ronnefeldt is proud to be the official tea partner of Forbes Travel Guide since autumn 2017. Forbes Travel Guide is the global pacemaker for service standards and benchmark when it comes to international star-ratings.

2018 New product "GinT"2018

2018
Inspired by the concept of the Fusion Bar in the A-Rosa resort Travemünde, the two traditional brands Ziegler and Ronnefeldt have created a new product called “GinT”, a gin that has been infused with the famous Ronnefeldt Morgentau® tea.

Ronnefeldt was partner of the German house at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. A choice Ronnefeldt tea was offered to all athletes around the clock.

2019
For the first time in the 196 years of its history the well-established tea company Ronnefeldt launches ready to drink iced teas. The new product line Iced Selection® consists of two beverages in organic quality and trendy flavours: “Ginger loves black tea” is a black tea with ginger and lime, “Cranberry flirts with tea” is a red fruit infusion with the tangy aroma of cranberries.

2019 Death of Frank Holzapfel

2019
Frank Holzapfel passed away Wednesday, October 2, 2019. With charisma, foresight and entrepreneurial vision, he transformed the company into an internationally recognized and exclusive brand for high-quality tea over almost 30 years. November 16th Frank Holzapfel posthumously receives the prestigious 64th Brillat Savarin plaque in Frankfurt in recognition and appreciation of his merits for the culture of dining and tea. Each year the charitable foundation Food and Beverage Management Association (FBMA) awards the prestigious prize during a ceremony that is one of the most glamourous annual events for the German hospitality industry. Among the previous 63 distinguished laureates are pioneers and influential leaders.

2022 Ronnefeldt Tea Lounge Istanbul

In Istanbul, the first Ronnefeldt Tea Lounge has opened, offering visitors a unique tea experience. The Ronnefeldt Teahouse Suadiye is located in a prestigious location on Bagdat Avenue, one of the city’s most exclusive shopping streets, comparable to the famous Champs Elysées in Paris.

The address of the Ronnefeldt Teahouse Suadiye is:
Ronnefeldt Teahouse Suadiye
Bagdat Cd. No: 460/2 Suadiye Istanbul

At the Ronnefeldt Tea Lounge, guests can discover and enjoy a wide selection of high-quality teas from around the world. The teahouse provides an inviting atmosphere where tea connoisseurs and enthusiasts can indulge their senses. From aromatic black tea to refreshing green teas and exotic herbal teas, there is something for every taste.

With the opening of the Ronnefeldt Tea Lounge in Istanbul, the company continues its international expansion course, bringing its expertise in tea culture and service to one of the most fascinating metropolises in the world. The Ronnefeldt Tea Lounge warmly invites all tea enthusiasts and the curious to experience the variety and quality of Ronnefeldt teas in a unique ambiance.

2023 200th anniversary

Ronnefeldt is celebrating its 200th anniversary, a historic milestone for the company. In 1823, founder Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt took the courageous step of establishing a teahouse in Frankfurt am Main, away from the major seaports. From this humble beginning, an impressive success story unfolded, making Ronnefeldt a globally leading brand in the tea industry. This success is based on passion, creativity, and a deep love for tea.

Today

Today, Ronnefeldt is the exclusive tea brand preferred by leading national and international luxury hotels and restaurants. The company sets the global standard for exceptional tea culture and professional service. Its dedicated employees and international partners offer customized service concepts to customers in key markets across Europe, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France, as well as in 80 other countries worldwide. These countries encompass Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Japan, Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and the United States.
Throughout its 200-year history, the company has remained true to its original philosophy: using only the finest leaf teas from the best tea gardens worldwide. The orthodox method, predominantly handmade, is exclusively employed in tea production. The company invests in training programs such as TeaMaster® Silver and Gold to promote professional education and development of service executives in top hotels worldwide.

We produce our black tea in several steps using orthodox methods.

First the tea is carefully harvested by hand in a continuously monitored process and according to the global principle – two leaves and one bud. The fresh green leaves enter the five-step process of orthodox tea production immediately after harvesting:

The tea leaves “rest” for approximately 12-18 hours in withering troughs – at times exposed to forced (heated) air – until the leaves lose most of their moisture content and volume. The tea leaf must become flaccid and pliable for further processing, so it is crucial for the moisture to be removed in a gentle way.

A rolling machine with rotating discs breaks the cells of the tea leaves without destroying them. The cell sap is released in the process. The combination of cell sap and oxygen leads to fermentation. We call this process “fermentation” in the tea industry, but it is actually “oxidation”.

The fermentation triggered by the rolling is an oxidation process that takes approximately 2-3 hours, depending on the ambient temperature and humidity. The cell sap oxidises when it combines with oxygen, the leaves turn a copper colour and the typical tea aroma results.

The residual moisture is removed from the tea in a rack drier at approx. 90° C. The oxidised cell sap dries on the leaf. Now the tea gets its dark colour. This process takes about 20 minutes and is carefully monitored to ensure that the tea develops a pleasant taste. The residual moisture is about 3 per cent at the end of drying.

In the final step the tea is sorted into leaf grades using vibrating screens. This sorting produces four main leaf grades: High-grade leaf teas, broken teas, fannings and dust. Tea dust does not meet Ronnefeldt’s quality requirements and is therefore not purchased.