What is the first thing that 90-year-old tea titan Merrill J. Fernando – the Sri Lankan born, Australian-based bloke behind Dilmah Tea – does each day? Probably not what you expect from the man who helped usher single-origin tea into Australia when Dilmah launched in 1988.
“When I wake in the morning and I’m seated in bed, I thank Jesus for all the blessings I receive daily,” Fernando told Benjamin Law, for Law’s weekly Sydney Morning Herald column about taboo topics such as religion, sex, and money.
“It is the good Lord who led me all the way from the time I was in the little village.” – Merill J. Fernando
“The last thing at night, I thank him the same. I am very conscious that God is guiding me.”
As Fernando explained to Law, he has been a Christian from his own origins as one of six children growing up in a Sri Lankan fishing village. “It is the good Lord who led me all the way from the time I was in the little village.”
“He taught me to praise and worship him, and in return, he gives me everything I need and deserve.”
Developing a thirst for the business of tea in the 1950s, Fernando was shocked by existing tea companies not paying liveable wages to farmers – and selling inferior products as the real cuppa.
“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,” explains Fernando on the Dilmah site. “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.”
Fernando told Law that he owes “everything to Australian consumers” for getting behind Dilmah, and helping it springboard into the international tea market. But Fernando evidently is a total tea tycoon who places ultimate thanks in the gracious hands of God.
For when Law asked about what else he believes in outside of religion, the Dilmah founder’s response still is grounded in where Fernando believes goodness flows from: “There’s one thing I believe: do not envy. It’s a small society when that happens. But I find that if you wish everybody well, all the blessings will come from God. Even enemies trying to destroy you can’t touch you. Wish everybody well.”