Dilmah Tea founder Merrill J Fernando has died, aged 93

Publish Date
Thursday, 20 July 2023, 5:39PM
Dilmah Tea founder Merrill J. Fernando, pictured in Napier in 2017. Photo / File

Dilmah Tea founder Merrill J. Fernando, pictured in Napier in 2017. Photo / File

A cup of Dilmah is a fixture in countless Kiwi households - as is the iconic catchphrase of the man who founded the brand in 1988, “Do try it”.

The founder of Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company Merrill. J Fernando has died at the age of 93 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

According to a press release, the teamaker passed away surrounded by his sons and grandchildren.

“His greatness was in kindness & humility, enabled by invincible faith. He pursued passion for tea to serve others. His generations will follow as he rests in the arms of his Lord.”

Fernando pioneered the brand’s signature Single Origin Tea in 1988, going against industry trends at the time to create unblended, “real” tea.

New Zealanders were among the first to embrace Dilmah and since then, it’s become a household name here and around the world.

The release went on to pay tribute to Fernando’s “invincible faith, his integrity and love for tea and family”.

Fernando worked daily until the age of 91 and leaves behind two generations of his family to continue his work.

In 2019, Fernando was awarded an honorary doctorate by Massey University in New Zealand.

He was nominated for the honour by the pro-vice-chancellor of the College of Sciences, Professor Ray Geor, together with Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan, director of the university’s Riddet Institute.

The doctorate acknowledged Fernando’s commitment to ethical business, the New Zealand food industry and tea.

Fernando is also remembered for his charitable work, founding the Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation to work with the wider Sri Lankan community, focused on youth, first-time entrepreneurs, community organisations, incarcerated people and war widows.


Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you