The Dilmah Story

  • Founder Message
  • Dilmah Family
  • Our Values
  • Tea Gardens
  • Sustainability

Founder Message

I devoted my life to tea

The story of my Dilmah began in 1988. I was then a small tea grower with big dreams, I wanted to bring my country’s tea – the finest in the world – garden fresh and ethically produced, direct to tea lovers around the world.

I had to compete with giant multinational brands; many said that mine was an impossible dream. But loyal tea drinkers around the world have made my dream a reality.

Today, two and a half decades later, my sons Dilhan and Malik have joined me in my mission. My vision is to bring you tea of the highest quality. Tea that is fresh – rich in flavour and natural goodness – and at the same time to give workers and my country a fairer deal. I pledged to make my business a matter of human service.

My family tea has grown into an international brand that is enjoyed in over 100 countries. Dilmah owes its success to the quality of Ceylon Tea. Our business was founded therefore on an enduring connection to the land and the communities in which we operate. We have pioneered a comprehensive commitment to minimising our impact on the planet, fostering respect for the environment and ensuring its protection by encouraging a harmonious coexistence of man and nature. The environment is central to Dilmah's business, and Dilmah Conservation was established as an affirmation of this core commitment to environmental sustainability.

As Dilmah has grown, I have not forgotten my pledge, and revenue from the sale of Dilmah funds the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation. Our Foundation – I say ‘our’ because every Dilmah tea drinker is a part of the MJF Foundation – has changed the lives of thousands. Its humanitarian service will continue to grow alongside Dilmah. Thank you for so many exceptional years in tea. Please join us in celebrating tea, Nature’s gift of goodness, and in appreciating the special pleasure in a cup of fine tea. Do try it!

Dilmah Family

Family of Passionate Tea Makers

Merrill J. Fernando is joined in his passion for tea by his sons, Malik and Dilhan, whose names form the Dilmah brand.

The story of the Dilmah family starts with its founder Merrill J. Fernando. It’s a story that impresses and inspires, encourages and heartens: a story of determination and tenacity, of unfailing vision and unwavering focus of one man who, 48% against all the odds, found a way of changing an industry and improving thousands of lives.Despite its credentials as a global giant in the tea industry, Dilmah remains a family concern where the traditions and guiding principles are handed down from generation to generation.

Merrill and his two sons, Dilhan and Malik, consistently deliver on their commitment to sharing the finest and most authentic cup of Ceylon tea. Dilmah is unique; a brand that is founded on a passionate commitment to quality and authenticity in tea, it is also a part of a philosophy that goes beyond commerce in seeing business as a matter of human service. This is what makes Dilmah the first ethically produced tea. In 2005, Merrill and his sons Dilhan and Malik, pledged to follow the principles dictated by the 12 Principles of Dilmah in every aspect of their business and in the conduct of their workers, staff and management.

Dilmah Founder named Oslo Business for Peace

Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando received the Business for Peace Award on the 6th of May 2015, as one of the five 2015 Oslo Business for Peace Honourees, by the Award Committee of Nobel Laureates in Peace and Economics.

The Business for Peace Foundation annually names honourees for the Oslo Business for Peace Award in recognition of business persons who, "through their own actions and commitments truly are business worthy, promoting socially responsible and ethical business practices in an outstanding way, and standing out as examples to the world."

FIRST Award for Responsible Capitalism

The man known as the Teamaker - Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando - was honoured in the United Kingdom with the FIRST Award for Responsible Capitalism 2016, on November 30 at the Royal Automobile Club, London. The Award recognises business ethics, emphasizing his unique philosophy of making business a matter of human service.

Our Values

Our Values - 12 Unique Principles which Guide Dilmah

Dilmah Stays True To Its Heritage

The promise our father gave consumers when offering the first genuinely ethical tea that was packed garden fresh at source, is what Dilmah offers today, thirty years later. He has been steadfast in his commitment to keeping Dilmah a truly local product – this has not been easy.

The pressure to adapt to changing circumstances, market conditions as they were called, has been unrelenting in the use of CTC tea, blending teas from other origins, costing a fraction of Ceylon Tea, to offer tea that is more competitive in price but is less authentic. This method was adapted by all our competitors because they believed in the new reality.

Dilmah Did Not Change

Adaptation would mean compromise - this is not an option for us tea makers who have a commitment to real tea that goes a long way beyond profit. The 12 features included represent the story of Dilmah. It will explain why everything about Dilmah is different.

There is no single aspect that substantiates the claim of being different - it is more a series of inter-related and inter-dependent elements that form what Dilmah stands for today.


Pure ceylon tea

In Ceylon, we value a tradition of teamaking that gave Ceylon Tea the reputation of being the finest in the world. Known for centuries as the home of the world’s finest tea, the island now known as Sri Lanka offers a wonderful array of tea, the result of the aspect of terroir that tea is blessed with combined with the unique topography of the country.

Dilmah selects the finest amongst Ceylon Teas, protecting the heritage of the island’s centuries old tea industry and nurturing the artisanal style that makes the finest Ceylon Teas indisputably the best in the world.

Handpicked from amongst the finest teas on earth


Our Founder Merrill J. Fernando made a commitment to quality in making Dilmah unblended. At the time tea first enjoyed its global acclaim, tea was unblended, celebrating the identity of tea from origins known for quality. A century later the concept of blending became popular, as celebrated teas from Ceylon and other famous regions became expensive.

Blending in this way compromises authenticity, freshness and sacrifices quality in tea. Dilmah remains true to the pledge that Merrill J. Fernando made to quality and authenticity in keeping Dilmah unblended.

A commitment to authenticity, and integrity

Garden fresh

In tea, Freshness is as important as Quality. Fresh Tea is richer in flavour, aroma, and the subtle characteristics that form the terroir of fine tea. Fresh Tea is also richer in antioxidants.

Tea that is shipped in bulk for blending and packing overseas, or not packed and protected shortly after harvesting, absorbs moisture as it ages. This leads to the development of toxins which degrade flavour and can significantly affect the natural antioxidants in tea.

Natural goodness natural flavour guaranteed

The single origin tea

Origin defines the character and identity of tea. Influenced by the natural blessing that terroir offers tea made on well located gardens, it is mostly origin that determines the combination of elements that form flavour in tea. Dilmah is unique in maintaining an unwavering commitment to the integrity of origin.

Rejecting the more profitable but unacceptable compromise of multi origin blends which has become the standard in the tea industry, an important part of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s pledge to offer tea drinkers the finest tea, is his commitment to the purity of origin.

Purity of origin and the luxury of terroir in tea

Cared for by a teamaker who is passionate about Tea

The pleasure in fine tea comes from the continually changing aroma, taste, strength, texture and the many elusive elements that form quality in tea. They are infinitely variable, the result of soil and natural climatic influence on tea. This complexity defies standardisation, making teamaking an art that is based on science.

The commitment of the artist that composes the teas is central to the pleasure in those teas. Merrill J. Fernando devoted his life to tea. Now joined by his sons Dilhan and Malik, whose names form that of his ‘third son’ Dilmah, his experience of over six decades, his dedication as a producer and the foundation of quality and integrity he established are what make Dilmah different.

Tea selected and cared for by a farmer who devoted his life to tea


Ethical behaviour is part of being human. Merrill J. Fernando established his business on family values and humanity, which naturally led him to commit to the unique philosophy of making business a matter of human service. Rejecting the commercialisation of ethics, Dilmah stays true to its Founders’ Philosophy which was crystallised at a time when ethics and social responsibility were neither as much in the public eye as they are today, nor considered even to be amongst the responsibilities of business. The success of Dilmah is shared with the underprivileged with a minimum of 10% of the global earnings from Dilmah funding the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation. The powerful expression of Merrill J. Fernando’s pledge to make his business a matter of human service is in the thousands of lives transformed by the work of the his foundation in the areas of education, health, community development, care for the elderly and differently able and the environment.

Genuinely ethical tea, founded on goodness


The traditional style of manufacturing tea is artisanal, demanding expertise at each step. It is an exacting method, demanding expertise but it is the only way to make good tea. Being delicate in its character, tea does not condone any error in the method of manufacture and requires perfection from handpicking two leaves and a bud to the final stage of manufacture.

Whilst the recent and more prevalent CTC method is cheaper, it represents a compromise that sacrifices the soul of tea. In Dilmah we offer only tea that is made in the traditional manner.

There is only one way to make good tea, and it is the more difficult way

Finest quality

For the farmer who loves his craft, quality can never be compromised. In the same way, as the pioneer in offering tea that is garden fresh, and packed at source direct to tea drinkers around the world we will not compromise the quality of our Dilmah.

From the moment our tea is handpicked on our tea gardens to the artisanal style of manufacture and tasting over 5,000 teas each week to select 3 of only the finest, Dilmah comes with a guarantee of Quality.

In tea, tradition and quality are synonymous


Tea is a herb that is blessed by Nature in a very special way. In each cup of tea, one can discern from the appearance of the tea, from its aroma and taste, the influence of rainfall, sunshine, wind and temperature. We commit to keeping Dilmah Tea natural, as an important element in the natural goodness that tea offers through antioxidants. There is no better teamaker than Nature, and our task is to nurture the terroir of fine tea by respecting the artisanal style of production, and thereby respecting Nature.

Tea crafted by nature


The natural result of our commitment to traditional manufacture, purity of origin, and selecting each tea for its quality by tasting, is a level of authenticity that is unprecedented. We stay true to the heritage of Camellia sinensis - real tea - and the terroir of specific origins. In this way Dilmah offers genuinely authentic teas that celebrate the subtle variations of different origins, the natural goodness and character in real tea and a style of manufacture that has been perfected over millennia.

Inspiring variety, respecting the identity of each tea

The pioneer

When Dilmah was first introduced to tea drinkers in 1988, it represented a paradigm shift, being the first producer owned tea company in the world, offering its tea garden fresh, direct from origin to retailers and consumers around the world. It was a small but momentous change for it symbolised an end to a colonial economic model. Merrill J.Fernando’s boldness brought genuinely fair tea to tea drinkers for the first time, with the benefits of value addition reaching producers and helping sustain an ailing and exploited tea industry. His endeavour also benefited tea drinkers for he shared the unique perspective of a producer and the strong emotional ties of a farmer to his produce. This led eventually to innovations like Dilmah Seasonal Flush Tea, the Dilmah School of Tea,and the Tea Gastronomy programme amongst others, designed to share the pleasure in tea in a very authentic way.

As natural as a farmer bringing his produce to market, for the first time

Committed to sustainability and to the future of the Ceylon Tea Industry

A business established on love for tea and stewarded by a life dedicated to the herb must have an enduring connection with tea, the Ceylon Tea industry, the millions of people whose survival depends on tea and their families. A firm commitment to sustainability and the future of the Ceylon Tea Industry has led to Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando championing Ceylon Tea and striving for a better future for those engaged in tea. The establishment of the Dilmah School of Tea with affiliation around the world is one part of the Dilmah effort to share knowledge of tea and inspire passion for quality amongst tea drinkers. Dilmah Conservation and the MJF Foundation and the work both do in sharing the success of Dilmah with the underprivileged seeks to address humanitarian and environmental issues in the industry. Merrill J. Fernando and his ferocious defence of quality, purity and Ceylon Tea are a legendary part of the history of a great industry.

Sharing the success of Dilmah with those less privileged and the environment

Tea Gardens

Fresh From Ceylon’s Tea Gardens

A small tea grower with big dreams; bringing Ceylon Tea – the finest in the world- direct to tea lovers.

Travelling through the misty winding roads of Sri Lanka’s famous hill country, you suddenly glimpse acres of lush emerald green rising up to disappear into cloud cover or sloping down to misty canyons. Interspersed with waterfalls, Rising Mountain tops and natural beauty rises the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea country. Cultivated over centuries, these gardens gave the island (then Ceylon), its firm place in the hearts of tea drinkers around the world for that delicious brew unmatched in taste and variety – Ceylon Tea.

Established during the late 19th century by the British colonial masters, these tea gardens along with their beauty speak of a labour of love. Each day, thousands of tea pickers pick with nimble fingers the two leaves and bud which is then manufactured in the traditional way with the art of the teamaker and nature’s best coming together. It is only a true teamaker – one who nurtures his crop and then lovingly manufactures it in an artisanal manner perfected over centuries – who knows his tea and can produce the best in quality and variety.

Dilmah tea is produced by a family of tea growers who care for tea from the nursery to the cup. With over 60 years in tea, Merrill J. Fernando is today the most experienced teamaker in the world.

Please click below link to visit our Dilmah tea gardens website to know about our tea gardens which bring you the finest tea in the world…

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Sustainability in Business Ethics

Dilmah Tea is founded on the philosophy of ‘Business as a Matter of Human Service’ which is strengthened by the pillars of Quality, Tradition, Our Customer, Ethics, Integrity and Sustainability.

Dilmah has a strong history in sustainability. Ultimately, we want to ensure that tea continues to be enjoyed today and for generations to come. We want to create a truly sustainable tea industry that is good for people, communities and the planet. Our vision is to offer the finest teas to consumers whilst providing an equitable bargain for producers worldwide through better operations and better quality of life by leading the change towards sustainability while being a fair and equal company. This vision and strategy applies to every brand in the MJF Group, all of which share the same passion for quality and integrity, as well as the ambition to serve our customers in a sustainable way.

By emphasizing sustainable development, both as a concept and in practice, we will be a more robust, competitive and resilient business in the long term. This is why, despite the current economic challenges, we continue to invest in development that makes our business more sustainable.

Dilmah is intensely involved in the communities in which it operates and understand that in order to continue to succeed, we need to play our part now in protecting the environment by addressing related issues such as climate change, water scarcity and waste management. We also continue to address biodiversity issues, source and use sustainable materials and work towards becoming more resilient to climate change. These matters are key areas of our focus and is in the heart of our operations. There are no quick-fixes. In line with our strategy we will continue to search for ways to make our businesses more sustainable and to work with others who share our sustainability values.

Please Click Below Link to View More about Our Sustainability Commitments

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