Melitta Unternehmensgruppe Bentz KG

Minden, a nice town of 80,000 people, lies about 40 miles west of Hannover and I'm here to visit Melitta. Haven't heard of the company? Me neither. However, if you're a coffee drinker you owe a debt of gratitude to Melitta Bentz, the company's founder. It's this housewife, who back in 1909, gave the world the first paper coffee filter.

It's a 10-minute walk from the cozy city center to Melitta's five-story headquarters building. I don't have to guess when it was built because the date "1989" is embedded in a corner of the building's exterior. It's a large nice looking reception area with an atrium off to the side. A bowl of apples sits on the reception counter and nearby stands a bronze bust of Melitta Bentz (1873-1950). Three glass display cases in the lobby show off the company's various products. These include coffee, coffee filters, vacuum cleaner bags, waste bags and household cleaning cloths. Off to the far end of the lobby is a break area with 24 chairs scattered around six tables. Here, employees and visitors can sip coffee or smoke. I check to make sure Melitta brand coffee is being used. Yep.

Tanja Wucherpfennig, public relations, gives me a nice welcome and tour of the place. Eighty people work here. Parking is free and plentiful. Meeting rooms are named after cities and according to Wucherpfennig the cafeteria food is "very good". Quite a bit of art can be found hanging on walls throughout the building. The company's collection is contemporary and limited to German artists. The nearest freeway is fifteen minutes away by car and the nearest airport 40 miles (Hannover).

The company has not one, not two but, three websites. Employees get to gulp down all the free coffee they want. Right? Wrong. There's no such thing as a free cup of coffee here. However, employees receive discounts on company products.

Thomas Bentz and Jorg Bentz, grandsons of the founder, are Co-CEO's. Revenues last year were DM 2.9 billion with over 4,300 employees. Thomas Bentz occupies a middle office on the top floor. There's one real plant, one family photo, a laptop computer and a clear plastic stand-up desk. The ledge of the large picture window is lined with various company products and several modern paintings line a wall. The view? Great! It's here in Minden where two big canals intersect and from his window vantage point Bentz can watch the ships maneuver through the elevated locks.

Before riding off I'm presented with a big bag of goodies including Melitta coffee and coffee filters.