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A Life Devoted to Tea with Merrill J. Fernando

In this episode, Ragnar talks with Dilmah Tea founder Merrill J. Fernando on a milestone date for the Dilmah family, commemorating Merrill’s 70th year in tea and his 90th birthday. 

In the early 1950s following Sri Lankan independence, Merrill experienced a defining moment. Selected to be trained as a tea taster, a profession previously reserved for British nationals only, and he was one of the first Sri Lankans to be sent to Mincing Lane in London. Considered the “Mecca” of the tea world, there he witnessing the disproportional benefits reaped by multinational corporations importing his country’s prized herb. A young man with a big dream, he set out to create his own brand with a commitment to quality, ethics, and authenticity. Since that time, Merrill has dedicated his life to building a company that would serve more than tea, making business a matter of human service. This commitment has so far generated $40 million of direct humanitarian aid and environmental interventions through the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation.

“He resolved to establish his own brand, to offer tea that would be handpicked, handmade and of the highest quality, with the assurance of natural goodness, and a genuine commitment to caring for workers and the environment. It was a dream that none had dared to dream.

Dilhan & Malik Fernando

Dilmah has expanded to over 100 countries, yet maintaining its founding commitment to quality and integrity.  A minimum 15% of the profits from the sale of Dilmah fund the MJF Charitable Foundation to serve humanity in projects that support marginalized communities whist promoting conservation and sustainable agriculture.

Merrill is a recipient of many prestigious honors, including Worldchefs Lifetime Achievement Award for his extraordinary passion and commitment.

Hear his philosophy on humanitarian service and building a business at the intersection of passion and purpose.

Additional Resources

The MJF Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dilmah Ceylon Tea Services and Resplendent Ceylon. The organization works with underserved communities, investing long term in the lives of women, men, girls and boys to ensure that they have control of their futures.

Extending these efforts is ‘The Ethical Tea Society’, an opportunity for skilled professionals to volunteer in sharing their skills and knowledge with those at the centre. One such professional, who volunteered his time and skills is World Champion Bartender, Tomek Malek from Poland. For a summary of his visit to the Merrill J. Fernando Foundation, click here.
Interested in sharing your skills, knowledge or time? Sign up at The Ethical Tea Society.

Dilmah’s Empower Culinary Hospitality and Inspirational School’s culinary course was recognized and certified by Worldchefs in January 2017. An initiative by MJF, its mission was born from Merrill’s belief that the organization has a part to play in giving back to the underprivileged and less fortunate in the community. With the invaluable knowledge and skills acquired through the training course, the school hopes to provide its students with employment opportunities as future chefs in the tourism and hospitality sector, in both local and international kitchens, bakeries and patisseries. As of now, a total of 96 students have graduated, including a Bocuse d’Or finalist. Click here to read more on how Michelin star chefs from around the world have inspired the students of ECHS.

Dilmah Conservation was initiated in 2007 to incorporate environmental and wildlife conservation efforts into the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation.

Discover all of the charitable efforts made by the MJF Foundation at

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World on a Plate is supported by Nestlé Professional, making more possible.

logo-nestle-professional | Nestlé España, S.A. | Flickr


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