Do try it: How Dilmah is honouring the past while bringing tea into 2023

  • 08/03/2023
  • Sponsored by - Dilmah

Maybe it's the first thing you look forward to in the morning or your favourite way to unwind in the evening. Tea is the second most consumed liquid in the world (coming in just behind water) and there's no doubt that a daily cuppa is as ingrained in New Zealand DNA as DIY and Red Bands. 

It's an international brand that really holds our hearts (and our cups). The handpicked, single-origin tea filling Dilmah tea bags is most Kiwis' sip of choice —it's been on shelves for a whopping 31 years, and has taken out the top gong as New Zealand's most trusted tea bag for seven years in a row. 

Founded in 1985 in Sri Lanka by tea industry worker Merrill J Fernando, the business runs on the ethos that the tea makers shouldn’t just specialise in an excellent brew —  business must also be a matter of human service. Since then, the brand has become synonymous with raising the ethical bar, as well as an unerring commitment to quality. Dilmah still even uses the same single origin Ceylon tea it was founded on. 

"Ceylon Tea is the world's finest, and most expensive, and while tea is usually blended from multiple origins, my father's commitment was to authenticity, provenance and purity. We can't compromise so even though the industry has moved in the opposite direction, we stay true to that founding philosophy," says Dilmah CEO Dilhan Fernando — Merrill's son. 

Dilmah also gives back to tea pickers’ families by various education scholarships, dental care, education equipment for children, housing subsidies and child care. 

"We are a family tea company, formed by my father on a foundation of family values … our objectives are to build a sustainable business and to express our success in the lives of people and in nature. My father made a commitment to serving humanity with kindness to people and nature," says Dilhan. 

Dilhan and his son Amrit (Merrill's grandson) are in the country this week to talk about all things tea – a subject you get the sense the whole family could easily discuss for days on end. On his last visit to New Zealand in 2019, Merrill received an honorary doctorate from Massey University. Dilhan says the relationship between New Zealand and Dilmah is a special one — and the whole family holds Aotearoa dearly in their hearts. 

Do try it: How Dilmah is honouring the past while bringing tea into 2023
Photo credit: Supplied

"My father has a special place in his heart for New Zealand. Dilmah started out here as my father's visionary — but impossible — dream of introducing the world's first producer owned and genuinely ethical tea brand. Dilmah has enjoyed the support of New Zealanders in an extraordinary way," says Dilhan, 

"Business evolved to relationships that have made New Zealand such a significant part of our global family. Those relationships now span three generations of my family. To us, that's very special." 

With Merrill now taking a well deserved step back (which we think he's earned at age 92) Dilhan and his brother Malik are coming to the forefront of operations. New innovations are en route – gone are the days where tea could only be consumed with one milk and two sugars, thanks. You only need to check out Amrit's wildly popular TikTok page to see that innovative tea based drinks are on the rise. 

"The greatest innovation in tea has to be the celebration of nature. Flavour, aroma, brightness, intensity are all crafted by sunshine, wind, soil and the art of tea making… I believe that these authentic, pure origin teas will be the trend amongst Gen Z'ers and Millennials as they seek more healthy, varied and natural tastes," says Dilhan. 

"Then there is tea inspired gastronomy and mixology - tea dignifies food in a special way, pulling and pushing flavour, enhancing texture and then aiding digestion. Tea pairs elegantly with herbs and spices, the perfect ingredient for cocktails, mocktails and smoothies."

And Dilhan and Amrit's favourite ways to enjoy their cups of tea? Well, firstly they're quick to assure that nobody should have a favourite tea: "there is a tea for every moment and every occasion". 

Dilhan kick starts his day with a "bright, bold and brisk" English Breakfast, before sipping on a Moroccan Mint Green Tea "and the occasional Extra Strength when the going gets tough."

Amrit opts to start his day with a warm cup of Dilmah Extra Strength — and finishes it with a bourbon-infused tea cocktail. 

"I rarely drink Earl Grey, but in combination with our spicy, Sri Lankan curries, it is a perfect marriage," says Dilhan. 

We'll drink to that. 

Article created in partnership with Dilmah.