He was born in May 1930 in Pallansena, Negombo, and later moved to Colombo for his early education. Initially, his ambition was to become a lawyer although he changed his mind later, when he saw an opening, in the much-coveted tea trade as a tea taster. The tea industry remained out of bounds to locals as the tea industry was under the control of British hands at that time.
He was one of the first batch of 6 students recruited for training as tea tasters at Mincing Lane, London. In 1974 Fernando bought his first few tea estates to try producing Sri Lankan tea, and in 1981 he founded Ceylon Tea Services Limited floated as a public company on the request of the government to support a fledging Colombo Stock Exchange.
In 1985, Merril Fernando convinced the Australian supermarket retailer Coles to stock his brand of tea, Dilmah the first value-added Tea in Sri Lanka. The name is Dilmah was chosen by combining the first names of Fernando’s sons Dilhan and Malik. In 1988 a Melbourne Coles store started stocking Dilmah on its shelves. Today, it is available in over 100 countries and has been recognized as one of the Top 6 brands of tea worldwide.
The tea company announced Mr. Fernando’s death saying his ‘greatness was in his invincible faith, his integrity and love for tea & family’.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
25 July 2023