He is the founder of one of the 10th largest specialty tea brands in the world and hotelier with several resorts and growing, the epitome of a man born to wealth and privilege, with all the advantages and connections. No, the story of Merril J. Fernando is not about a man born into wealth, privilege or connections, but the story of a man with a dream, good motives, a love of tea and his country, and the intense passion to share the wealth with his workers and countrymen.
In 1988, then in his 50’s, a former tea taster in the world of big corporate tea, Mr. Fernando founded Dilmah Tea in an attempt to right some of the inequities being done to his countrymen by big multinationals taking advantage of tea farmers and pickers in Sri Lanka. Fueled by passion, hard work, and perseverance, Dilmah Tea grew steadily and, as it began to sell Ceylonese tea throughout the world, overseas customers wanted to experience first-hand the land where such clear, bright, delicious tea was grown.
What a perfect business opportunity: Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, the perfect place for a relaxing vacation and an education in situ on tea at the same time. The Fernando family now owns a growing number of resorts, some on tea plantations, and the latest simply in a gorgeous setting, all of which showcase his beloved country and Ceylonese tea.
Tea Trails/Resplendent Ceylon is run by one of his sons while his other son concentrates on Dilmah Tea. Now in his 80’s, Mr. Fernando is a true ambassador for Ceylonese tea throughout the industry and the world. The companies’ successes are not his only reward. In recognition of his business, philanthropic, and moral achievements, Merrill J. Fernando was recently honored with the Oslo Business for Peace Award.
A beautiful thing about right motives and sharing is that they sometimes open doors the founder never dreamed of nor could have planned for. I am in awe of people like Mr. Fernando and they inspire me to want to do better, both in life and in business.
WOW – what an amazing place. I hadn’t seen a “luxury” experience like this as of yet. Obviously a successful enterprise. Curious where you discovered it. Yes, it is so wonderful when a fine person is recognized for their “right motives” and creates something very special for others to experience……and learn from. Thanks Diane for exposing me to this interesting man.
He has probably done more to promote Sri Lankan tea than anyone else I’ve read about. Years ago, I met the son of the founder of Walters Bay Tea, and they also have visitors stay on their plantation in Sri Lanka, which I won’t even attempt to remember how to spell here. They even had a ‘coffee table’ book about it. Their Earl Grey was the best I have ever had to this day, but they discontinued it to all but ‘pallet size’ orders as loose tea. There may be really unscrupulous people in the tea business, but most I have met or read about are, if not really honorable, at least decent people. It’s a wonderful industry to be part of, if my tiny part in it can be considered being part of it. One correction — it should have read and/or about the resorts showcasing the country/tea. Not all showcase or focus on tea, the last one is simply in a beautiful area of the country. My information was gleaned from several sources..once I read something that interests me I try to find more than one source and I’m going to be on the look-out for more about Mr. Fernando.
Thanks for the clarification Diane. I would have to agree about people who are drawn to the tea industry in general. Of course all industries have their rotten apples but I’ve only met 1 in over a decade.
As well, the photo was in Huffington Post, which was one of the articles I read on him.