Continuing a tradition of Camellia sinensis – tea - inspired gastronomy that began a decade ago, Dilmah strengthened the brand’s collaboration with Sri Lankan Chefs, Gastronomy and Tea at a uniquely tea inspired event. Chef Kapila Jayasinghe was invited to produce a very special edition of Camellia Epicurean to commemorate Founder & Teamaker Merrill J. Fernando’s 70 years in tea.

Every element from aperitif to digestif, was inspired by one of the 3 special teas picked by Merrill’s sons, Dilhan and Malik Fernando. The tea gastronomy and mixology menu was designed by Chef Kapila Jayasinghe, showcasing Passion and Taste highlighting Sri Lankan culinary talent, combined with Goodness with the respect for tea, and Purpose by inviting all those who attended to look beyond disability with a special guest performance.

Seventy years in tea is no ordinary feat; Dilmah founder, Merrill J. Fernando, devoted his life to tea in the 1950s with one purpose of sharing genuinely ethical Ceylon tea with the world. It was a dream that none had dared to dream. 38 years of struggle followed and Dilmah was born in 1988. It was the first time that a native tea grower from any tea producing country had launched a genuinely ethical, farmer owned brand. From these humble beginnings, Dilmah grew as authentic, handmade tea, founded on the unique philosophy of making business a matter of human service. The Camellia Epicurean dinner which celebrated his 70th year in tea, was a night of sensory indulgence and tea theatre brought to life by the commemorative teas – Craighead Estate Celebration Pekoe, Endane Estate Sapphire Pekoe, and Emerald Hills Anniversary Green Tea.

The name Camellia Epicurean, derived from Camellia sinensis – the scientific name for tea - is innovation that respects tea in flavour, aroma and goodness. The tea inspired gastronomy concept was pioneered by Dilmah in 2010. Chef Kapila’s menu included three commemorative teas that were produced especially for the Founder on his 90th birthday. His younger son, Dilhan said, “Tonight we celebrate the passion of the world’s most experienced teamaker in service. Passion, because it is an appreciation of my father’s 70 years in tea which is a global achievement by any measure, and it is one that is reflected in some of the teas that we are tasting today. It is also a celebration of taste because we have Sri Lankan Chefs presenting an entirely Sri Lankan expression of the culinary art.”

The event flowed into a rhythmic tribute by Maestro Ravibandhu Vidyapathy followed by unique drumming compositions paired with the spirit of each brew – a performance inspired by Dilmah’s innovative concept, ‘Tea in Five Senses’. The dinner featured decadent culinary art combined with unique ingredients, such as a hundred-year aged balsamic and crustacean fumet infused with tea, and included a toast with nitrogen gas-infused tea champagne. Raising a glass - Chairman, Chicago based Rotary Foundation– K. R. Ravindran said, “I wonder when Mr. James Taylor planted the first tea plant - if he would have ever imagined that there would be a local, homegrown individual who would dedicate his life to tea in the 1950s. I doubt it. This is a man who has dedicated 70 years of his life to an industry, and the industry itself has become his life.”

The evening reached a crescendo with a special performance by youth from the MJF Charitable Foundation’s Rainbow Kids programme, mentored by Ravibandhu, who showcased their art in music. The Teamaker to whom all this praise was given, concluded the night by giving thanks to the Lord, all those who attended, but more strikingly had this to say; “The accolades and all praise given to me, is actually deserved by Ceylon Tea. Every farmer comes to the realisation that it is heaven and earth that crafts tea, our role is only to finish what nature has done in the leaf”.

About Camellia Epicurean

The name Camellia Epicurean, derived from Camellia sinensis – the scientific name for tea, is thought innovation pioneered into a tea gastronomy concept by Dilmah in 2010. It expresses the true beauty of nature’s fingerprint on each tea with tea gastronomy. Honouring the philosophy behind Camellia Epicurean, chefs and mixologists would create tea inspired masterpieces to craft an exquisite fine dining experience in tea.

About Dilmah –

Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah, founded by Merrill J. Fernando, today the world's most experienced teamaker, has championed quality, authenticity and variety in tea. Dilmah pioneered the concept of Single Origin Tea in 1988 when the family company went against industry trends to declare its commitment to authenticity. Garden fresh, unblended tea is the hallmark of Dilmah and offers a unique taste of unblended Ceylon Tea packed where it’s grown. Dilmah is an Ethical Tea, in that all packaging profits are retained in Sri Lanka and fund the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation. These attributes form our assurance of Taste, Goodness and Purpose.

About Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation -

The MJF Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dilmah Ceylon Tea Services and Resplendent Ceylon. It represents an alternative economic model that transcends charity and corporate social responsibility with one that is a genuinely sustainable and a fair way of doing business. The Foundation works with underserved communities and invests in the lives of less privileged women, men, girls and boys to ensure that they have control of their futures and pay it forward to their own communities.

Maestro Ravibandu Vidyapathi

Ravibandhu Vidyapathy is an internationally known percussionist and the recipient of the ‘Kala Keerthi’ national award ‘for extraordinary achievements and contributions in arts, culture and drama’. He is a Kandyan dancer par excellence and a veteran choreographer. As a musician, Ravibandhu has travelled extensively and introduced traditional Sri Lankan drums and music to audiences worldwide.

Chef Kapila Jayasinghe

Chef Kapila is the Executive Chef of Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel. He began his journey into the hospitality industry by working in a small hotel, specialising in butchery and pastry before following a culinary course at the Ceylon Hotel School in Kandy. He left his mark in many hotels both in Sri Lanka and overseas, with the latter including Abu Dhabi Hilton, Abu Dhabi Millennium Hotel, and Katara Hotels in Doha, Qatar. Having mastered Mediterranean and seafood cuisine, his interest is now in molecular gastronomy, a style of cuisine in which chefs explore new culinary possibilities by cooking with tools ordinarily found in a science lab.

Food Image Captions

1. AMUSE-BOUCHE Citrus Brioche with Emerald Hills Anniversary Green Tea marinated Anchovies, Confit Hen Yolk & Coffee Cream

2. APPETIZER Muscovy Duck with Textures of Beetroot, Truffle Wild Mushroom Parfait and Biscotti Crumble paired with Endane Estate Sapphire Pekoe Tea

3. PALATE CLEANSER Rooibos with Cinnamon, Turmeric, Ginger and Nutmeg Sorbet

4. ENTRÉE Char salmon & Tuna eye, Craighead Estate Celebration Pekoe with Crustacean Fumet & Butternut & Ginger Fricassee with Pickle Asparagus

5. MAIN Slow Cooked Seabass, Green Pea Royal & Spinach and Shallot Puree paired with Emerald Hills Anniversary Green Tea

6. MAIN Sous Vide Lamb Best End with Almond Crust , Soubise Puree , Cassava Charcoal , Leek and Eggplant Tube & Endane Estate tea infused Burgundy Essence paired with Endane Estate Sapphire Pekoe Tea

7. DESSERT Roasted Pink Rhubarb Souffle with Rhubarb Macerated Alize Blue Cognac and The Teamaker’s Gelato (Earl Grey Tea drizzled with a special ginger and orange infused brown sugar caramel) paired with Craighead Estate Celebration Pekoe

8. TEA DIGESTIVE ‘Break Me’ Flavors of Cocoa paired with Moroccan Mint Green Hot Tea & 'In Mint condition' (Moroccan Mint Green tea, Ceylon Arrack, Orange syrup)

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