A true brew sommelier has spoken

In the last 12 years, he’s witnessed how the industry has driven consumers to become bargain hunters.

Published: 14th August 2016 09:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2016 09:53 AM   |  A+A-

A Truea

He dreamt about it for a long time. His resolve was enviable. At 55, almost 30 years from the time he first grew passionate about teas, Merril J Fernando introduced Dilmah teas that cocoons the essence of Sri Lanka’s finest. More recently, at 86, he gave an impetus to his entrepreneurial spirit by launching Dilmah t Lounge in Khan Market. It brings you a delicious array of tea, tea-based beverages and tea-inspired foods. Through it all, Fernando hopes to bring back integrity to tea.

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The tea of the month is the Original Earl Grey, an iconic brew that combines tea with the flavour of bergamot. “It’s a distinctive tea with a steady personality. You must try it because I am sure you’ll like it,” says the owner. That’s 66 years of experience speaking.

Dilmah, named after Fernando’s two sons—Dilhan and Malik—was a brand started to bring seriousness to the beverage. It’s sacred to him that teas be respected and valued for what they are. At his lounge, you’ll find some of the rarest. Take Ceylon silver tips white tea, for instance. We are told it’s a handmade white tea from the Nuwara Eliya region of Ceylon, grown at 6,000 feet. The tender buds are handpicked at dawn, carefully carried in a silk pouch and made by hand. There is another delicious brew called Ceylon whole leaf green tea grown at 1,600 feet near the ancient city of Kandy. The dark yellow infusion is typical of a medium strength green tea. “During this season, we have a beautiful uva tea with a really unique taste. This is produced for only two-three months a year and I keep a stock in my refrigerator so that I can have it throughout the year,” says the brew master.

In the last 12 years, he’s witnessed how the industry has driven consumers to become bargain hunters and nothing more. Makers procure the cheapest brews at the cost of compromised quality. Resultantly, there is a dearth of good tea houses, but Dilmah may change that status quo. Another disturbing trend Fernando observed was that when he travelled outside the country, Ceylon tea was sold at a rate 20 times higher than the price paid to buy the tea in his own country. That was grave injustice, he felt, because he had known of the drudgery plantation workers went through. In the end you could not even be sure if it was pure tea. “When a packet said Ceylon tea in the 1950s, you had a better chance of getting the real thing. Post that there were blends of the tea made from cheaper varieties. Then, the traders got control of it and made it into a commodity. Understanding this scenario drove me to work on a brand of pure teas of my own.”

The menu at Dilmah has eclectic choices, from signature teas to luxury designer leaf tea, iced teas to sparkling  ones, there is everything from gentle, medium to robust. As tasty accompaniments, there are toasties, crepes, waffles and more.

With all that having been said, it seems that world of teas will need an entire lifetime to explore, but the quest has surely begun with this tea house.


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