Jan-Berend Holzapfel - Managing Director of Ronnefeldt

Passion and vision for tea


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

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.

Ronnefeldt since 1823 - our history

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.
1823 Founding
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.
1845 The second generation of companies
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
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
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
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.
1951 Head office Kurfürstenplatz
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.
1984 Company generation Holzapfel
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.
2005 Second generation of the family Holzapfel
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
Ronnefeldt launched its own online shop: www.ronnefeldt-privat.de
2009 Brand shop in the MyZeil shopping center
After 125 years, Ronnefeldt reopened a retail shop in the Zeil, in the new shopping center ‘MyZeil’.
2013 190 years of Ronnefeldt tea

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

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.

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.
2018 New product "GinT"
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.

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
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, 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.
Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt
Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt
Johann Tobias Ronnefeldt
Friederike Ronnefeldt
Friederike Ronnefeldt
Herwarth Westphal
Herwarth Westphal
Advertising poster 1904
Advertising poster 1904
Jan Berend Holzapfel with father Frank Holzapfel
Jan Berend Holzapfel with father Frank Holzapfel
Brand shop in the MyZeil
Brand shop in the MyZeil
Brand partner in the tea trade
Brand partner in the tea trade
Ronnefeldt at Roßmarkt
Ronnefeldt at Roßmarkt
Headquarters Neue Kräme 12
Headquarters Neue Kräme 12
Tearoom Shanghai
Tearoom Shanghai
Tearoom Shanghai
Tearoom Shanghai
Frank Holzapfel as a partner
Frank Holzapfel as a partner
Program booklet Eintracht Frankfurt
Program booklet Eintracht Frankfurt
Quality control on a tea plantation
Quality control on a tea plantation
Tealounge 1823 in Bangkok
Tealounge 1823 in Bangkok
Enjoying tea today
Enjoying tea today

Ronnefeldt Tea Tour
in the Palmengarten Frankfurt

As part of the special partnership with the Palmengarten Frankfurt , a botanical garden which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, Ronnefeldt tea tours will take place from May 26th. These tours will focus on the tea plant Camellia sinensis, from which most tea varieties are made. Visitors will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of tea and learn more about the different varieties, their production, and their history.

"We at Ronnefeldt are incredibly proud to collaborate with the Palmengarten, such a traditional and beautiful place here in our hometown of Frankfurt. Our collaboration allows us to share our expertise and passion for tea with a wider audience and provide the visitors of the Palmengarten with a truly special experience. I hope that the Palmengarten visitors will enjoy the Ronnefeldt tea tour and take home a new understanding and appreciation for tea," said Jan-Berend Holzapfel.

Ronnefeldt is a member of the following associations

Logo of the German Tea Association
Childaid Network logo
Logo Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc.
Logo Tea & Herbal Infusions Europe
Logo Ethical Tea Partnership