Dilmah Global Timeline

Merrill J. Fernando dedicated his life to tea when in the 1950s, he saw the concentration of ownership in the tea industry in the hands of a few large corporations. This was leading to the commoditisation of tea. He decided that in the interest of tea drinkers around the world, and the crop that his country produced with so much care and artistry, he would fight this process of commoditisation.

Read on and find out about Ceylon tea history as well as about Dilmah tea history.


Dilmah Tea Founder Merrill J. Fernando has been capped as a Doctor of Science by Massey University in New Zealand.

Dilmah’s Natural Infusions wins the Australian consumer award for Product of the Year 2020

The 100th student graduates from the Empower Culinary & Hospitality School

Why Saama? A collaboration between Power of Play and MJFCF to empower girls wins 8 awards at the State Children’s Drama Festival

Dilmah published the first Integrated Report in 2019. This IR was amongst the top 3 reports in the Food and Beverages category in Sri Lanka.

Marine Environmental protection Authority (MEPA) of Sri Lanka recognised Dilmah’s dedication to Marine Conservation and Coastal Area protection with an award to Dilmah Founder, Merrill J Fernando.

Moratuwa Centre commences drive to become a zero waste facility

The Rainbow Centre East Opens

Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando was bestowed with the “Deshamanaya” title at the recent National Honours Ceremony presided by President Maithripala Sirisena.

Ti21 - is designed by Ceylon Tea growing family Dilmah, to express the natural sophistication and taste in fine tea through gastronomy and mixology.

Elixir of Ceylon Tea Green Tea debuts at Anuga in Germany

Facilitated the first Climathon in Sri Lanka, held in Jaffna 2019 an area susceptible to the effects of Climate Change.

Dilmah is voted by New Zealand as their most trusted tea brand for the 5th year in a row.

ECHS East begins inaugural course with 19 students

MJF Centre West Moratuwa commences operation of Inclusive preschool

Dilmah powers its way to Carbon Neutrality

Facilitated by Dilmah Conservation, Kayankerni was declared as the 18th marine and marine associated sanctuary in Sri Lanka, on April 2019


Dilmah was presented the “Most Globally Outreached Brand in Sri Lanka” at the Presidential Export Award, presented by H.E. Maithripala Sirisena, the MoDSIT and the EDB.

Dilmah selected as one of Sri Lanka’s Most Admired Companies by the International Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka.

Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando honoured by the International Chamber of Commerce as one of the 3 Most Admired Leaders in Sri Lanka.

Dilmah facilitates Colombo Development Dialogue

Dilmah launches Afternoon Tea for the 21st Century - an evolution of our 8 year journey with the Real High Tea Challenge.

Dilmah Launches National Dialogue on Climate change through the Climate Reality initiative

MJF Centre for Dignified Empowerment & Sustainable Development in the East opened by Hon Prime Minister together with Dilmah Founder

Dilmah t Lounge debuts in Iran with 2 Lounges in Teheran

Launch of Brew 1867 – Colombo - Reuniting the two Prefect brews from Paradise Island

Launch of Teamaker’s Reserve & Founder’s Anniversary Range to Celebrates 30 years of taste, goodness and purpose.

Dilmah Tea Lounge launched in Glasgow, Scotland

Dilmah Ceylon Tea product becomes Carbon Neutral covering over 1800 products

Dilmah Tea Founder honoured by World Association of Chefs’ Societies with Lifetime Achievement Award

Dilmah creates a nature corridor linking the Delwala Kanda and Walankanda Forest Reserves

30 Years of Dilmah Tea Taste. Goodness. Purpose. No Compromise.


Launch of t-Lounge Andora

Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando recognized by Business Today in the ‘Passionate 2017’ list of Sri Lankans

Opening of Dilmah’s Wild Coast Resort in Yala

Lifetime Service Award for Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando at National Tea Awards 2017

Interbrand recognizes Dilmah as one of the best-performing brands in 2017

“Tea & your Health” publication - to mark the 150 years Ceylon Tea

‘A Field Guide to the Bats of Sri Lanka’ Book launch

Dilmah Facilitates discovery of an Endemic Snake in Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

Empower Culinary & Hospitality School receives prestigious WorldChefs Certification

The MJF Centre for Dignified and Sustainable Empowerment model replicated in Sri Lanka’s East

Dilmah Conservation Launched the first Urban Arboretum

Dilmah is a Carbon Neutral facility fulfilling its pledge made in 2014 to become Carbon Neutral by 2017


Merrill J. Fernando honoured with FIRST Award for Responsible Capitalism for improving the lives of underprivileged children and deprived communities. Dilmah Founder receives the Award from Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP Chancellor of the Exchequer

MJF Charitable Foundation’s Empower Culinary and Hospitality School launched.

MJF Charitable Foundation develops Kayts Base hospital in North of Sri Lanka

Merrill J Fernando named Global Businessman at the Sri Lankan of the year Awards. Merrill J. Fernando felicitated as ‘Honoured Citizen’ by Colombo Municipal Council

Ceylon Tea Services PLC becomes Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company PLC

MJF Kids Programme celebrates its first decade of excellence

The 3rd T-Lounge is opened in founder’s hometown, Negombo, Sri Lanka

DC novel species program discovers its first snake species (Dendrelaphis sinharajensis) and discovers a species of Gecko (Cnemaspis rajakarunai).

DC launches the ‘One Earth Nature Club’, publishes ‘Common Forest Trees of Sri Lanka’

Dilmah’s 107 Global partners sign Carbon Neutral Dilmah Pledge.

A research project supported by Dilmah Conservation discovers 8 lichen species new to science. New species discovered within Dilmah’s Queensberry estate - ‘Heterodermia queensberryi’.

Merrill J Fernando addresses the main forum at World Chefs Congress as the only true voice of the farmer

Dilmah Conservation inaugurates Sri Lanka’s first Climate Change Research Station in Dilmah’s Queensberry estate in Nawalapitiya

DC launches Merrill J. Fernando Eco-Innovation Awards

MJF Charitable Foundation opens The National Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy and Development Disorders. Sri Lanka’s former cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara joins the Founder to set up the first National Register of the persons with Development Disorders

Dilmah first T-Lounge in India

Dilmah’s School of Tea receives World Chefs certification


Dilmah re-acquires MJF Co Ltd

New species of shrub frog named after Dilmah, Pseudophilautus dilmah

Dilmah T-Lounges in Indonesia, Malaysia

Dilmah Real High Tea Global Challenge

“what is very interesting when you see how Dilmah has pushed the boundaries of tea they are pushing the boundaries in similar ways to how wine has been approached with different origins, different heights, different flavours - it becomes very interesting to see how that can marry not only in cooking but also used as a pairing to food like you do in wine, so it is a great experience actually, it’s a huge eye opener!” Ragnar Fridriksson Managing Director of WACS

Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando honoured with Oslo Business for Peace Award


DC publishes ‘An introduction to Common Spiders of Sri Lanka’ and ‘Recognising deadly venomous Snakes from Harmless snakes of Sri Lanka’

Launch of Cape Weligama, Sri Lanka’s most sumptuous resort. 39 villas and suites surrounded by 12 acres of tropical gardens and infinity edge pools, on a stunning Indian Ocean headland near Galle.

Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando pledges to make Dilmah Carbon Neutral by the year 2017.


Ahikuntaka Cultural Centre established in Kudagama by DC to preserve the heritage of the community

8 new species of frog discovered under DC’s Novel Species program

Veddah Handicraft and Pottery Centre was declared open by DC

“Merrill J. Fernando has been a privilege to watch by many measures of a true champion, whether it is about tea, people, passion, pride, mate-ship, family, principles, guts and determination or a never-say-die self belief. Merrill is admired for many of these attributes.” Eric Ellis/ Media – The Sydney Morning Herald

Thoppigala Heritage Centre opened

‘Fine tea has the ability to dignify food in a way that no other beverage can. Functionally, tea is an elegant accompaniment to food for its ability to cleanse the palate of fats, sweetness and prepare the taste buds to appreciate the next dish. Good food, good tea, delicious individually but together having the potential to produce a magical sensation on the palate.” Dilhan C. Fernando Son of Dilmah Founder Merrill J Fernando

FSSC 22000 – Certification scheme for food Safety Systems including ISO 22000: 2005 , ISO/TS 22002-1 and additional FSSC 22000 requirements

Dilmah T-Lounge at Chatham opened

Teamaker and the Mixologists Programme

“I know now that when I go back to Australia, everything that I see, smell and touch that is to do with a product of tea, it is a completely new world.” Simon Toohey, Celebrity Mixologist, Australia

First Real High Tea Challenge in the Middle East - Dubai and Abu Dhabi


Dilmah Conservation together with the IUCN and Chamber of Commerce set up the first private sector environmental body, the Sri Lanka Business and Biodiversity Platform.

“With Merrill, you are never told, you are invited to share his passion and knowledge for not only tea, but his beautiful country and his world of giving to those less fortunate. And with his kind and humbling manner and generous heart, you are instantly swept up with admiration for his work and achievement and of course Sri Lankan Tea.” Allyson Gofton/Food Writer and TV Presenter New Zealand.

First species under DC’s Novel Species Paving the Way for Biodiversity Conservation described. The species was named Polypedates ranwellai.

First Real High Tea in New Zealand and Singapore

Dilmah embarks on a partnership with Shangri-La hotels worldwide


Veddah community clan gathering was supported by DC

Dilmah Conservation Sustainable Agriculture Research Centre set up at Moratuwa

Launch of Teamaker’s Private Reserve

Ahikuntika (Gypsy) community’s 2011 Varigasabha or clan meeting, the first of its kind in 6 decades, organized by the Dilmah Conservation

DC launches large scale investigation on current Dugong populations in Eastern Sri Lanka, acquiring valuable information that can serve as a base for Dugong research in the future.

Launch of Dilmah Real High Tea Consumer and Professional Challenge in Australia

“Many of the world’s trendy latte-sippers may have long looked down on tea as the favourite tipple of an eccentric great-aunt, but Dilmah is positioning tea as a gourmet product, clawing back some of the $85 billion world hot beverage market conceded to coffee’s 75 per cent share by making tea fashionable” Eric Ellis/ Media – The Sydney Morning Herald

Inauguration of Tea in the Five Senses


DC launches ‘Greening the East Project’

British Retail consortium Global Standard for Food Safety certification obtained

Merrill J. Fernando celebrates his 80th birthday

Dilmah pledges a core commitment to sustainability


Dilmah School of Tea inaugurated in Colombo

“IUCN appreciates the foresight and leadership of Mr. Merrill J. Fernando and the MJF Charitable Foundation for the pioneering work in recognising the need and opportunities for mainstreaming and integrating environmental aspects in business...” Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature

First International Tea School established at the Institute Paul Bocuse in France

Dilmah Conservation sets up a visitor information centre at Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home.

Dilmah celebrates its 21st Anniversary and the Founder’s 60th year in tea

“Among all the platitudes that deservedly come Merrill’s way, I would find it hard to surpass one very special aspect of his makeup. That is the work he does for the community. The sums of money he expends on this are colossal money spent to uplift people who he has never ever seen or met in his life! I honestly believe that he is doing, to quote John F. Kennedy, “God’s work on earth”. God does not come down himself to do his work, but gives people that task and Merrill is one of God’s direct messengers I think. If there were four or five other business people like him in Sri Lanka, a lot of the problems would be solved and this country would be totally different. That is the magnitude of the work carried out by Merrill’s Charitable Foundation. ” Selvam Mather/Friend and Business Associate


Under the guidance of Dilmah Conservation, Dilmah’s tea estates begin applying Biochar into soil. Biochar is a soil enhancer produced using organic biomass, in this case, waste tea.

“I was struck by Merrill’s unwavering passion – not just in terms of sales made and dollars earned, but in the importance he placed on quality, tradition and his willingness to share and discuss his Dilmah and tea in every detail.” Daron Curtiss / Advertising Partner New Zealand

Inaugural Dilmah Chefs and the Teamaker Australia programmes

“This is an industry that has been incredibly slow to innovate, and relatively tiny Dilmah has showed it how.” William Gorman, Executive chairman of Britain’s Tea Council


Launch of SEP in the East of Sri Lanka

Dilmah awarded Superbrands

Dilmah wins Best Corporate Citizen Award

Dilmah wins People’s Export Brand of the year at the SLIM-Nielsen Peoples Awards

“Merrill has been a great leader and an example for all future generations of business people here as well as abroad. A truly remarkable Sri Lankan, whom I have been proud to call my friend and I am overjoyed to congratulate on a successful completion of twenty one years of Dilmah.” Selvam Mather/Friend and Business Associate

First Dilmah tea sommelier competition outside Sri Lanka held in Myanmar

Inaugural Dilmah real High Tea Challenge in Sri Lanka

Launch of the Dilmah Exceptional Range of Teas

Official inauguration of Dilmah Conservation


The inaugural outdoor event for MJF Kids “Pahan Tharuwa” held in Colombo

MJF Charitable Foundation launches the MJF Kids Programme, to nurture the hidden talents of the kids from underprivilege families around the Dilmah factory


Launch of Ceylon Tea Trails - An iconic collection of 5 colonial era tea planters’ bungalows restored to impeccable style.

Dilmah Launches the Tea Gastronomy Revolution with “The Culinaire”

Dilmah receives Presidential Merit Award for its contribution to the preservation of the environment

Dilmah receives Brand with a Conscience recognition from Medinge Group

MJF Foundation Launches Small Entrepreneur programme to support the Tsunami victims

“In the initial years, during the launch of the Dilmah brand in the Australian market, it faced daunting competition from established international brands. Only a man like Merrill, singularly committed to the cause of pure Ceylon tea, could have the staying power to make a success of this project.” Victor Santhiapillai/Former Chairman of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (SLEDB)


December 26th Tsunami hits south coast of Sri Lanka


Launch of Dilmah t-Series and first Dilmah t-Lounge at Trans Asia Hotel (Presently Cinnamon Lakeside), in the presence of Rosanna Davison (Miss World 2003)

Dilmah launches History of Ceylon Tea website historyofceylontea.com

“The legacy of Dilmah is not only for Malik and Dilhan but for the whole country.” Malinga H. Gunaratne/Tea Planter

First Dilmah Global Partner Conference at Trans Asia Hotel, Colombo


The MJF Charitable Foundation is officially inaugurated


MJF Plantations purchases a controlling interest in Kahawatte Plantations Ltd

Dilmah Sponsors Sri Lanka Cricket


MJF Group acquires 70% share in Forbes & Walker (Pvt) Ltd


MJF Plantations Ltd invests in Talawakelle Plantations Ltd and Elpitiya Plantations Ltd

Dilmah Tasting and Packing Factory awarded ISO 9002 Certification for tasting


New Dilmah factory built at 111, Negombo Road, Peliyagoda, Colombo


Dilmah Founder launches the “Do Try it!” campaign

“Merrill became the ultimate advertising asset- a believable presenter- because he lived his product. I was confident we had a living legend in the making.” Daron Curtiss/Advertising Partner New Zealand


Dilmah Tea launched in Australia

“His passion and pride in his Dilmah brand has made him stand out from his competitors not only in the tea category, but also against any brand on the Australian Supermarket shelves.” Murray Johnston/Woolworths, Australia


The launch of First Valued added Ceylon Tea Brand “Dilma” with Mauri Foods

Merrill J. Fernando is asked to supply pre-packed teas to Russia


Merrill J. Fernando establishes Ceylon Tea Services Ltd


Merrill J. Fernando temporarily retires from the Sri Lankan Tea Trade and hands over MJF Co to his former partner


Merrill J. Fernando considers retiring from the tea industry


Merrill J. Fernando registers MJF Exports Ltd

MJF Co Ltd makes 8.2 cents profit per pound of tea sold, highest net profit


Ceylon becomes a Republic and changes its name to Sri Lanka but the tea industry keeps its old name


Dilhan C. Fernando is born


Malik J. Fernando is born


Merrill J. Fernando appointed Managing Director of AF Jones


Merrill J. Fernando is appointed a director of AF Jones and buys AF Jones with 2 partners when the company owners decide to return to England


Spends 12 months in London with Joseph Travers & Sons Ltd

Merrill J. Fernando starts work with AF Jones


Ceylon gains independence


Ceylon Tea Centre opens in London’s Regent Street


Merrill J. Fernando born in Negombo


Tea Research Institute - TRI established


Colombo Tea Traders’ Association established under the auspices of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce


First tea auction in Colombo


Railway from Colombo to Kandy opens

James Taylor lays out the first tea plantation in Ceylon


First tea seeds arrive from Assam at Ceylon’s Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya


Reverend Ringletaube suggests growing tea in Ceylon

MJF Charitable Foundation develops Kayts Base hospital in North of Sri Lanka

Ceylon becomes British colony