One Company, One Family

The History of Gebrüder Wollenhaupt


What the two Wollenhaupt brothers started in Hamburg, Germany back in 1881 has today evolved into a globally operating, successful and thriving group with over 220 employees. After 140 years of our company´s history, we are still steeped in the Hanseatic tradition, open-minded and unpretentious, independent and realistic. And now we would like to share that history with you here.


2000 and Beyond - Growth and Increasing Internationalisation

2022 In response to increased demand from our customers, the Ingredient Trading division is established with the core business of trading and providing comprehensive advice on herbs, fruits and ingredients.

2020 Establishment of our joint venture Wollenhaupt Tea Technology Ltd. in Zhejiang, China. Research & Development, application service and production in China for the growing domestic Chinese market.

2019 Splitting of the previous business areas into Wollenhaupt Tee GmbH and Wollenhaupt Vanille GmbH. Launch of a new company logo.

2017 Already 220 people are employed at Wollenhaupt. The innovation process is being further expanded to keep pace with the times and to identify new tea trends.

2016 The sales structure was optimised with a stronger focus on international markets.

2014 The Tea Trading Department becomes a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership.

2012 This chapter in the company history is dedicated to one of Wollenhaupt´s roots: The business with bulk tea lots has grown so much that Wollenhaupt establishes the Tea Trading Department, whose sole core business is traditional tea trading in bulk tea lots.

2011 Wollenhaupt becomes a member of the Rainforest Alliance international environmental protection organisation. 

2006 Wollenhaupt´s 125th anniversary! The anniversary is celebrated in a spirit of optimism and continued drive and passion. The success of the past years is reflected in the number of staff the team now comprises 140 employees.

2004 Wollenhaupt obtains its first International Food Standard certification (today called International Featured Standards Food).

1990-2000 - Roots in Reinbek, At Home in the World


At the end of the 1990s, the company obtained its first eco certification for all product groups, earned the Fairtrade certificate, and was certified under ISO 9001:2008. All of the product groups have been certified kosher on a regular basis since 2000.

The activities of the following years focus on boosting the fruit melange and herbal blend business, consolidating and expanding the contact with individual tea retailers and wholesalers, and further developing the company’s export business relations.The family-owned business has its roots in Northern Germany, but is more internationally active and renowned than ever before; its global connections and innovative corporate philosophy form the basis for efficient partnerships with customers and suppliers on the markets of today and tomorrow.


1970-1989 - Discovering the Art of Flavouring


1984 The company relocates to its new premises in Reinbek in order to accommodate larger warehouse space and machine capacities. In the years to follow, the technology in the warehouse, blending and packaging departments continues to be expanded and advanced. 1986 Jörg and Dirk, the 4th generation of the Wollenhaupt family, join the company. The sons of Marianne and Ulrich Wollenhaupt are still active in the company management today. Ulrich Wollenhaupt passes away in April 1989.

1981 Wollenhaupt´s 100th anniversary! Ulrich Wollenhaupt now has a staff of 40 employees. The milestone achievements are celebrated with joy and pride.

The 1980s are a time of expansion and growth. Intensive market research and marketing activities pave the way for enlarging the portfolio of herbal blends and fruit melanges.

The 1970s bring innovation to the tea market as well: Flavours are added to classic black tea, giving rise to an outright boom. Is this the beginning of a whole new culture of enjoyment and sociability? Are young people now discovering tea for themselves? Wollenhaupt identifies the trends, proactively forges new paths, and plays a distinctive role in shaping the business with new customer groups.The number of foreign contacts and partnerships increase. Export business relations are established with the USA, Netherlands, Scandinavia as well as Eastern and Central Europe.

1950-1969 - From Hamburg to Reinbek

1966 - A difficult decision: Due to a redevelopment of the area near Hamburg’s main post office, the company moves its long-time headquarters. Reinbek, near Hamburg, is chosen as the new location. More space and a better infrastructure are compensation for leaving the city centre, the hub of the tea trade. Once again, this demonstrates the company’s courage and willingness to take risks. The relocation will prove to be the right move for the future business development.

1956 Wollenhaupt´s 75th anniversary!
Paul Wollenhaupt dies just a few months later, and his son Ulrich becomes the company´s sole managing director.

1950 The third generation of the family takes over the company management and plans its future development: In October 1950, Ulrich Wollenhaupt is appointed General Manager of the company.Important decisions lay the groundwork for further growth. During the years that follow, the company pushes ahead with the development and management of a modern product range in the tea and vanilla segments. For the first time, skilled customer advisors and sales representatives become the contact partners for the German retail sector. Both product segments vanilla and tea are on the upswing. A wide range of tea accessories complements the assortment.

1914-1949 - Tea Trading in Times of War

1931 Wollenhaupt´s 50th anniversary! An anniversary commemorated with both concern and cautious optimism.The business is progressing, but around 1937, Germany is facing severe foreign exchange problems. Tea and vanilla are only traded to a limited extent.

The start of World War II further aggravates the situation: Various business connections as well as imports of the key products including tea are largely cut off.

1920 Hermann´s son, Paul Otto Wollenhaupt, joins the company as a junior partner. Just two years later, Hermann passes away from a severe heart disease. Paul steers the company through hard times marked by inflation and the global economic crisis. Traded commodities are loose tea, packaged tea, nutmeg and vanilla.

1914-1949 During the following years, tea and vanilla imports were severely restricted during World War I. The company largely falls back on the business of selling tea substitutes and other products.

1881-1913 - Origins of the Company

1906 Wollenhaupt´s 25th anniversary! The company looks back on a challenging, but successful business development.

1895 Carl August dies after contracting a fatal disease on a business trip; his brother Hermann Ludwig continues the business, assisted by his other brother, Valentin, who was the company´s general manager at the time. By then, the new enterprise had established itself as a tea importer with excellent business relations with China, the main supplier country. In order to ensure a balanced, steady workload for its staff during the non-harvest seasons as well, the company adds vanilla trading to its business. At that time, nobody could imagine how important this business decision would be for the company’s future.

1881 Together with his brother Hermann Ludwig, the accomplished tea merchant Carl August Wollenhaupt founds a tea trading company in Hamburg. With little more in their pockets than just courage and entrepreneurial spirit, the brothers establish a flourishing business within just a few short years.

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