Interview with Malik Fernando of Dilmah Tea

Although popular all-over the world, and even being the number 1 specialty brand in many countries, Dilmah is not familiar to many tea drinkers.   Dilmah is what connoisseurs call a Single Origin tea, since it comes from the fabled tea gardens of Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon). Sri Lanka is known to be home of some of the world’s finest teas.

Dilmah was launched in 1988 by Merrill J Fernando. Dilmah is Single Origin 100% Pure Ceylon Tea. The brand was named after Merrill’s 2 sons: Dilhan and Malik, who were toddlers when the company was launched. Today, they run the business along with Merrill.

To help tea drinkers learn more about Dilmah, spoke with Malik Fernando, Director of Dilmah Tea.

Malik Fernando from Dilmah Tea What really makes Dilmah Tea different than other brands? Malik: Dilmah is different than every other tea. Other brands import tea from around the world, blend & package it in the United States many months after the tea is harvested and much of the freshness is lost. Dilmah is a family business in Sri Lanka that grows it’s own tea and is the only internationally renowned tea brand from a tea origin. Dilmah is Single Origin Ceylon Tea and is packed at source, refreshingly fresh. By retaining value added profits in Sri Lanka, Dilmah funds the MJF Charitable Foundation, which works to uplift disadvantaged communities in Sri Lanka and helps make our tea industry sustainable. That’s why we call Dilmah the Ethical Tea. Why should people who drink other brands try Dilmah?
Malik: Single Origin Ceylon Tea tastes so much better than blended, multi-origin teas. That’s why we say “Return to Real Tea” with Dilmah – by Real Tea we mean single origin Ceylon Tea fresh packed at source. Once you taste Dilmah you will never go back to ordinary tea. Consumer feedback from the USA has been wonderful. How would you describe the difference between Dilmah English Breakfast and other types of English Breakfast.
Malik: Again, the unique Ceylon tea character together with the freshness of Dilmah provides a more satisfying cup. Most other English Breakfast’s are a multi-origin blend. How would you describe the difference between Dilmah Earl Grey and other types of Earl Grey.
Malik: The Dilmah Earl Grey has been highly rated as we use a high quality, high grown single origin Ceylon Tea with a Bergamot top note. Many others use a cheaper China “filler” type tea since the Bergamot often masks the tea taste. How much of a role do you and/or your Dad play in tasting teas?
Malik: My father, who will be 79 in May, enjoys spending time in the tea tasting room and is probably the most senior tea taster in active service! My brother and I are following in his footsteps but we still have much to learn! Many people think loose teas are better. Is there a difference in quality between Dilmah tea bags and loose tea. Malik: As the final step in the conversion from green leaf to dried black tea, Ceylon teas are graded by size from large leaf to small leaf, depending on how the tea leaf breaks up in the manufacturing process. The small leaf varieties are used for teabags due to the space limitation inside the bag; they are not inferior in quality and our teabags provide an excellent cup of tea. However, leaf tea made in a teapot infuses better due to the space for the tea particles to move around during the brewing process. Both Dilmah teabags and loose tea must be brewed for a minimum of 3 minutes as we use traditionally manufactured “Orthodox” teas which require a longer brewing time that the new “Cut Twist Curl” process which provides quick color at the expense of flavor. On personal level, what is one of your earliest, happy memories of Dilmah and the tea business?
Malik: When I was a kid, coming into the office after school and roaming around the tea tasting room and the warehouse was great fun. Then joining the business after College in the US, when the Dilmah brand was newborn, and starting to get consumer letters from around the world, thanking us for bringing Ceylon Tea back to their store shelves. Even now, getting a nice consumer letter, especially from new markets for Dilmah like the USA, is the highlight of my day! Some examples are attached. What can tea drinkers in the US expect from Dilmah?
Malik: We are bringing back the taste of tea that tea drinkers enjoyed until about 30 years ago when multi-origin, commodity tea started taking over. Dilmah offers a great tasting cup of tea that is also sustainable. The activities of the MJF Foundation and Dilmah Conservation are possible due to the family and founder’s philosophy of cutting out the middlemen – packaging and branding our own product, direct from Sri Lanka.

If you have never tried it, you really should. You can get the full line of Dilmah Teas at


  1. I’m happy to hear that Dilmah will be available in the US. My best friend from New Zealand has been sending the English Breakfast in the mail for the past few years.

    I’ll never go to drinking any other tea again. Dilmah is to tea what Lurpak is to butter! I’m hooked! 🙂

  2. Greetings. What years were the boys at Stonyhurst College and the junior school St Mary’s Hall ? I was there at SMH form 1975 to 1977. Dilmah is very good tea and we have been drinking it for many years.

    Andrew Herringer,

  3. Malik at SMH from 1976 to 1979 and at College from 179 to 1984. Dillan was a bit younger.

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