Armenian-German entrepreneur Carl Tchilinghiryan was born on February 27, 1910 in Hamburg in the family of Karapet and Erna Tchilinghiryans. After graduating from a local university as an accountant, Tchilinghiryan engaged in business selling dried fruits, dates, cacao, figs, and tea.
His activity has been very successful, making him one of the wealthiest businessmen of the city. Soon, he got acquainted with famous German entrepreneur Max Herz. In 1930s, Max Herz and his father have been running a business, which imported seeds of coffee and grew barley as a coffee substitute.
Due to the low quality of the seeds and poor economic situation in the country, their business went broke. Herz borrowed financial resources from his relatives and started a branch of one of the local lottery businesses. After the World War II, besides import, Herz decided to sell roasted coffee beans as he thought it would be much more profitable than just importation.
Some say that Herz collaborated with Tchilinghiryan to be able to advantageously sell import coffee from Central and South Americas. According to many sources, Herz installed his coffee machines in trade points rented by Tchilinghiryan.
Initially, the coffee seeds have been imported in raw form. To survive in the tough market, their collaborative company started to sell roasted coffee in cans (the idea was to make reusable packaging to make the product more attractive) with gifts in every package. Their idea worked, and more than 90 % of their customers became loyal buyers of their products.
In 1949, Tchilinghiryan and Herz founded the Frisch-Röst-Kaffee Carl Tchiling GmbH company. The name was soon simplified to Tchibo (from Tchilinghiryan’s surname – Tchi, and from German word bohnen (beans) – bo).
The fame and financial success of the company allowed them to offer more types of coffee drinks. Tchibo’s coffee soon became known outside Germany as the company’s network expanded to thousands of coffee shops working day and night.
Tchibo has changed the coffee industry forever as the times when coffee had been sold in ordinary shops have passed, giving life to stores dedicated to coffee related drinks and food.
After 20 years of cooperation, the first disagreements have started to form between Tchilinghiryan and Herz as the latter no longer wished to share his earnings. Besides, Tchilinghiryan has been in debt due to losses in his other businesses, which forced him to borrow 75.000 marks from Herz. But he wasn’t able to revive his business, rendering him unable to pay off his debts, resulting in his bankruptcy. Herz cut Tchilinghiryan’s dividends, and eventually purchased his share for 225.000 marks.
What has happened to Tchilinghiryan until his death in 1987 isn’t known reliably. He was buried in the family tomb of Tchilinghiryans in Hamburg at the Ohlsdorf cemetery. Herz became the sole owner of Tchibo. In 1990s, the company broadened their activity to production of apparel and appliances, insurance, and tourism.
The company continued to grow and started coffee store networks in Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia, Turkey, and the United States. Today, Tchibo is 100% owned by three members of the Herz family, Ingeburg Herz (Max Herz’s widow), and two of her sons, Michael Herz and Wolfgang Herz.