Gebrüder Wollenhaupt Leaf Tea Specialists
By Hans Niebergall
German tea exports grew significantly and imports were up 5.6% to meet demand from several of the world’s oldest and most respected tea blenders. Gebrüder Wollenhaupt is one of the leading premium tea companies, selling about 7,000 metric tons of tea and tea blends per year.
There are nearly 1,500 types of tea, herbs, fruits, and flavors from 300 suppliers in 62 countries, explains Marco Brinmühl, head of sales and division manager for tea at Wollenhaupt. The company’s private label business offers 2,500 active recipes to suit nearly every customer.
“If a customer wants us to mix his own recipe, we will make sure that he’ll be completely satisfied,” said Brinmühl. Wollenhaupt, a family-run business for more than 130 years, is located in the periphery of the old port city of Hamburg.
Wollenhaupt, with an export market share of 60%, serves clients around the globe. Germany’s domestic tea market is discerning, favoring high-quality loose teas and single-estate or single-origin teas. The country also imports a large volume of herbs because Germany actively supports the use of herbs for medicinal purposes.
Wollenhaupt’s newest line of herbal teas is blended for well-being: Cleansing (“I feel pure”), Beauty (“I feel pretty”), Relaxation (“I feel calm”), Energy (“I feel awake”) and Defense (“I feel strong”). ‘Enjoy with confidence’ is the company’s motto, reflecting the firm’s commitment to medicinal quality ingredients and pure teas.
For centuries, people in Northern Germany have welcomed their friends and family during the dark and cold winter days with a hot cup of black tea, sweetened with rock sugar called Kandis and heavy cream. The tea pot and water kettle were left on the wood or coal burning stove all day to make sure that a cup of tea was available at any time.
“We want people to fully enjoy tea like in the old days. That is why we make sure that the whole supply chain is safe. We only use natural ingredients and teas of all origins, leaf grades and qualities. We are a leaf tea specialist in the premium market,” said Brinmühl. “We even take customer care a step further: If someone wants to open a tea store or a quaint tea room we can help with store design, packaging, display and the right assortment,” said Brinmühl.
Indeed, during the past 15 years many more tea stores and tea rooms have sprung up throughout Germany and in many countries in Europe. Tea retailing in the coastal areas of the United States is picking up as well.
Gebrüder Wollenhaupt Leaf Tea Specialists
A collage of blended teas.
Wollenhaupt supplies a broad line of teas that includes instant, Marco replies. These teas are popular mostly in Southern Europe and Russia. The company is not a major supplier because quality herbs and teas are just too expensive for this price-focused segment, he explains.
In the United States, the single cup coffee business is gaining momentum, with 27% in 2015 and in Germany even with 31.4%. Does Marco see the same niche for tea as well?
“We are working on cup portion tea options and have created a special department that deals with cutting the tea leaves to the exact right grade ,” he said. “We definitely see a future in cup portion tea offerings.”
According to a recent study by the NCA – the National Coffee Association of America – traditional coffee – not gourmet – is consumed by significantly more customers aged 60+, while espresso-based beverages are consumed by significantly more proportions of customers aged 18-39 then those in older groups. Does Marco see the same trend in the tea business?
“In fact, our various shapes of transparent leaf teabags are designed so that the customer can see the beauty of the tea leaves, the vanilla bean cuts, rosehip peels, goji berries, chamomile flowers, birch leaves to name a few,” he said.
“Just like in Germany, we see the same trend in the United Sates, where supermarkets tend to offer more premium teas, as their younger clienteles savor teas with new and sophisticated aromas,” he said. The well-being line is blended to appeal to this segment. “Is premium hot tea an all year product?”
“No”, he replied. “Premium hot tea is mostly consumed during the fall and winter months. This is at least true for Europe and the US,” Brinmühl explained.
“That is why Wollenhaupt created another business years ago: The company has become Europe’s leading importer of natural vanilla pods. Fifteen percent of global vanilla passes through our warehouse. We are handling all qualities, from industrial to gourmet. With tea and vanilla, we have created a thriving and very interesting year-round business,” he added.