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'Time to experience tea in the 21st Century': Dilmah Tea CEO Dilhan C Fernando

The CEO of Dilmah Tea and tea connoisseur Dilhan C Fernando, son of Dilmah company's founder Merrill J Fernando talks exclusively to The Edition at Maldives' first-ever tea tasting event

Nafaahath Ibrahim
24 July 2019, MVT 14:47
Interview ongoing with Dilmah CEO Dilhan C Fernando. PHOTO: SIMDI
Nafaahath Ibrahim
24 July 2019, MVT 14:47

CEO of Dilmah Tea and tea connoisseur Dilhan C Fernando, son of Dilmah company's founder Merrill J Fernando visited Maldives to host the country's tea-tasting event.

Prior to the event held in Kurubma Maldives in association with SIMDI Company Pvt Ltd, Fernando took some time to speak with The Edition about tea.

To start off, what was the inspiration driving this event? What did you and the company hope to achieve?

According to Fernando, the main objective of hosting such an event is best explained in two parts. The first is that tea is such an amazingly healthy herb, very beneficial to one's body and functions. However, italso has the ability to offer peace and calm amongst the stressful modern life.

"With this event, we are trying to bring tea to a new generation!" he declared.

"The idea is to help people to understand that it is a healthy, good herb and but you can also experience it in the style of the 21st century."

This is the first time that an event of this kind, hosted by the CEO and founder's son of a prestigious tea brand, is being held in the Maldives. How do you feel about the outcome of the event?

"I’m very confident because together with our partners at SIMDI Group Pvt Ltd, we have always worked to bring quality products to Maldives. We believe that in the Maldives you have people who really appreciate quality."

"So for years, we have built a strong connection with the Maldives."

"Coming here this time, it was particularly important because we want to bring in the new trends. To help people understand that yes - particularly because of that heat - tea is great as a hot beverage, but also fantastic iced and sparkling."

Do you foresee the organization of similar events in the future?

"Absolutely! I would hope to return regularly and spend more time here doing specialized events."

"We have held events in different parts focusing on particular places and specialities there."

"Here, we focus a lot on iced tea and the different aspects of it. We also want to focus on your incredible leisure industry. You have some of the most adventurous people in the world coming here for their vacation."

"For those guests, the hospitality industry is always looking for new experiences, and that's what we can offer through tea."

The Edition interviews CEO of Dilmah Tea and tea connoisseur Dilhan C Fernando, visited Maldives to host the country's tea-tasting event. VIDEO: MIHAARU

Of the ten gourmet teas featured today, which one do find you gravitate towards, personally?

"You know, with tea, should never have a favorite. It should always be related to your mood, the food that you have eaten and the weather."

"For example, if you have had something very sweet, then you want to balance it - so you use a tea that might have certain intensities."

"If you've had a salad, you have a light green tea. If you have had a poached fish you take something softer. If you had a strong intense food, a strong and intense tea."

"Tea does incredible things in our body such as emulsifying fats and helping process the nutrients in food, synthesizing sugars while protecting the body from diabetes. So it’s not only about the taste."

"When you combine the two, it’s a beautiful synergy between tea and good living."

If a participant fell in love with one of the gourmet teas served today and wanted to drink that exact tea again, where would they sate that desire?

"Well, we have it in stores in Male of course, as well as at many of the properties we have here."

"In Male, there is no problem at all in finding the tea. Our colleagues from SIMDI have presented full selection."

Dilmah's teas have remained a favourite among Maldivians since the country was first introduced to it by SIMDI Group, Dilmah’s supplier and partner in Maldives. Could you shed a little light on relations between the two companies and tell us a bit about your future plans to work together and garner a larger market for tea?

"Well, I think most importantly, the length of the relationship is because of mutual respect. Because we are family businesses, it’s easy to develop respect since there is integrity. Having this strong relationship of 20 years, cooperation is very good."

"Talking about what's next, what we are doing here this time is that, for the first time ever, we are bringing one of the world’s top mixologists Tomek Malek, and presenting our elixir."

"It adds a new dimension to our relationship. So from my perspective, that is strengthening in itself and an expansion of what we do together."

From the tea-tasting event held by Dilmah Tea in association with SIMDI Group. PHOTO: SIMDI

In recent years, coffee culture has evolved and developed quite rapidly across Maldives. Do you think events like this could trigger an increase in the popularity of tea and subsequently, the demand for tea-based products?

"Absolutely, because I think the problem with tea is that for the last 30-40 years, it has become a very cheap drink. You ask for a cup of tea you just get black tea or green tea."

"However, when grown at 6000ft tea leaves can be light, bright and almost nodes of lychee. Then you have mid-elevation, where it becomes brisk, it's bold. And at low elevation, it’s becomes something completely different, almost chocolatey."

"So, you have a thousand different types of tea, but the consumer knows very little about it. What do here is we are explaining that experience from telling people how you should use your water, how you should brew the tea so that we can enhance their appreciation of it."

"Once people experience the pleasure, the rest will follow. It is all about pleasure."

How do you see the future for tea across Maldives' hospitality industry? Would you say hoteliers harbour adequate interests in tea or is there work to be done to solidify its place?

"Well, I think Maldives is very advanced in the hospitality industry."

"Where tea is concerned, I think it will grow naturally because ultimately, the hospitality reflects consumer trends."

"Now we are in a really good place globally with tea. Following the trends, I think where Maldives is concerned, people in hospitality will become much more advanced in tea."

Group photo taken with some of the attendees of the Dilmah Tea Appreciation Day event held in collaboration with SIMDI Group in Kurumba Maldives. PHOTO: SIMDI

Any wise words to aspirational parties musing over the possibility of a similar event, inspired by your initiative?

"I think the most important thing is please keep it authentic."

"There are a lot of details like ensuring the water is right and the presentation is right. The information needs to be very accurate and right. But most importantly, you need to present tea in a way where it combines the respect the tradition and innovation."

"You need to offer the experience. Always be authentic and focus on the details."

"Once you get it right, you can build the experience."

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