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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On 22nd March 1944, the Ronnefeldt company building was hit hard in air raids.
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.
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.
Frank Holzapfel joined the company as the Head of Sales and Marketing, and worked in close cooperation with Georg Lülmann and Herwarth Westphal.
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.
Takeover of the Tee-Handels-Kontor Bremen located in Worpswede.
Transfer of the complete tea production, blending and distribution logistics to Worpswede.
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.
Jan-Berend Holzapfel became General Manager and Partner.
He focussed on strategic expansion of the core market and new international markets.
Ronnefeldt launched its own online shop: www.ronnefeldt-privat.de
After 125 years, Ronnefeldt reopened a retail shop in the Zeil, in the new shopping center ‘MyZeil’.
Ronnefeldt celebrates its 190th birthday. Historical research shows that Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt started trading in tea and silk in 1821.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The new Cup-Caddy® in twelve varieties combines the service demands and needs of the hotel/catering industry with the desire for a sustainable product: less packaging and perfect tea enjoyment.
Ronnefeldt is the exclusive tea brand for premium international hotels and catering. The company sets standards for tea-culture and service for hotels worldwide.
Ronnefeldt provides customised service concepts for the top hotels and gastronomy establishments in the key European markets Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France, and in 70 other countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Far and Middle East, Russia, China, Asia, Japan, Australia and United States.
After more than 190 years, the company has remained true to its original philosophy of only accepting the highest quality tea leaves from the best tea gardens in the most important growing areas.
These teas are manufactured exclusively according to traditional methods, which mean that they are primarily processed by hand. With its TeaAcademy® and training programs, TeaMaster® Silver and Gold, the company is making a worldwide investment in the specialist training and further development of service managers at the world’s best hotels.