As a subsidiary of our German mother company Dethlefsen & Balk GmbH, we are bringing with us immense experience and know-how since 1836…
Chronicle of the tea trading company Dethlefsen & Balk GmbH, Hamburg
Fine Taste since 1836...
It is a historical fact that in the year 1836, Mr. Gustav C.H.J. Bal(c)k (then still written with a -ck-), established an import company for Miscellaneous Spices and Tea in the old part of Hamburg at the address Neue Burg 20. His business worked out so well that in 1837 an assistant was employed. In the same year, the company moved to Admiralitätsstrasse 39, where a retail business was established.
In the course of the year, Gustav C.H.J. Balk changed his main business activities to the import of tea from China. China was at that time the classical tea country.
If today we enjoy a cup of tea, we should remember that all knowledge about tea had its origin in China where tea has been a part of the way of life for centuries. The way teas were packed in China in those days was a work of art. Wooden chests lined with mats of hemp on the outside and a foil of lead on the inside were manufactured for exportation. Finally, the precious contents of those chests were fit for the long voyage to Europe.
In the meantime, Gustav C.H.J. Balk concentrated his business on tea only, although his company was still registered under Export and Import of Miscellaneous Spices and Tea. 1846, he rented a whole house in Admiralitätsstrasse 37 and employed eight assistants, an indication on how well his business was doing. Soon, even this larger domicile no longer met his needs and in 1858 the firm moved to Rödingsmarkt 79.
When the company’s founder Gustav C.H.J. Balk passed away in 1870, he left an enterprise, which with good cause was to be regarded as his very own lifetime achievement to his son Gustav, who was active already for several years in the paternal company.
In the same year Gustav Balk merged with the merchant Amandus Dethlefsen and expanded the business under the company name “Dethlefsen & Balk – Theehandlung en gros”. At the same time the company moved to “Kleine Reichenstraße 21” with the insription into the trade register following in October 1870.Finally, in 1878, Dethlefsen & Balk had their first place at the commodity exchange at “Pfeiler 14”. This was at that time a place for daily meetings of merchants to discuss and conclude deals.
In the eighties of the 19th century the freeport area within the Hamburg port was established and from 1881 to 1888 the largest connected warehouse complex of the world, the so called “Speicherstadt” was built. Dethlefsen & Balk moved again in 1892 and rented in the “Speicherstadt” at “Holländischer Brook 22” an office and store rooms.
In 1893 Amandus Dethlefsen left after 23 years of activity as shareholder from the company. At the same time, Heinrich R.G. Balk joined as third generation.
As Gustav Balk left the company in the year 1899, his son Heinrich R.G. Balk became sole proprietor.It has to be considered as technically progressive that the first telephone in the company was installed at that time.In 1904 Heinrich Balk received a special honor. He became member of the “Versammlung eines ehrbaren Kaufmanns zu Hamburg e.V.”.
Heinrich Balk retired and sold the firm in 1905, thus ending the era of the founder’s family within Dethlefsen & Balk.The new owner, Hugo Emil Erhardt Baumgarten, re-structured the enterprise.
There is nothing known about the activities at that time. However, probably in order not to run the whole business alone, Hugo Baumgarten took as shareholder Caesar Christian Albert Bethe into the firm and established a general partnership (Offene Handelsgesellschaft) under the new address “Pickhuben No. 6”.
During the years of World War I inflation and economic
crisis led to great problems for the enterprise but thanks to good business
relations the company survived the hard times.
After the death of Hugo
Baumgarten in 1932, Albert Bethe was left as single managing director. 1933 the
employee Curt Julius Peter Schmoller received the power of attorney and in 1935
he became managing director.
At the beginning of World War II Albert Bethe
died. Curt Schmoller ended the general partnership but continued to run it as
During the hard time after World War II, which brought an
almost complete standstill to business activity, the reconstruction
From 1950 onwards the tea business was picking up
again. The business relations to customers abroad and inside Germany were filled
with life again. The business premises were in the meantime at “Sandtorkai
In 1970, Curt Schmoller sold his company. In the
mid-seventies Dethlefsen & Balk GmbH additionally started to deal with tea
accessories and, by doing this, made an important step forward to secure its
future.In order to be able to serve the rapidly growing market of new tea shops
faster and more efficient, the head office of the company was shifted in the
year 1978 from the very city of Hamburg to the ”Wandalenweg 26” where a further
warehouse was built. The important warehouse remained in the freeport where all
tea specialties were stored for prompt disposal. During the following years
the company was further rationalized and modernized.Once more the company
changed the location. In 1990, the company moved completely into the Billbrook
trade area “Moorfleeter Strasse 40”.
In 1992, the
company Dethlefsen & Balk received new partners and Mr. Martin Preuninger
could be won then to lead as managing partner for the enterprise. He left the
company end of 1998 as managing director, and assigned Mr. Jens Meier and Mr.
Marcus Clausen, two many years standing employees, as managing
directors.Starting with only few accessories in the seventies, Dethlefsen &
Balk products have grown to an assortment which can be considered market-leading
today.The wholesale line with accessories, from tea filters to samovars to tea
sets and all kinds of sugar, from mugs to decorative tins to tea balls, etc.
makes up almost half of the turnover today.
& Balk today have – besides the tea import and export and wholesale -
specialized in the supply to tea shops. For this line of business, D & B
constantly offers approximately 300 different tea qualities in the standard
catalogue assortment, mainly packed into retail bags of 1 kg size, an ideal
packing size for tea shops.
The combination of the unique catalogue, the
exclusive assortment and a modern customer service with the initiative of all
involved, are the basis for the steadily growing success of the tea trading firm
Dethlefsen & Balk.