The 'History of Ceylon Tea' project is a tribute to those courageous men of whom Conan Doyle spoke, that the memory of their sacrifice and dedication in creating a great and life-giving industry shall not be dimmed with time. The Tea Industry of Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, is the lifeblood of the country today, providing direct employment to over 500,000 people, and producing for the world a beverage that is healthy, refreshing and delicious. It is an imperative for the future of this industry that we shall not forget the past, and those that made history in creating our tea industry.
Ceylon Tea, through its zenith in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries to the present has unfortunately been victim to a form of colonialism - initially de facto, Ceylon having been part of the British Empire - and later economic. Whilst being known as the origin of the world’s finest tea, Ceylon has remained largely a supplier of raw material for value addition in Western countries. The number of truly Sri Lankan owned brands in existence is minute, with an equally minute share of the world tea trade. To make matters worse, virtually all the large, multinational brands which built their brands with quality Ceylon Tea have deserted Ceylon for cheaper and inferior origins. Effectively throughout its history, colonialism and big business have conspired to extract all the benefits of Ceylon Tea, away from the country and the people who produce it.
This situation is slowly changing with the emergence of quality, origin-packed brands like Dilmah, a fully Sri Lankan owned brand. Nevertheless its past leaves the Ceylon Tea industry unable to afford certain ‘luxuries’ like properly archiving the reams of literature which record the birth and early development of the industry. This is how the ‘History of Ceylon Tea’ Project saw the light of day. As Sri Lanka works towards bringing quality Ceylon Tea back to consumers around the world, this time origin packed and delivered through genuinely fair and ethical trade, the family owned and operated Dilmah Tea recognizes its commitment to the industry that has helped make Dilmah Tea synonymous with quality around the world. The Company is partnering with the Planters’ Association of Sri Lanka, to digitally archive and share with the world, the story of Ceylon Tea.
Ancient and often unique publications which continue to suffer the ravages of time improperly stored in various state departments, are being collected, indexed, repaired and properly housed with the assistance of Dilmah Tea. Those publications where copyright is thought to have lapsed are also being made available online via this non-profit site. In this small way, Merrill J. Fernando, Founder of Dilmah, his family, staff and workers hope to contribute to the preservation of the history of one of the world’s great industries. We apologise for the condition of many of these books, but the years of nationalization have not been kind to the collection.
If you would like to contribute, anecdotes, books or manuscripts with relevance to the history of tea in Ceylon are welcome. This is an industry service project and we regret that payment cannot be offered.